THE second collaboration between Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott since their Beautiful South heyday offers more of the same in terms of the way it combines lyrical wit and humour with a strong social conscience.
Yet, in Abbott’s own words, there’s a more “upbeat” vibe on the record, which is evident in the breeziness of a lot of the melodies. As entertaining as things are, however, there’s also a nagging sense that some of the tracks here sound a little too samey.
If that sounds harsh given the ambitious nature of the song-writing, or the mix of styles that’s to be found in other places (courtesy of Heaton’s expert knowledge of the industry and genre), then it should also not take away from the feeling that Wisdom, Laughter and Lines buzzes when on form. And this is when it decides to keep things at their most upbeat and/or scathing.
Hence, you can’t help but smile when a track like State Vs Jeeves opens with the line “your on benefits” and proceeds to deliver a wittily scathing attack on benefit cheats. And yet, the handclap beats, cute hooks and bright boy-girl vocal exchange suggests a romp of a record that hasn’t a care in the world.
Similarly, the Elvis Presley-vibed Wives 1, 2 & 3 offers rock ‘n’ roll revelry wrapped in a tale of a marital scoundrel who burns through women. It’s sharp and fun and a highlight.
Former single The Austerity of Love smartly combines reggae and bubblegum pop (complete with lines about “sugar and honey-comb”) and a doozy chorus that proclaims “the obesity of love”. It’s a strong example of where the album drops in some stylistic changes.
Heatongrad, meanwhile, adds more grit and an opening line that declares “f**k the king and f**k the queen” over a military-style drum beat and some rockabilly guitars. It later declares “f**k the army, f**k the world and f**k the uniform” whilst referencing hotspots like the streets of Baghdad. It’s the sound of the LP at its most scathing and robust… and it’s another highlight, especially when seguing into a Greek-style sing-along mentality around the three minute mark.
More straight-forwardly rocking, on the other hand, is The Horse and Groom. But the electric guitars and edgy vocal from Heaton work a treat in elevating this to another favourite – much like the fiery Capital Love, which rounds off the album on the deluxe edition.
However, it’s on tracks like I Don’t See Them, Lonesome and Sad Millionaire, The Queen of Soho and (Man Is) The Biggest Bitch of All that the album reverts a little too closely to formula. The Queen of Soho, in particular, could be an old Beautiful South record for long periods, despite some tweaks to the formula. And we’ve moved on since then.
At its best, Wisdom, Laughter and Lines delights; but it’s not always as consistently entertaining as it could have been… it’s best moments casting a shadow over its more average ones.
Download picks:Wives 1, 2 & 3, The Austerity of Love, Heatongrad, The Horse And The Groom, Capital Love
Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott: Wisdom, Laughter and Lines review - glorious hymns to life's simple pleasures
Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott’s vocal sparring fired the Beautiful South’s most successful period, and since reuniting they have picked up where they left off. Their second album together sees rich, acerbic lyrics set against exuberant music informed by Heaton’s encyclopedic love of pop and soul. However, there are musical departures in the reggae/bubblegum pop-referencing The Austerity of Love and guitar-rocker The Horse and Groom.
The pair’s bittersweet voices make sometimes warm and sometimes withering – but always engaging – comments on their nation and its people, taking in subjects from revenge porn to unconditional love and violent Republican fantasies, and feature all manner of characters, from transvestites to a woman facing old age.
One of our shrewdest lyricists, Heaton is at his brilliant best in Lonesome and Sad Millionaire, addressing a big, political subject (rampant big business) via the medium of a touching personal story. Elsewhere there’s the lovely Sundial in the Shade, a glorious hymn to life’s simple pleasures – and indeed, there are plenty of those here. Sometimes warm, sometimes withering … Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott
Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott: Wisdom, Laughter and Lines - album review
There’s no point in wasting time when you’re on to a good thing.
