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Rutherford, Mike - 1980 Smallcreep's Day

ARTIST: Rutherford, Mike
ALBUM: Smallcreeps Day
LABEL: Charisma
YEAR: 1980


LINEUP: Mike Rutherford - guitars, bass * Noel McCalla - vocals * Anthony Phillips - keyboards * Simon Phillips - drums * Morris Pert - percussion

TRACK LISTING: 01 Moonshine * 02 Time And Time Again * 03 Romani * 04 Every Road * 05 Overnight Job * 06 Between The Tick And The Tock * 07 Working In Line * 08 After Hours * 09 Cats And Rats (In This Neighbourhood) * 10 Smallcreep Alone * 11 Out Into The Daylight * 12 At The End Of The Day


Widely recognized as one of the best of the Genesis related solo albums, 'Smallcreep's Day' was recorded after a week's rehearsal time in London and recorded just as quickly at ABBA's Polar Studios apparently to avoid the UK's crushing taxes. Written entirely by Mike Rutherford and based on a book by English surrealist Peter Currell Brown, 'Smallcreep's Day' is a concept album about a factory worker who sets out to discover why his life is so mundane and the musical line-up is impressive, from Anthony Phillips to the wizards of percussion Simon Phillips and Morris Pert, but most interesting is the choice of lead vocalist. A relative unknown, Noel McCalla was previously in a band called Moon who released two albums on Epic/CBS- 'Too Close For Comfort' and 'Turning The Tide'. Neither album set the world on its ear although the band did manage an interesting package tour of the UK with Boxer and Crawler. A stint in Sniff 'N The Tears followed as well as a solo album with the aid of Trevor Rabin, before getting the call from Rutherford in late 1979.

The Songs
Since I've never read the book, I'll trust Mike Rutherford and crew that this musical adaptation is true to its original spirit. I have no choice I suppose, but I can say with confidence that is one of the finest albums of melodic progressive rock out there. At the time, Genesis had thrown down the commercial gauntlet with 1978's 'And Then There Were Three', so Rutherford was already exploring more 'user friendly' music. As it happens, there are a couple tracks here that had major single potential and actually did receive airplay although 'Smallcreep's Day' remains a record steeped in the British progressive tradition. The title track covers all of side one and is a very Genesis sounding suite. Obviously the apple didn't fall far from the tree with plenty of space for the band to stretch out, culminating with the gorgeous 'At The End Of The Day' with McCalla's rich vocals giving Rutherford's material a depth Phil Collins could never reach. Nicely executed, but side two is where the album hits its stride with 'Moonshine', the first of two songs that found its way on FM play lists. Anthony Phillips dominates the track with thick wedges of marching keyboards and pounding backbeat, again similar to Genesis but predating 80's bands like Nightwing and Pallas whose sound would run a similar course. The second cut that made it to radio is 'Time And Time Again'; a near power ballad long before that term was bandied about while 'Romani' sounds like 'A Trick Of The Tail' outtake and a good one at that. Rounding out the set is 'Overnight Job' and the best cut on the record with creative six string work from Mr. Rutherford who I've never considered a 'great' guitarist, but here it all comes together bouncing nicely off Phillips' ever-impressive keyboard runs.

In Summary
Released a few months prior to Genesis' pivotal 'Duke' album, 'Smallcreep's Day' was clearly short shrift in the promotion department. My guess is Charisma expected bigger things from 'Duke' and didn't want to invest too much in a secondary project. Who knows? Unfortunately, Mike Rutherford's follow-up solo 1982's 'Acting Very Strange' was a disaster artistically although it did yield another AOR hit with 'Maxine'. Thank the gods - he came to his senses and pop smarts with Mike + The Mechanics later in the decade but what ever happened to Noel McCalla you ask? He joined up with Jody Street in 1981 and Manfred Mann's Earth Band in 1990 where he presently draws a paycheck.

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#1 | Jez on July 04 2009 10:53:49
Love this album and one of my fave Genesis related albums. Noel McCAlla was also in the fantastic 'Partners In Crime' with ex Status Quo drummer John Coghlan. They released one album 'Organised Crime' back in 1985's which was fantastic and has never (as far as I know) been released on cd as of yet. Some one should get onto this and re-issue it pronto. (If someone has a download for this, It would be much appreciated).

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