Tag Archive | "Mark Mulcahy"

Miracle Legion – Portrait Of A Damaged Family

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Miracle Legion – Portrait Of A Damaged Family

Posted on 18 May 2016 by Dorian

I first encountered Miracle Legion in 1989 or 1990 when a friend played me the 12″ of ‘You’re The One Lee’, a beautiful piece of chiming acoustic pop that immediately became a firm favourite. The band were presented to me as a rival to REM’s crown (the next REM was a big thing at that time) and I expected great things from them. Despite the quality of album that spawned the single (Me & Mr.Ray) and the full-band follow-up (Drenched) the breakthrough success of the band never came, and their more esoteric side was not embraced by the wider public.

portrait of a damaged family

I wasn’t even aware that they released any other albums, so limited was the release of their final album, and I only picked up on the band again some time later when discovering the solo works of singer Mark Mulcahy. His most recent solo album (Dear Mark J Mulcahy I Love You) showed that he is an artist at the top of his game, but also demands that people revisit his legacy. With that in mind it is great news that Miracle Legion’s final album, Portrait Of A Damaged Family, has been reissued and is now getting some of the attention it deserves.

The comparisons to REM have some validity, the jangle pop of ‘You’re My Blessing’ certainly has parallels, as does the low key acoustic sound of ‘Homer’. This certainly isn’t the whole picture though with the band demonstrating a lot of depth to their sound and some real personality that is badly served by their status as a foot-note in the career of a more successful act.

The album succeeds through a mixture of consistency and variety that gets the balance pretty spot on. This is a guitar pop album that could only have been released in the 1990s, and sounds like a unified whole. Within that template however the style, feel and tone is nicely varied and it feels like a band at the start, not end, of their career.

There is some sadness from the fact that the album has been neglected for nearly two decades, with the band’s profile shrinking over the intervening years. This is tempered somewhat by the happiness that the album is available again and a new generation can enjoy the band’s distinctive voice.

Further happiness can come from the good news that the whole of the band’s back catalogue is available via the Miracle Legion Bandcamp which brings all the bands albums (and some EPs) together in one place for the first time. Add to this a string of UK live dates in June and August (we’ll be at the Brighton gig on August 16th) and it is a pretty good time to (re)discover one of the great lost bands.

9/10

By Dorian Rogers

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Mark Mulcahy, Latest Music Bar, Brighton (August 29, 2013)

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Mark Mulcahy, Latest Music Bar, Brighton (August 29, 2013)

Posted on 03 September 2013 by Dorian

One of my more familiar themes is around acts that I feel should be better known or more popular than they are, artists that have been producing great work for years and still can’t sell many records. Mark Mulcahy is one of these artists, loved by the likes of Thom Yorke, The National, and Michael Stipe and more he still plays small venues and wouldn’t be recognised in the street. His most recent album, the brilliant Dear Mark J. Mulcahy, I Love You, is up with anything he has ever recorded (and is my favourite record of the year so far) but I suspect that sales figures have been modest.

Mark Mulcahy

The flipside to this is that his cult status means that I get to see him play a wonderful low-key set in Brighton’s Latest Music Bar, and I’m so close to the stage that I was splashed with his sweat on more than one occasion during the evening.

Suited and bespectacled he is simultaneously unassuming and captivating as he cherry picks songs from his 16 year solo career. On a couple of tracks, including a spellbinding ‘Hey Self Defeater’, he plays alone with simple guitar and a unique voice carrying the songs and he sounds surprisingly self-assured and confident. On most songs he is accompanied by a simple band, a set-up that perfectly balances the musical quality of the song writing with the need to pay full attention to the witty and insightful lyrics. Most impressive in the band is a drummer who can keep a beat whilst simultaneously playing the keyboards and singing pitch perfect backing vocals. (He also cheerily manned the merchandise stall after the gig, multi-tasking clearly not a problem).