After rekindling his partnership with former Beautiful South colleague Jacqui Abbott on last year’s What Have We Become?, Paul Heaton’s second collaborative album with the vocalist is a continuation of their joyful incursion into pop-rock, with shared vocals and his customarily wry lyrics.
Heatongrad is a laugh-out-loud country-bumpkin rollick, while Morrissey would kill for a song like the pacy The Horse and Groom.
It’s the softly sweeping When Love for Woman Stops that best pays testament to Heaton’s skill as a songwriter, although Abbott’s contribution can’t be discounted. Let’s just call it another fine, if slightly overlong effort from them both.
Album Review: Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott - Wisdom, Laughter And Lines
It was unfortunate for fans of The Beautiful South when the English pop/rock group broke up in 2007: but a fragment of the band’s memory lives on through former lead singers Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott. Last year the pair released their first album together What We Have Become, entering the charts at number three and charming the socks off anybody who listened. Now Heaton and Abbott are back for more with their latest LP, Wisdom, Laughter and Lines.
Listening to the album from beginning to end allows you to hear the strength of the duo’s musical bond: whether it’s the melodic fun they seem to be having in opening track (Man Is) The Biggest B*tch Of All or the more intensified Heatongrad. You’ll take in each breathtaking moment that you’ll have from ballads like Sundial In The Shade: you’ll ignore the timeframe of six minutes and thirty three seconds and enjoy every instant.
The youthfulness of both singers’ voices don’t indicate age: their vocal game is just as strong as back in the 90s. The pair try a sound that’s a little more earthy with The Horse And Groom with a steady beat and a prominent guitar line ripping through the backdrop. The folk/rocky Wives 1, 2, 3 is possibly one of the more addictive numbers on the album: but there’s something wonderful about the subtle closing track, You, The Mountain And Me.
Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott haven’t lost their touch. It may have been 10 years since they had last spoken before they rose from the ashes as a musical duo: but it’s like the pair had never separated from the stage or the studio. Wisdom, Laughter and Lines is a fun and insightful record, perfect for unwinding after a long day.
Britain's most down-to-earth pop stars Paul and Jacqui reunited for new album
In a pub in Manchester, Britain's most unlikely pop stars are ordering lunch. No sushi or Cristal here: half a lager, a blackcurrant and soda, a cheese sandwich and the chilli-and-rice special are about as exotic as it gets. The bill comes to less than a tenner. As singers of The Beautiful South, Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott sold more than 15 million records and scored a string of hits including Rotterdam, Perfect 10 and Don’t Marry Her. Today they release their second album as a duo: Wisdom, Laughter And Lines. But for pop stars they seem remarkably… ordinary. “I always feel slightly disappointing to people,” Paul laughs. “I always expect them to ask for their money back, like, is that all you’ve done with our money?
Dressed up like that and spent the rest on beer? “Reviews of our concerts used to say we looked like a bunch of people who’d been pulled out of a queue at a bus stop and made to go on stage.”
The self-deprecation is part of the charm of course. You don’t sell that many records by accident. And, with his first band The Housemartins and then The Beautiful South, Paul, 53, delivered a string of wonderfully catchy songs that mean he has seldom been out of the charts since the mid-1980s. When Jacqui, 41, joined The Beautiful South in 1994 as the replacement for vocalist Briana Corrigan, the band hit the big time with a series of chart topping albums and a huge stadium tour. Both admit, however, that their latest incarnation is a much more relaxed affair. It nearly didn’t happen at all. Jacqui left the band in 2000 to look after her son who had been diagnosed autistic and the pair lost touch. Paul continued with The Beautiful South for another seven years before embarking on a solo career and Jacqui returned to her “normal life” in St Helens, Merseyside.
She says: “My friends used to joke that I could go to the front of queues. And I’d be, like, what am I going to say, ‘Do you know who I used to be? Do you know who I was?’ I never thought I would be a singer in the first place. When I left it was easy to get back to a normal life. And there was a very important thing going on in my home life too, which I had to be there for.
