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Articles Home » 1985 Articles » Roberts, Paul - 1985 City Without Walls
Roberts, Paul - 1985 City Without Walls

ARTIST: Roberts, Paul
ALBUM: City Without Walls
LABEL: Sonet
YEAR: 1985
CD REISSUE: 1985, Sonet, INT 847.151


LINEUP: Paul Roberts - vocals, acoustic guitar * Robin Langridge, Dean Klevatt - keyboards * Clem Clempson, Lee Davidson - guitars * Ricky Stevens - drums, percussion, linn drums * Mo Foster, Brent Forbes, Danny Thompson, Ian Maidman - bass * Guy Barker - trumpet * Pat Crumley - tenor & alto sax * Noel McCalla - backing vocals

TRACK LISTING: 01 Railroad To The Sea * 02 The Goodlife * 03 Back To England * 04 Hard Times * 05 Dreamstate * 06 Only The Strong Survive * 07 The Kiss * 08 Night Starvation * 09 City Without Walls * 10 Guntalk


According to Paul Roberts comments on the informative Sniff 'N' The Tears website; his first of two solo albums came about at a party with the 'Tears Swedish label - Sonet. They asked what he was doing musically and casually offered him a deal. Only if everything was that easy eh? Of course Roberts track record spoke for itself as leader of one of the more interesting bands to come out of the late 70s. Best known for the 1979 smash 'Driver's Seat'; Sniff 'N' The Tears recorded four arty albums, each adorned with one of Robert's gorgeously seductive paintings. All were critically acclaimed but 'Driver's Seat' was their only hit and despite releasing a slew of quality singles, their albums failed to sell and the band split with little notice in 1982.

The Songs
This brings us to the album at hand - 'City Without Walls' was self-produced by Roberts; a first for the talented but often low-key musician and predictably the results are similar to his work with the Tears. That's not necessarily a bad thing and for those who revelled in the Sniff's unique take on pop will probably want to track this LP down. It didn't move many copies but West Germany took to 'Back To England' so much; they gave Robert's an unexpected chart hit. The sounds of then-hip pop bands The Waterboys and Aztec Camera creep into an album that's acoustically driven and embellished with the colours of jazz, reggae and sophisticated rock; it's a stylish listen with highlights including the aforementioned single, the drifty sweetness of 'Dreamstate' and the swinging 'Only The Strong Survive'. My only quibble, there's not a whole of variety in the material and even the better cuts after two or three plays begin melting together. I've encountered a similar issue when listening to Sniff 'N' The Tears album's 'The Games Up' and 'Ride Blue Divide'; both of which contained moments of sheer brilliance and sleep-inducing boredom.

In Summary
'City Without Walls' featuring a stunning Roberts self-portrait on the cover was apparently released on CD although I've never actually seen a copy myself and I never bothered with 1987's follow-up 'Kettle Drum Blues'; finding the Sniff's 1992 reunion disc 'No Damage Done' a far more palatable proposition. Roberts and the band released a brand new studio disc 'Downstream' earlier this year. I have yet to hear it although reports are its quite good.

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