By Paul-Coates Black
Pele – Fireworks (25th Anniversary Edition)
Available from: https://amsterdam-music.com/fireworks-album-25th-anniversary-edition/ or via Ian Prowse Facebook page.
Back in 1992 the chart was dominated by artists like Shakespears Sister, Boyz II Men, Right said Fred, Whitney Houston and The Shamen. This was the world that Pele were signed into and released this their debut album, during the course of its promotion they released four singles over an eleven month period. Fair Blows the Wind For France was the highest to chart in the UK (No 62 in June 1992), however another UK single, Megalomania, fared slightly better on release abroad reaching No 1 in South Africa. Initial promotion (I discovered them on ITV’s The Chart Show) and continuous touring between 1991 and 1995 saw Pele gain a large and loyal student following. Those young enough to remember this period will recall the popularity of band T-shirts from artists like James, Inspiral Carpets, Stone Roses etc. Pele were no different, whilst the front always featured the band logo (as seen on the album cover in the four primary colours), the back featured a lyric from one of the songs, leading the band to (sadly) joke that due to a lack of record company promotion they sold more t-shirts than they did records!
Whilst touring the UK and Europe they played alongside amongst others The Pogues and Del Amitri, in many cases outshining the performance of the now long forgotten headline act. Playing live really brought the music to life and was where they excelled, this is not to take anything away from the studio recordings, but the charisma of Ian Prowse, their front man and singer/songwriter alongside the melody and power of the tunes, never failed to get an audience jumping up and down & singing along. Pele as previously mentioned toured until 1995, when following the release of another studio album & a live album, the label felt guitar music was dead and they were dropped by the record label, just as Britpop exploded & it was all over…. for now.
In the twenty years that have followed Ian formed a new band Amsterdam and continued to gain influential fans of his music and song writing style – John Peel, Janice Long, Elvis Costello and Christy Moore amongst others. To date this has seen five additional albums including a Best of compilation and of course the continuation of the endless touring. A Pele reunion in 2009 gave them the opportunity to sell the ‘lost’ third album as well as start reissuing the back catalogue that they now had the rights to following the closure of Pele’s record label. To support the 25th Anniversary of ‘Fireworks’ original release, Ian & Amsterdam head out on the road on 11th March for a mini tour of the UK as well as re-releasing the LP with a gatefold cover and CD with additional B-sides and demos. You probably by now get that I love it, but what does it sound like. The Fireworks album has twelve (to fourteen) tracks, depending on which format purchased, and in all honesty, all of these could have been singles, they’re that powerful. The music has a Celtic influence spanning from The Waterboys, The Pogues and Dexy’s Midnight Runners; with the lyrics being of a political nature like The Clash and Bruce Springsteen. The band consists of the traditional line up, guitar and vocals, bass guitar, drums, in addition to which to give them the Pele sound you have an organ (not keyboard!) and violin.
During the course of the album songs range from singing about relationships, anti-monarchy, the atomic bomb, the Holocaust and religion. Now whilst this instantly sounds like depressing subject matter throw in pop violin solos, organ solos, thumping guitar and drum beats and mix it all up with the Celtic influence and you have an album that is far from depressing. After its original release, it was suggested by the record label it was too ‘Poppy’, hence the follow up featured some slower numbers.
If you like the mainstream artists I’ve previously mentioned, give it a try, you won’t be disappointed and I can guarantee you’ll be looking to discover more. Ian Prowse is a musician that once heard, you’ll be forever wondering how, with the quality of his music he has not become a mainstream artist. Equally if you get the chance to catch the tour in March, I can’t recommend it highly enough. My wife saw Amsterdam for the first time just before Christmas and loved it, and now can’t wait for the two gigs we’ll be going to this year.