“I did a lot of volunteer work and then I worked in schools. I never had a problem adapting.” A decade passed before Paul, originally from Sheffield, made contact. “I always felt that if I got back in touch with her it would sound a bit like, ‘Hey, look what I’m doing’, you know? But then a friend told me Jacqui was on Facebook. “So, one night I messaged her. And I remember when she answered, tears welled up in my eyes. I was so pleased to be back in touch.” The result was a “tentative” album as a duo, What Have We Become, which reached No 3 in the charts last year – and the realisation that, whatever else they may do, they work best when they are together.
On the surface Wisdom, Laughter And Lines sounds typically Beautiful South – full of catchy melodies, clever lyrics and his ’n’ hers harmonising – but it also holds a deeper pull. As the title suggests, there is a thoughtful, more reflective side to the record, too. “The Beautiful South became this chart-making machine,” says Paul.
“It was like a speeding train. And when we got back together this time I explained to Jacqui that it wasn’t a speeding train any more, it was more like a broken-down old bus ambling through the countryside.” Which is not to say there isn’t an edge to the album. Paul has combined an everyman blokishness with some of the most cutting lyrics over the past three decades. By his own admission The Housemartins were “immersed in anger” about the miners’ strike and Margaret Thatcher and The Beautiful South continued to blend singalong melodies with a stridently Left-wing stance. He’s still politically outspoken, claiming, “I’m happy to say I’m further to the Left than Jeremy Corbyn”, but he also admits that age has mellowed him.
He says: “I can write songs now that are more observing all sorts rather than taking a political line. That’s about being older and wiser.” If the music is reminiscent of their multi-platinum-selling former band, the pair behind it couldn’t behave less like stars if they tried. It’s not just about keeping it real with cheese sarnies and halves of lager, it is obvious in the very way they talk.
Ask Jacqui about long-term plans and she laughs. “Long term? I’m just enjoying it for what it is. They played our song on the radio this morning and my mum phoned me screaming she was so excited.” It is a refreshingly endearing attitude for any singer to have, let alone the member of a band that achieved 15 million sales.
Paul says: “I always say I can picture 100,000 records because that’s basically Wembley. After that I get confused. Fifteen million? That’s just mind-boggling.” He pauses. “You know what my problem is? I’ve got no ambition for growth. I’m a plodder. All I’ve ever really wanted is to be able to make another album. It’s just turned out well, that’s all.”
Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott – Wisdom, Laughter And Lines
Wisdom, Laughter And Lines is the second album since Paul Heaton reunited with his old sparring partner Jacqui Abbott from their days in The Beautiful South. After the slightly unexpected success of What Have We Become, Wisdom, Laughter And Lines is everything you'd expect from a Heaton-composed album, intelligent articulate and observational lyrics on a range of subject matters close to his heart combined with an unerring knack of delivering a tune that's both simple in execution but also an impossible to shift ear worm. It's a perfect title for the album too as the songs tell stories about life and love and politics, all shaded by Heaton's dark battered and bruised take on the world.
Heaton's in reflective and slightly morose mood on Wisdom, Laughter And Lines. The album starts with the declaration that (Man Is) The Biggest Bitch Of All, a reflection that men's infidelity is something hard-wired and impossible for a woman to avoid. It sets the tone, there's continued reference to the failure of relationships viewed from the point of someone who's been there and seen it all, either personally or through observation.
So often though, it's tempered by the saccharine of the music, either upbeat in contrast and contradiction to the subject matter. Heaton and his partner in crime Johnny Lexus have managed to hit the spot again time and time with just the right harmony and melody to grab the listener's attention and not let go. There's something addictive and warming in the likes of first single Austerity Of Love or the way strings are used in I Don't See Them and Sundial In The Shade to create a counterpoint.
