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Nine Ways To Win - 1983 Nine Ways To Win

ARTIST: Nine Ways To Win
ALBUM: Nine Ways To Win
LABEL: Duke Records
SERIAL: 90117-1
YEAR: 1983
CD REISSUE: 2010, Wounded Bird, WOU 9117


LINEUP: Johnathan Hughston - vocals * David Ferguson - keyboards

Additional Musicians: Martyn Swain - bass * Steve Creese - percussion * David Rhodes, Steve Lovell - guitar * Pete Thomas, Peter Acock, Ranald Macdonald - sax * Raoul D'Oliveira - trumpet * Stuart Gordon - violin * Georgia II - background vocals

TRACK LISTING: 01 Close To You * 02 Painting Over Cracks * 03 Second Cross On The Hill * 04 Ashes And Diamonds * 05 Breaking Bread * 06 Lights All Over The World * 07 Waltz * 08 All Sit Down * 09 High-Wire * 10 Time For Keys

Some of you will remember late great British art rockers Random Hold. Between 1979 and 1982 the band released an innovative EP and two highly acclaimed LP's while touring with road shy XTC as well as jaunts in North America with Peter Gabriel. The progressive rock community latched on to Random Hold but they were late in the game and commercial acceptance was non-existent. Dropped by RCA, founding member David Ferguson needed to fulfill a publishing contract. Delivering a four song demo that was surprisingly picked up by Atlantic Records; Ferguson hooked up with unknown singer Johnathan Hughston and formed Nine Ways To Win. Signing to the Atlantic subsidiary Duke Records which was run by none other Tony Banks, Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford of Genesis, you'd expect this set to be a progressive rock tour-de-force or at least something close but that would be wishful thinking.

The Songs
What we have is a synth pop/new wave album with little if any originality. Is it awful? Not quite but as a fan of Random Hold I remember buying this hoping for something creative and ambitious, not a run-of-the-mill Soft Cell or Depeche Mode. Vocalist Johnathan Hughston's affected vocals are what you'd expect with this style, fey and dramatic and he gives it his best on the Gothic 'Second Cross On The Hill' and the lovelorn and atmospheric 'Waltz' where he almost sounds like a young Peter Hammill of Van Der Graaf Generator fame. Easily the record's creme de la creme although 'High-Wire' rates due to its David Bowie 'Berlin' period air and yet with David Ferguson's involvement and the expectations that brings, the record offers far too little while trying hard to sound hip and in the end feels like a sad waste of talent.

In Summary
Ferguson would go on to record a couple singles with vocalist Denise Visconte who provides background vocals for Nine Ways To Win under the name Georgia II. The project was eventually aborted but strangely enough included Peter Hammill and Shortwave/The Korgis Stuart Gordon, the latter also making a guest appearance on this disc. In later years film and television work dominated David's career before passing away of pancreatic cancer in 2009. The whereabouts of Johnathan Hughston are unknown, but the CD issue on Wounded Bird is still easy to track down. Proceed with caution.

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