Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel Love’s a Prima Donna, 1976, EMI
Seeking a Love
Finally a Card Game
Too Much Tenderness
(Love) Compared With You
(I Believe) Love’s a Prima Donna
Seeking a Love Pt. 2
If This is Love (Give Me More)
Carry Me Again
Here Comes The Sun
Innocence And Guilt
Is it True What They Say?
Formed in 1972 Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel were less a band and more a vehicle for Steve Harley. He changed their name from simply Cockney Rebel in 1975 after most of the band quit and had to be replaced, from this moment on it was all about Steve. The band split up after this album but Harley still plays concerts and releases music as a solo artist. The band are significant in popular culture because many of their songs have been used in films and television adverts in multiple countries. Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me) is one of the most well known songs ever recorded by a UK artist and has been covered over 100 times. In 2007 the band in the incarnation that Steve Harley calls “Cockney Rebel Mark III” due to the number of line up changes, supported The Rolling Stones on their A Bigger Bang world tour at shows in Warsaw, Poland and St. Petersburg, Russia. This was the highest grossing concert tour of all time (and has since only been eclipsed by U2’s 360 degrees world tour from 2009-2011). Steve Harley has appeared on the West End Stage and on Broadway and has written a number of songs for other artists.
The band’s fifth album Love’s a Prima Donna was recorded at Abbey Road Studios, it was their least successful album, peaking at number 28 in the album chart. I have to admit, I was a bit nervous about this one. I’m not the biggest fan of love songs and I don’t strictly approve of song titles with brackets in them, and this album has multiple love songs with brackets, so here goes...
The opener is a bit shouty, and not in a punk way, thankfully it’s only 46 seconds long. GI Valentine is good though, it has a real punky vibe and the guitar is frenetic but great. Finally a Card Game is nuts, there are crazy effects, weird vocals and maybe a trombone. I wasn’t ready for this at all, it’s like a test to see how many bizzare things you can fit into one song. Too Much Tenderness is nice and has a reggae vibe that I like. It’s a welcome old school relief after the previous track (I Believe) Love’s a Prima Donna is great despite the brackets, it’s really catchy, funny and upbeat. The weirdness keeps coming though and Sidetrack II is an instrumental from the eighteenth century apparently. Seeking a Love Pt. 2 continues on a rousing, orchestral theme, but it is mercifully short. If This is Love (Give Me More) has a brilliantly gritty vocal and a real sense of urgency. This version of Here Comes The Sun is truly the stand out song on the album though, it’s really bouncy. It might even top Nina Simone’s version as my favourite. They had a top 10 hit with this track. Innocence And Guilt sounds like it starts with sheep and continues with some sort of bizarre horror movie intro thing and then it’s just all studio effects, it feels unnecessarily indulgent.
Wow. I have to say I was glad when it was over. There were three tracks that I really enjoyed but the constant changing of musical styles actually tired me out. I can see why the band themselves needed a break after making this. Despite being obviously a thematic album, the level of experimentation and variety styles makes it seem incoherent and it’s hard to properly get into it. It seems a shame that they decided to focus so strongly on being experimental since the simpler songs are the strongest on the album.