The aforementioned Sundial In The Shade is a heart-wrenching tale of the consequences of domestic violence, a woman repeating the tale of her own mother twenty years earlier who takes so much before reacting and ending up in prison and taking her own life. It's tempered though by an epic build into a line you could imagine thousands singing back, even despite the context, "what I want from life is not a roller coaster dip, what i want from love is not a ramp up to a skip" It wouldn't be a Paul Heaton record without some of the cutting social and political commentary he's famed for both in his music as well as in his on line presence and championing of trade unions and social justice. "Fuck the king and Fuck the queen with an AK47" at the start of Heatongrad heralds a stark change in mood and subject matter. It envisages a world run by Heaton's rules and contrasts it with the one where Tonygrad sends young men to Iraq to die and millionaires get to pay no tax. You can draw a straight line from The Housemartins' political slant straight to this, now far more direct and specific than back then, but still with the fire in his heart and belly to call out injustice. Lonesome And Sad Millionaire takes another slant on it, highlighting that money doesn't buy you happiness and can actually do the exact opposite.
The album goes off on a bit of a diversion with The Queen Of Soho and Horse And Groom, detailed tales of observation of characters and situations as is Heaton's wont, the latter wouldn't sound out of place on a Smiths' album, either from Lexus's riff or the nature of the descriptive lyrics.
When Love For Woman Stops takes the mood back down, dwelling on the moment when a relationship changes from love to something more routine set to a delicious string arrangement that is possibly even more impactful in setting the pathos of the song than the words themselves. Wives 1, 2 and 3 tells the tale of a man on his fourth wife and treating her as if she'll soon be added to the list that makes up the title of the song.
It isn't all about Heaton though. It's no coincidence that his renaissance has coincided with the return of Abbott. When the two of them sing together, they work together in perfect unison and when Jacqui takes the lead, as she does on No One Wants To Stay or as the fourth wife in Wives 1, 2 and 3, she isn't just playing second fiddle, the voice melts even the coldest heart.
The album does finish on a positive note (ignoring the bonus tracks on the deluxe version which we're not yet privy to) when Jacqui sings about love appearing when you don't expect it later in life, finding wisdom, laughter and lines amongst endless glasses of wine and despite losing what you have that love winning through, as if everything else that's been gone through to get to this point on the album has been part of a journey. Optimism sneaks through and wins out in the end.
Wisdom, Laughter And Lines is certain to cement the love that's felt for Heaton and Abbott. Despite the often dark and sometimes disturbing subject matter, it either grabs the listener with that unmistakable tone of Paul's voice or the beauty of Jacqui's or by the music that sits in direct opposition to the words it accompanies. No one else manages to quite achieve this.
Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott released their second album on Friday October 23 and they’ll be taking Wisdom, Laughter and Lines on the road next year, including a return to the Royal Concert Hall in March. Kevin Cooper spoke to Heaton about working with Abbott and writing about loveHow is life treating Paul Heaton? At present all is very well thank you. I am at a very good point in my life both with work and in my personal life. So I am happy to say that all is very good.
Wisdom, Laughter And Lines is an uplifting album. Is that how you felt when you were writing it? I think that it perfectly reflects just how the songs came out but I have a very long songwriting process so I don’t know whether I was in a good mood when I was writing the lyrics or the music or both. But I agree it is pretty uplifting in general.
Are you happy with the finished article? Well you are never fully happy with an album but I’ll say probably. I never tend to listen back to the material probably until a year after I have finished recording it but with us having a tour coming up in October, I had to decide which of the songs on the album we would be performing, so I had to. And yes, I was happy with it. Usually there are a few things that you’d like to change. Like I say, you are never totally happy.
On the single, Austerity Of Love, did I hear a snippet of The Liquidator by The Harry J All Stars in there? Yes, it was the keyboard player who came up with that riff and straight away I said ‘that’s The Harry J All Stars!’ So we rang the publishing company that the late Harry Zephaniah Johnson used in order to make sure that everything was all right with them. We paid them a part of the royalty. It wasn’t that we thought that they were going to sue us, it was the right thing to do.
