SPIRITUALIZED – ” Ladies & Gentlemen ” Neptune Blue Vinyl

Posted: July 26, 2021 in MUSIC

Jason Pierce has never lacked scope. Spiritualized‘s first four albums are all doubles, each one more grander than the last, with Pierce’s love of classic pop, rock and soul melting into the droney, druggy, interstellar sound he’s been working in since his Spacemen 3 days. All four records are great, but 1997’s “Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space” is where ambition, inspiration and beautiful sadness come together perfectly.

It’s kind of a miracle it holds together as perfectly as it does, or that it even was finished at all. The previous album, “Pure Phase”, released during a brief period when Pierce changed the name of the group to Spiritualized Electric Mainline, was a notoriously difficult birth, involving two separate mixes of the album that he decided needed to be placed on top of each other, making for a laborious post-production process. With a solid, road-tested line-up of the band in place, Pierce began work on the next album right after the release of Pure Phase, with hopes of knocking it out quickly. That turned into two years worth of recording, involving seven studios in five cities (Bath, London, Memphis, New York and Los Angeles), nearly as many producers and engineers, the Balanescu QuartetThe London Community Gospel Choir and New Orleans icon Dr. John.

It was Spiritualized’s most celebrated album, and Kate Radley’s last as a member, girlfriend and keyboardist Kate Radley left him to marry The Verve’s Richard Ashcroft in 1995. (Amazingly word of their nuptials didn’t become public knowledge for two years and she continued to be a member of Spiritualized through the making of the album). Heartbreak, drugs and religion are the holy trinity on Ladies & Gentlemen. The first line of the the album’s opening title track is “All I want in life’s a little bit of love to take the pain away,” while the first line of the epic closing track “Cop Shoot Cop” is “There’s a hole in my arm where all the money goes” and in between we get variations on the themes with “I Think I’m in Love,” “Stay with Me,” “Broken Heart,” and “No God Only Religion.”

The core line-up added Damon Reece on drums as well as featuring contributions from Dr John, the London Community Gospel Choir, B.J Cole and 19 technical personnel. It took its title from a passage in Joystein Gaarder’s novel, “Sophie’s World”, where a young girl attempts to define the meaning of life by travelling through time and space, meeting the world’s great philosophers. Commenting on the album today Jason Pierce recalls:

“We went out to America ahead of recording this record. John had joined on guitar and I’d recorded the title track and a number of other demos that ended up on the finished record.

But we got to play “Cop Shoot Cop” and “Electricity” live and to work them out before we recorded them for the record and then John became integral to the band. He came from a world of Syl Johnson and Al Green, Teenie Hodges and Reggie Young; a different world within the guitar lines. And then there was Kate (Radley)’s hugely influential keyboard that was relentless and loud. 

I like “Pure Phase” the best of these four records, but people still say “Ladies and Gentlemen” is where everything kind of came together. I’m still astounded by both records, where they don’t let up. There’s no kind of curfew. Or no “you can’t stay on that section for that length of time”. They sit on where they arrive and stay there, and I found that kind of amazing.  

The abstract parts were just as beautiful as these kind of pop / simplistic nursery rhyme ideas and they were no less important. 

I went all over the place to make it. I went to Memphis to see (country recording legend) Jim Dickinson for two weeks, I think. Parts of his recordings are in there but by the time I finished, I had all these different mixes. There was very little that was one single mix. There were some mixes from the old A&M studio on La Brea in Los Angeles. Part of the reason that I’ve never received any royalties from any of these records is that I was always thinking, ‘Well where should I go now?’ Suddenly, the move from Rugby to London was small-time compared with “well can I do this in L.A, can I do it in Memphis, can I do it again?” And then “Can I fly out to New York and put Dr John on the record?” 

With Dr John, I just wrote a letter, sent the track and his response was immediate. He said “absolutely, absolutely, love it”. It was where he wanted to be. I was completely in awe of him and his playing and everything he put to it. I could hardly speak, to be honest. Not that I needed to speak much. It didn’t add anything little or less to the proceedings. It was an amazing session, amazing to do.” 

This is a record where Sadness feels like the primary member, the primary instrument, and it is played beautifully. It’s a blanket that Pierce wraps around himself to stay warm and safe and it comforts the listener too.

The album is the third in this series of 180g double albums mastered by Alchemy Mastering, presented in a gatefold jacket with reworked artwork by Mark Farrow.

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