John Cunningham - Shankly Gates - 1992 - La-Di-Da Productions
"Cunningham's first full album, 1991's Shankly Gates, is much more stripped down and intimate than Backwards Steps, with jazzy piano and subtle trumpet and oboe accents. It was rapturously received by the French press, which compared Cunningham to artists like Robert Wyatt and late-period Talk Talk, but as would be the case throughout Cunningham's career, sales did not match the critical reaction" - © Stewart Mason © 2011 Rovi Corporation. All Rights Reserved http://www.allmusic.com/artist/john-cunningham-p430305/biography
Liverpudlian, John Cunningham's music has received some great reviews from magazines including Mojo and NME, yet he is virtually unknown in his own homeland. John's career began in the early '90's when he released the 'Backward Steps' album with The Housemartins' Stan Cullimore. The album was popular in France, but remains an obscurity to many people. He released solo albums including 'Shankly Gates', (posted here), 'Happy Go Unlucky', and the brilliant "Homeless House" album. "Homeless House was my record of the year for 1998. It was my record of the year for 1999, and 2000. If you're lucky enough to own a copy, hide it from your thieving bastard friends." - So said Joe Pernice on the liner notes to the British edition of John's 'Happy Go Unlucky' album. John has performed with artists like Edwyn Collins, Television and PJ Harvey, and supported Stereolab on a US tour. There are slight similarities on "Shankly Gates" to the songwriting styles of Nick Drake, Robert Wyatt, and even Lennon & McCartney. In fact, one music critic referrred to John's music as bridging the gap between Nick Drake and The Beatles. John, himself describes his music as folk-rock. His songs are beautifully structured and melodic, with wonderful deep and intelligent lyrics. In 2008 John was the head of music at Lancaster and Morecambe College, a further education College on Torrisholme Road, halfway between Lancaster and Morecambe, Lancashire, England. His aim is to promote the music of good young artists who are not getting the breaks in today's "sickeningly bad" music scene. - (A bit like this blog! LOL!) "Shankly Gates" is HR by A.O.O.F.C. Try and listen to John's fabulous "Homeless House" album. For other "unfashionable" songwriters, listen to the music of Al Stewart, Roy Harper, and the late Clifford T.Ward.
1 Punch Drunk 6:43
2 Hollow Truce 3:48
3 Shankly Gates 3:53
4 Spit And Polish 4:01
5 Dim Crusade 2:33
6 Red Stone 5:43
7 Fold Down Graciously 4:21
8 Comic Book Notions 7:44
9 Five Minutes Too Late 2:35
10 Maryport 3:32
11 I'm Coming Home 6:10
12 Master Grin 6:12
All songs composed by John Cunningham
John Cunningham - Guitar, Hammond Organ, Hammer Dulcimer, Keyboards, Vocals
Tony Stevenson - Bass Guitar
Simon Heathfield - Bass Guitar on "Red Stone"
Tristan Banks - Drums
Paul Elsworthy - Drums, Hammond Organ on "Red Stone"
Grant Lyons - Oboe on "Comic Book Notions"
Ben Paley - Violin
Steve Fanning - Backing Vocals on "Maryport"
Although John Cunningham is British, he lives and works in France. Like his fellow musical expatriate Bill Pritchard (or for that matter, Prefab Sprout or the High Llamas), Cunningham's elegant brand of pop music owes a certain debt to smooth pre-rock classic pop of the Cole Porter school, mixed with a touch of Bacharach, Wilson, McCartney, and Costello. Unlike those artists, however, Cunningham infuses his music with an almost Nick Drake-like acoustic vibe that suits his delicate yet melodic compositions beautifully. (This John Cunningham is, of course, not to be confused with the Scottish fiddle player who was a member of Silly Wizard and other folk groups.) Born in Liverpool, England, in 1969, Cunningham attended school in the East Sussex town of Brighton, where he quickly fell in with the city's thriving artistic and musical community. After a brief and apparently unsatisfying tenure in the Curtain Twitchers alongside Jane Fox of Marine Girls fame in the mid-'80s, Cunningham decided that a solo career was more suitable for him. A demo cassette landed him at the tiny indie La-Di-Da, which released Cunningham's debut EP, Backwards Steps, in 1989. Produced by ex-Housemartins guitarist Stan Cullimore, Backwards Steps owes rather a lot to that band, and while the EP is entertaining, it's not particularly representative of Cunningham's later work. Cunningham's first full album, 1991's Shankly Gates, is much more stripped down and intimate than Backwards Steps, with jazzy piano and subtle trumpet and oboe accents. It was rapturously received by the French press, which compared Cunningham to artists like Robert Wyatt and late-period Talk Talk, but as would be the case throughout Cunningham's career, sales did not match the critical reaction. Cunningham's third release, 1994's Bringing in the Blue, is even more refined and elegant, but it continued the trend of ecstatic reviews on the Continent, little notice in Great Britain, and total invisibility in the United States, with sales figures to match. Cunningham dropped out of sight for nearly five years after Bringing in the Blue, finally reappearing in late 1998 with the sublime Homeless House. By far Cunningham's best work, Homeless House is a sweetly melodic and gentle album with an even more stripped-down sound than his two previous albums, sounding at times like a more upbeat version of Drake's Bryter Layter. After the release of Homeless House, Cunningham began collaborating with Mehdi Zannad of the French pop group Fugu. Cunningham mixed Fugu's debut, 2000's Fugu1, and Zannad wrote the orchestral arrangements for Cunningham's follow-up to Homeless House. © Stewart Mason © 2011 Rovi Corporation. All Rights Reserved http://www.allmusic.com/artist/john-cunningham-p430305/biography