You have sung with numerous female singers but Jacqui Abbott is the best fit, wouldn’t you say? I would. It may have something to do with the fact that we are both from a similar area. I have tried singing with different females in the past and very few of their diction fits exactly with mine but our voices do fit really, really closely. I think that usually happens, for example The Everly Brothers and The Bee Gees, when you’ve grown up singing together. Obviously I didn’t with Jacqui but she is from St Helens and my dad was also from St Helens. I don’t know if it is a diction thing in the accent. Jacqui has a rather deep voice with quite a broad Lancastrian/St Helens accent which you don’t really often think of as being a singing voice. But it works. And she picks harmony out very, very quickly. Although it’s weird because I have been in bands since I was eighteen years old but Jacqui was never in a band. Her background is simply singing along to the radio (laughs). When I met her she had never been in a studio; she had never sung on the stage, nothing. And that is what makes it even more interesting really.
Ernie Isley of The Isley Brothers is reported as saying that The Housemartins’ version of Caravan Of Love is the best he has ever heard, including his own. How does that feel? I didn’t know that he had said that. It’s funny because their version only came out a year before ours but R&B at the time was a little bit wishy washy in terms of production. The early 1960s Isley Brothers records all had that cutting edge Motown sound and their 1970s stuff was really funky but when it came to the 1980s, a lot of R&B acts, particularly the ones who had been going for a couple of decades, had lost their way a little bit. New artists such as Prince were coming along and they were taking the music into a different direction. When me and Norman (Cook) heard their 1985 version, we thought straight away that the song had the potential for us to do a cover version. Weirdly enough we had started singing it the year that it came out; we were performing it live for a full year and a half before it actually got into the charts. It was one of those songs that actually sounded better live.
You mentioned Norman. I recently read a quote from him saying that you hated writing about love? I always struggled to write about love, especially when I was in The Housemartins because we had quite an odd audience really. It was mainly a male audience. I did get better straight away with things like You Keep It All In and I’ll Sail This Ship Alone when I was in The Beautiful South but I still struggle to write an out and out love song. It’s funny considering that my two favourite songwriters are Smokey Robinson and Elvis Costello, who both specialise in writing songs about love. I could never nail it myself.
You were in The Beautiful South for 19 years. Was it a difficult decision when you finally walked away? No it wasn’t, it was actually a decision that I had delayed by probably four or five years. I maybe should have done it when Jacqui left, with all due respect to people who stepped into her shoes. I think that I was just staying in the band for safety reasons. There were nine people all around me who I knew really well, in the band and the management, and so it was just easier to carry on working with them.
Were you not frightened at the thought of being out there alone? Weirdly enough I wasn’t. I really did start to enjoy it straight away. What I did find difficult was trying to find the right band members.
Paul Heaton And Jacqui Abbott, Wisdom, Laughter And Lines. Album Review There are song writers of such acerbic wit and deliciously well observed lyrics that when the time comes, as it assuredly must to all, the world of music will be at pains to understand why they weren’t more appreciated in their life time. Like the 19th and 20th Century devotees of Oscar Wilde, the clamour for true recognition might go unheard by the greater population starved of such lyrical insights and yet, somewhere deep in the bowls of the immersive and beautiful grin of gratitude we surely must give thanks with, Paul Heaton will always be remembered with clarity and honour. Thankfully such things are a million miles away and with his second solo collaboration with his former Beautiful South partner, Jacqui Abbot, that sharp and poignantly barbed clever humour, that tongue in cheek and feeling of the truly observant is there in all its glory to revelled in as each song from Wisdom, Laughter and Lines is played over in the mind and lays down its wares for the satire dream. Paul Heaton is one of life’s true wits, his lyrics are full of the type of playful inventiveness that you could never hope to achieve and yet in them all lays truth, they are the songs that Time allows to be seen for what they are, songs that capture the true feelings of many and at times the sheer disgust at what we as a nation have allowed ourselves to be taken down within, the cul-de-sac of bitterness and the ever increasing solitude that comes from being the pariah of the world. Yet in that truth lays hope and with Jacqui Abbott adding searing drive to the album, the songs take on a new mantle of expectation and as in the first album together, What Have We Become? it is a match made in Heaven. Tracks such as The Austerity of Love, the utterly brilliant Heatongrad, the pungent punch of acidity that wreaks wonderful havoc in Lonesome and Sad Millionaire, the look of positivity in The Queen of Soho and the shock value of the well disposed in Wives 1, 2 & 3, the music, the lyrics are buoyant, sanguine and full of a hope that cannot be easily dismissed, it is the hope that the messages contained within the songs are identified with and we can pull back from the pessimism and destruction we place on each other. A wonderfully crafted album, a piece of art, a two act play in the body of lyrical responsibility, cynical perhaps but truly right in its assumption and direction, Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbot are the King and Queen of 21st Century wit and wisdom.