Mulcahy himself also proves to be a more upbeat and animated character than his musical reputation might give credit for. His most recent recorded output has many upbeat or humorous moments and is often poppier than might be expected. ‘Poison Candy Heart’ and ‘Let the Fireflies Fly Away’ both prove that tonight, with the latter even featuring animal noise audience participation.

As he relaxes through the set we see more audience engagement and movement on the stage. A wonderfully ragged ‘I Have Patience’ sees him rocking out around the stage and freed from the guitar and mic stand for a version of the Miracle Legion classic ‘Ladies From Town’ sees him almost river dancing whilst playing the harmonica.

The end of a, not unexpected, encore sees him joined on stage by old band-mate Mr Ray Neal for a song.  This is possibly the closest we’ll ever get to a Miracle Legion reunion and a pretty fine way to end an exemplary live performance.

By Dorian Rogers

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Mark Mulcahy – Dear Mark J Mulcahy, I Love You

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Mark Mulcahy – Dear Mark J Mulcahy, I Love You

Posted on 15 June 2013 by Dorian

When one of your favourite artists returns to recording music after an extended break it is pretty exciting, when the product of that comeback turns out to be the equal of any of their past records it is something a little bit special.

Mark Mulcahy spent the 80s and 90s as the singer with the band The Miracle Legion achieving critical acclaim and moderate sales before they split and he went on to a solo career where further critical acclaim and even more modest sales followed. In 2008, after the sudden death of his wife, he stepped away from music to concentrate on looking after his twin daughters. It is a mark of the respect that the music community have for his work that the likes of Thom Yorke, The National, Michael Stipe and Mercury Rev recorded and released a tribute album, Ciao My Shining Star, in order to raise money so that he was able to continue recording music.

Dear Mark J Mulcahy, I Love You

It is my pessimistic expectation that Dear Mark J Mulcahy, I Love You will yet again fall into the critically acclaimed, largely ignored by the recording buying public camp yet again. It is a pretty exceptional album from start to finish, filled with great tunes, thoughtful lyrics and a typically excellent vocal performance. On balance it could be his most consistent set of songs to date.

This is a classic guitar pop album, other than  some nice flutes and a few keyboards (well, a lot of keyboards on the lovely ‘Bailing Out On Everything Again’)  it sticks pretty close to the bass, drums, guitar and vocals formula that Mulcahy has perfected through his career. This is no reinvention of the artist, this is a first rate musician doing what he does best and seeming more relaxed and comfortable in his performance than ever.

Some reviewers have pointed to a dark undercurrent in the songs, something that has always been present on his recordings, but if anything this seems to be a pretty positive and confident recording. Mulcahy states that the sings were recorded one at a time, going in to the studio one Saturday a month over an extended period to capture the eleven tracks for the album. The songs were perfected one by one, leaving the studio when they were happy with the song being recorded that day. This certainly seems to have worked as each of the songs seems fully realised and complete, there is no filler on this record. They were also mixed by 90s alt-rock legend Paul Q. Kolderie and the songs sound great, crisp and clean with no hint of over-production.

The album contains some of the poppiest tunes that Mulchay has recorded, with ‘Poison Candy Heart’ being top 10 in my alternative universe chart run-down and ‘She Makes The World Turn Backwards’ should be available in every karaoke booth round the country (for the call and response moments at east).

Mulcahy is an excellent singer, with a distinctive and emotional voice, a voice that is capable of drama and theatrics when he he wants to. He is too clever a performer to overdo things though, no Mariah Carey histrionics for him, and it is only on the wonderful ‘Let The Fireflies Fly Away’ that he really lets his vocal chords go. There is so much personality in his songs and performances throughout that he doesn’t need to fall back on any vocal tricks to get the listeners attention.

Mark Mulcahy makes a rare visit to the UK this August for a handful of gigs. My advice is to buy this album and get tickets to those gigs. Join a small but happy group that knows that Mark Mulcahy is one of the best songwriters around, and hopefully help to pursuade him to take less than eight years to come back with more  music.

9/10

By Dorian Rogers

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