This album - first released in 1984 as "Hope And Glory" - was a Top 40 hit in Europe, but despite glowing reviews its North American release on Geffen proved a non-starter. First, the original Vietnam-inspired cover was suppressed, then the album itself inexplicably pulled from the shops six weeks after release, and Tom was dropped from the label. This re-release of the album as "War Baby: Hope And Glory" is the first time it has been available on CD anywhere in the world.
War Baby, with its cryptic, elliptical lyrics, could have been written in 1974, 1984, 1994, or just about any time. It's one of those magical songs which seems to sit like an anchor while times and styles just flow around it - and hearing it still gives me shivers. As to what it's actually about, Tom Robinson himself couldn't tell you - he just wrote what "sounded right."
I too grew up living in the tail end of the cold war and find much of War Baby is recognisable and familiar in its cold war themes and allusions. Those references also take on additional, deeply personal meanings - mistrust of one's partners and allies (and also oneself), weakness, vulnerability, fear of truth, of the future, of the present... The song is very human, very frail, and very honest - even without a specific meaning or recognisable storyline. Tom Robinson may not have human behaviour figured out any better than the rest of us - but he does know how to put words to that little voice inside our heads.
Many of the songs on this album will be familiar to longstanding Tom Robinson fans - though not necessarily in this form. Some are brought into vivid focus here by the remarkable arrangments - others seem to hide, only to be "rediscovered" at another time, in another form. The 1992 solo album "Living In A Boom Time" for instance featured more recent, acoustic recordings of several of these songs.
Seven bonus tracks have been added to the ten which made up the original album. There's the 1985 single of "Prison" produced by David Motion, plus various contemporary 'B' sides and out-takes. Outstanding among these is the alternate recording of "War Baby". Lost for years after the original 12" single was deleted, this version displays an even more haunting quality than the single we've grown to love. To slow down the tempo and strip away much of the instrumentation was a bold move - and the effect is stunning.
It's a delight to restore Hope and Glory to my collection. The distinctive sound of this album somehow defines a moment in time, and yet - like all great pop recordings - remains utterly timeless.
Adam PW Smith
New York City
released 31 January 2013
All tracks written by Tom Robinson and published by Notting Hill Music Ltd except:
3) written by Walter Becker / Donald Fagen, published MCA Music
6), 18) written by Tom Robinson / Mark Ramsden, published by Notting Hill Music Ltd
7) written by Peter Gabriel/Tom Robinson, published by Real World Music and Notting Hill Music Ltd
Sleeve by Rob O'Connor at Stylo Rouge
Photograph of TR by Paul Cox
Other photgraphic material provided by Nick Yates, Popperfoto and Colorific
Special thanks to David Massey, Gary Farrow, Paul Charles, Paul Williams and Anna Turner, Nick Stewart, Carol Childs, Mark Dean, Shamsi Ahmed, Paul Rodwell, Colin Bell, Hiro Arai, Arun Chakraverty, Amin Saleh, John Libson, Robert Allen, Judy Totton, Suzi Gibbon, Peter Powell, Dave Atkey, Tom Ryan, Vicky/Pete/Simon and everyone at Power Plant.
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