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Red Book

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Album Review

Across seven studio albums released at regular intervals over 16 years, Texas has maintained a focus on accessible pop/rock music that serves as a foundation for lead singer Sharleen Spiteri's evocative vocals. Within that focus, however, the band has tacked around considerably, and anyone comparing Red Book with 1989's debut, Southside, would hear considerable change. Texas started out with a sound anchored to Ally McErlaine's Ry Cooder-influenced electric slide guitar playing, but over the years the group has tried a little of everything, from Motown to hip-hop styles. There are no rappers, toasters, or Smokey Robinson impersonations on Red Book, but Texas has not returned to its original sound by any means. To begin with, McErlaine's contribution has shriveled. There are 11 different people credited with playing guitar on Red Book, but guitar is hardly the dominant instrument. What is? Um, "programming," as handled by Spiteri, band leader Johnny McElhone, and newcomer Michael Bannister. (Although there is no listing on the album of who is in the group at this point, it appears that Bannister has replaced longtime keyboard player Eddie Campbell, and drummer Neil Payne isn't much in evidence, either.) Especially as heard on the initial singles released in advance of the album, "Getaway" and "Can't Resist," the disc is filled with heavily arranged, slickly produced tracks, with a distinctly electronic edge to the sound. As such, it is less reminiscent of Cooder than Depeche Mode. The human element, of course, is Spiteri, but on many tracks her vocals are doubled, filtered, or otherwise altered, reducing the soulful and individual characteristic that has tended to make Texas identifiable no matter what style it was dabbling in at any given moment. The vocals get clearer as the album goes on, a turning point coming with the sixth track (and third single), "Sleep," a duet with Paul Buchanan of the Blue Nile. The sentiments are simple enough — "Let me sleep so I can dream of you," Spiteri and Buchanan coo to each other — but then, Spiteri's lyrics rarely stray far from the good love/bad love dichotomy of most pop music. And at least here some personality emerges from the drum and keyboard programming, as it also does, to at least some extent, on a few of the other later songs.

Biography

Formed: 1986 in Glasgow, Scotland

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Taking their name from the Wim Wenders film Paris, Texas, the Scottish pop/rock band Texas recorded a series of multi-million-selling albums (Southside, White on Blonde, The Hush), as well as many hit singles...
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Red Book, Texas
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