Next week Embrace celebrate the 21st anniversary of their debut album The Good Will Out with a show at the Barrowland Ballroom in Glasgow.
I fell for Embrace when they released the Fireworks EP back in the Spring of 1997. Fireworks was an absolute gem of a song, real heart on the sleeve stuff and the EP contained enough over 4-songs to ensure I knew this was a band with a little something about them. This was mixed with excellent interviews in the music weeklies, here was a band led by two brothers speaking from the heart at a time where another band of brothers had disappeared up their own backsides.
My friend and I went to see them at King Tut's and they had the confidence and swagger to open with All You Good Good People. I distinctly remember turning to my mate and saying 'bloody hell, that could be a Beatles song'. It had ambition written all over it, but in a soulful way, it had a gorgeous surging string arrangement beautifully mixed with a chiming guitar riff. It blew me away.
The song had originally been released on the excellent Fierce Panda label as a ltd edition 7-inch in February of 1997, swiftly leading to a deal with Hut Records who re-released the song later that year.
All You Good Good People is a stunning opener, after a 46 second intro, to The Good Will Out, it sets a high bar in terms of quality and the remarkable thing is that the band largely match it across the album.
The way the band build things up, bring it down and then take it higher is just brilliant. It blew my mind when I saw and heard them play it back in the late 90's and I'll be singing from the heart at the Barrowland next week.
How to follow that? Well with a heart melting, sky scraping ballad called My Weakness Is None Of Your Business. Where and how in hell were this band coming up with these songs? Danny McNamara sings over a piano before guitar, bass and drums gently kick in.
When the strings kick in as Danny sings that's why, I get that shallow feeling that you like, I'll never learn that I can't win it is spine tingling.
The McNamara's pour their hearts out on this album. There is love, loss, hurt, pleading and soul bearing honesty.
For evidence I present Come Back To What You Know, what an absolute beauty, I love the line that leads to the first chorus and I am a sucker for a double chorus.
This is a ballad that builds and delivers a punch, McNamara is all in on this album, his cards are on the table, his heart is on his sleeve and in his mouth.
Credit must go to his brother Richard on guitar and Mickey Dale on keyboards for creating the soaring arrangements which go so well with the lyrics and vocal melodies. The whole band are totally on it and the production by Youth is absolutely spot on.
It is the ballads that I love this album for, so I have to confess that I'm not a huge fan of One Big Family on record, although it is a mighty live track.
Oh my, I haven't listened to the whole album in a long time but I am listening on headphones and Higher Sights is another absolute stunner of a song.
And Retread is Danny McNamara at his most heartbreaking with his brother at his beat on guitar. The verses have McNamara singing over an acoustic before his brother comes in with a stunning riff, but then the chorus kicks in and it has everything I fell for about Embrace in a few seconds. Danny is just singing his heart out, it's really raw and beautiful and the band are just going for it. Look at those lyrics - pure.
After the second chorus the song goes to a new level with Danny questioning will you fight? as the strings and guitars go crazy.
I can't help but think of some of the b-sides from the era that could have gone on the album in place of I Want The World and You've Got To Say Yes. In my opinion they just don't fit in with the album at all in terms of the way it feels, or in terms of quality. But hey, there is more than enough to make up for it
'Cause then we get to Fireworks. What a song, so gentle, so soulful, so gorgeous, so inspiring. McNamara sings of seeing enough to want to try to change things, how the fireworks inside him are all gone, when it feels right and it's wrong, and at one point he almost asks if he has let his love down before correcting himself and confirming I'll never let you down.
This is the song that made me fall for Embrace and I played it to all of my friends and a crowd of us went to see them as they moved from Tuts to the Barrowland. I think they played Tuts twice before the Barrowland but it was a swift rise on the back of a string of EP's leading to the album.
The Last Gas is another rockier and I'm just not a fan of Embrace doing rockers like this. It sounds so out of place sandwiched between the gorgeous Fireworks and the incredible That's All Changed Forever.
McNamara is pouring his heart out again on That's All Changed Forever, he does it so well. The arrangement is just perfect, the emotion is beautifully captured in McNamara's voice, in the playing and production.
Now You're Nobody is a moody gem leading to the title track and album closer The Good Will Out. It is an epic 6-minute plus ballad that leads into a Hey Jude inspired sing-a-long at the end. And it works, check the incredible live performance from Glastonbury 2000 below. There is a beautiful moment when Danny McNamara comes to the front of the stage as the band strip it right back and the crowd sings, you can see what it means to him.
So there you have it, The Good Will Out (LP) revisited. I'm not going to lie, there are 2-songs on the album I don't rate, 2 more that I don't think fit, but in All You Good Good People, Come Back To What You Know, Higher Sights, Retread, Fireworks, That's All Changed Forever, Now You're Nobody and the title track you have some sensational soulful ballads that have easily stood the test of 21-years.
Roll on the Barrowland.