For some reason I’m extremely fond of The Beloved. I suppose they were responsible for recording a lot of the tracks that I really remember from the 1990s, and when they were good, they really were very good.
So it is with Happiness (1990), officially their second album, although you could also consider it their first or third, depending on how you look at it. Having just made the jump to the mainstream with EastWest Records, they largely turned their back on the dark indie which they had spent the previous seven years recording, and moved towards a contemporary pop-dance style.
It opens very softly with the sound of an orchestra tuning, which becomes Hello. A “list track,” I don’t think it’s really about anything in particular, but it’s quite a fun list of people, and you’re inevitably going to chuckle a couple of times. The verse halfway through, in which Jon Marsh starts asking us about whether we’ve worked his riddle out yet, and the answer turns out to be that blue is blue and always will be, is a little perplexing though. But let the slightly odd lyrics wash over you, and it’s a great song.
The second track Your Love Takes Me Higher was also the first single from the album, and was later reissued too, although it was never a huge hit. Which is a shame, as it’s a great song, and it’s entirely different from any of the other singles, so at the very least it shows their versatility. Apart from being a very different style of song, it has much more of an industrial feel to it, with its large metallic pads in the background.
My personal favourite Time After Time is up next, and was also a minor single. It’s driven by a real bass, and has some other guitar work which seems to sit perfectly with the analogue pad sounds and moody vocal. Then Don’t You Worry is the one slightly low point in the first half of the album. It’s a pleasant enough slow track, but it isn’t quite up to the calibre of its neighbours.
For an act who were, at the time, transitioning from a very indie sound to a very dance-based one, it’s surprising how few full-on dance tracks there are on this album. Scarlet Beautiful is one of the closest. Brilliant and full of pumping energy, it probably would have been more successful as a single than most of the tracks which were released. But then, it might have also struggled for remixes, which were already one of The Beloved‘s trademarks by this stage.
The second half of the album kicks off with the inimitable The Sun Rising. Well, fairly inimitable anyway – the O Euchari sample which forms its backbone has also been used by a number of other artists over the years, and I believe this version got them into rather a lot of trouble when the single came out originally. But it’s a beautiful vocal sample, which helps to build a beautiful track, and Jon Marsh‘s lyrics and vocal are both truly exceptional here. The single didn’t do hugely well in the charts, but it’s a fondly remembered track, and rightly so.
This isn’t quite so true of the track which follows, I Love You More, which has a spectacularly uninspired lyric and also a completely different production team (as with Your Love Takes Me Higher and earlier single Loving Feeling it’s produced by Paul Staveley O’Duffy, of whose production techniques the band have since been more than a little critical) making it sound a little out of place at this stage on the album.
Wake Up Soon quickly picks things up and puts them back where they should be, kicking off with a funky bass line and building into a brilliant and slightly quirky pop song. Up, Up and Away is excellent too, combining a bouncy pop chorus with the sort of acid squelches that you’d expect to have heard on a dance floor at this time. For such an unassuming album, it really does contain a lot of surprises.
It also has some truly wonderful artwork, as did most of the singles, painted especially by Bob Linney – his distinctive style complements the music perfectly. The final track, Found is the closest to The Beloved‘s already mythical past, and their debut album Where it Is (1987), and is an excellent closer for the release.
As an epilogue, the next release would be their brilliant remix album Blissed Out (also 1990), but the next studio album wouldn’t follow until 1993. So they may not have been especially prolific, but what they did do, they did extremely well.
As with much of their back catalogue, the album Happiness isn’t always easy to track down, but you should be able to find it on iTunes if you’re stuck.