The Dream Academy / Gilmour Inspired And Made For Absorbing

When you open your career with one of the best and most beautifully crafted pop songs of the era, there is always a risk that you may have peaked too soon. Fortunately for The Dream Academy, there was a lot more to come. Whilst Life In A Northern Town was an incandescent and atmospheric slice of perfection, the rest of their career shone with other gems too.

The Dream Academy – Religion, Revolution & Railways (Cherry Red)

Release Date: 23 February 2024

Words: Paul Monkhouse

This new box set, Religion, Revolution & Railways, brings together their three studio albums along with another four discs of B-sides, remixes and rarities into one glorious whole to be savoured like a fine cognac.

The Dream Academy formed in the mid-1980s. The trio of singer/guitarist Nick Laird-Clowes, multi-instrumentalist Kate St. John, and keyboard player Gilbert Gabriel had a unique sound that mixed lush modern pop with both classical music and progressive rock elements.

There’s a pastoral feel here that’s so quintessentially English that it conjures lush rolling hills, villages bathed in Summer sun and better days.

Armed with ideas and multiple instruments in 1985, the trio went into the studio to work on their eponymous debut album. With the production handled by Laird-Clowes and Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, the whole thing shines with wit, invention and some lovely touches that make it all spring to technicolour life, pastel shades blending into luminous hues.

Gilmour’s star power attracts topflight friends such as Guy Pratt, Pino Palladino, Dave Mattacks and Gary Barnacle to the party, and REM’s Peter Buck adds guitar to The Party.

Whilst the cast may be dazzling, it’s the songs that take centre stage, and the trio have crafted a thing of sublime beauty here. Numbers like lush In Places On The Run, funky Bound To Be and the cool, jazzy shimmer of single The Love Parade show their range. While the song is anchored in 80s sensibilities, there’s a timeless quality to everything here, and it all shows that the band was far from a one-trick pony.

Two years later, sophomore album Remembrance Day was another exercise in blending pop with something a little more esoteric and otherworldly. Once again, the opening track, Indian Summer, tugged at nostalgic heartstrings, the band having lost none of their mojo or the ability to charm with hand-crafted arrangements.

With highlights like Humdrum, Power To Believe and In The Hands Of Love blending beauty and brio, their take on the transcendent Korgi’s classic Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometimes fits in perfectly, Lindsey Buckingham adding some extra sparkle to the party.

With contributions from Paul Carrack and Hans Zimmer cropping up as well, there’s a lot to love here, and Remembrance Day certainly hits all the emotional notes it was meant to.

Their third and final studio album, A Different Kind Of Weather, saw Gilmour return to the producer’s chair. But the six long years between this and their previous release lost them vital momentum, and the album failed to chart.

The jangling pop stylings of Love and Lucy September sit next to more soothing fare like Waterloo, the whole a warm hug and shimmering soundtrack that illustrates a band who have grown and stretched themselves into thrilling new vistas.

Time and the change of some aspects of public expectation of who and what The Dream Academy were meant theirs was sadly a last hurrah rather than the entry into a brave new world.

Such was the fickle world of music and the record-buying public that the band were frustratingly consigned to history, always to be remembered for that first sublime single.

Made for exploring and absorbing again, this trio is worth the entry fee alone. But with the four additional discs bringing their own treasures, this is a delicious purchase for the discerning audiophile best enjoyed in the wraparound world of headphones.

Another jewel in Cherry Red Record’s crown, the label’s ability to bring together box sets by artists who have slipped through the nets of time is something to be celebrated.

Religion, Revolution & Railways is a perfect treat to start 2024. Absolutely sublime.

For more details, visit Cherry Red Records here.

Sleeve Notes

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