Paul Heaton on Wisdom, Laughter And Lines - and a third wave of success
When the curators of music history look back in decades to come, writes Ian Midgley, it's likely they will proclaim this as the Third Golden Age of Paul Heaton.
It's rare for a pop star to have two bites of the cherry after the initial flourish of stardom has faded, never mind three, but for the evergreen Heaton, the Indian summers of success just keep on coming.
"I think I've been very lucky," says the very un-starry 53-year-old former Hull resident. "John Peel gave The Housemartins a chance and that spilled over into some success.
"Then it happened again with the Beautiful South, which was incredible. "And now it's happening again, which is completely unexpected but is lovely all the same. The response we're getting on the radio and on the internet is amazing.
"So, yes," he says grinning with a deadpan shrug. "I suppose you could call this the Third Golden Age of Paul Heaton."
After the stellar success of "everyone's second favourite band" The Beautiful South, Heaton admits he had eased himself into a post-South life writing and recording on the fringes of the limelight."I'd sort of settled in to my new life riding my bike about and playing in pubs," he says. "I never expected any of this to happen. To be honest, I've got no idea what I'm doing.
"It's not that I needed it, but it's really pleasing that people are interested in the music again and I'm really enjoying it."
The turning point came in 2013 when, needing a female singer, Heaton reached out to his former Beautiful South bandmate, Jacqui Abbott. Hearing she was on Facebook under a pseudonym, he made contact, said he missed her, and casually asked her if she wanted to make an album.
The result, What Have We Become? – a reassuring mix of Heaton's waspish lyrics, social conscience and the duo's perfectly dovetailed velvet vocals – was an unexpected hit, both critically and commercially.
From someone who had given up playing the pop star game to make music on the edges and someone else who had left the music industry altogether, the album was proof to their legions of dormant fans that they still had plenty to offer.
Now, buoyed by that success, Heaton and Abbott are back with a second album, Wisdom, Laughter And Lines, which will be released on Friday, October 23.
It is preceded by a single, The Austerity Of Love, a catchy reggae-inspired earworm of a track that has already been made record of the week by Radio 2 and is easily up there with the likes of Rotterdam, Perfect 10, Song For Whoever and the rest.
Added to that, the two will be heading out on the road for a major tour next year, which will see them play Hull City Hall for two dates next March.
Heaton has previously described reuniting with Abbott like the joy of finding an old Scalextric in the attic and discovering it still worked perfectly.
"I can't remember what I imagined would happen," says Heaton, smiling.
"I think I just wanted to hear Jacqui sing again and I wasn't really thinking about what could come of it.
"Of course, I suppose in the back of your head you're thinking, hoping, 'Well, maybe that could happen', but you don't really believe it."
After last year's visit to Hull City Hall – Heaton's first in six years – he is looking forward to returning a bit sooner this time.
"I haven't lived in Hull for 13 years," says the singer. "And you forget the level of affection people have for you there.
"So it was really nice to be welcomed back last time, sort of like old friends. It sounds corny, but it was genuinely touching." Source
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