"All About Eve, Julianne Regan": A 2018 Music Retrospect, by Nasos Kavathas
Those two, first albums of All About Eve (AAE) were very influential to me and I still count them on my list of absolute favorites. The brilliant eponymous debut (1988) and the splendid sophomore “Scarlet and other srories” (1989), two flawless albums that stand the test of time, (plus the numerous, equally good 'bonus' songs on singles, EP’s & 45rs of that era), are in a league of their own, still highly regarded. Whether you came from a pop, rock, hard rock, or a more-or-less ‘goth’ or ‘indie’ background, (or whatever else), these were albums that could be loved by many, and they did.
Center stage: a charismatic artist, Julianne Regan.
I started writing for AAE on a personal notebook. The thoughts, the text grew bigger and bigger and the writing approach went clearly personal. After all, I played live ‘Wild hearted woman’ back in 1988 – 1989 with my band in front of thousands. I repeat: back then: 1988-1989. It was the only cover we did then. I recall practicing vocals above scratched copies of those albums, recording drums and bass above 'Martha's Harbour', I could go on and on about.
I always can manage to play live a full set of AAE songs, they're with me.
(For readers outside of Greece I have to explain that me and my long running band JOKER are a rock 'household' in Greece, so, I'm writing this -and all- not only as a 'journalist' but also as a music artist).
If anyone wants to read the original text, be my guest, if you’re reading this you already know where to find me).
So, here I’ll give you the shortest edit possible.
The 1st AAE album 'All About Eve' (1988) made wonders. Not a second is missed. Most importantly of all: the songs. Every single song ticks the good boxes. ‘In the clouds’ or ‘In the Meadow’ or anywhere in between, ‘What kind of fool’ would you be, not liking what this ‘Wild hearted woman’ and her troupe had in offer. But the Vocals.. Gosh.. Julianne's vocals' wide template is exposed throughout the album to stunning results.
The exquisite ‘Martha’s harbour’ went top-10, ‘Flowers in our hair’, ‘Every angel’, most of the songs of the album were released as singles.
(AAE started in 1985 releasing a few independent singles in 1986 and 1987, collected in the ‘Return to Eden’ collection cd – many of the songs were re-recorded for the debut album).
The whole AAE debut album is actually a collective effort: the AAE band, The Mission band camp and the producer's input.
Julianne’s excellent layered vocal work and songwriting are complimented by the acoustic artistry and the measured electric power of Tim Bricheno’s guitars. Kudos to Mick Brown on drums (of The Mission) and mostly to Paul Samwell-Smith: the great producer and artist (The Yardbirds, Jethro Tull etc) who, I must say, is a highly valuable asset here, along with a few more fine additional musicians he brought in, (Jean Paul Vetesse et al).
And of course to Wayne Hussey, (leader of The Mission – give a listen to their wonderful song ‘Severina’ (from the album “Gods' own medicine” (1986) with Julianne guesting on vocals), for getting Julianne noticed and AAE discovered in the first place – and for offering vocals on the magnificent rock ballad ‘Shelter from the rain’.
Even the bonus/B'sides' material is excellent stuff, like the epic folk ballad 'Lady Moonlight' or like the excellent guitar pop-rock of 'Our Summer'. What about 'Candy Tree' – an immidiate AAE stunner.
Concluding: This is not a common debut album – this is practically a “Best of All About Eve Vol.1”. And after that, there came the “Vol.2”.
The sublime 2nd album
When “Scarlet and other stories” (1989) came out things felt even better. Flawless.
‘Road to your soul’, the first single came out, saw it on the telly, loved it instantly and ran to buy the album, (again: wore out a few copies, plus the singles with their lots of extra songs).
My jury was (and is): This is at least as good as the 1st one.
Great songs, both music and lyrics, the vocal tapestries wide & colourful and a potential ‘big’ single (‘December’) that could elevate AAE to next level.
(And, for instance: this album ain't “goth” by any stretch of the imagination).
On the ‘December’ EP – there’s ‘Drowning’ (a great song) and ‘The witch’s promise’ as B’ sides:
the ‘Witch’s promise’ being a fantastic cover of a Jethro Tull song, (one of the best Jethro Tull covers ever). More of favorable connections then.
I may even say that the big ‘orchestral’ thing that those silly ‘metal-queens’ did in late 90s and still do these days, (a dime a dozen), well girlies: Julianne been there first.
The epic ‘December’ achieved big TV & radio airplay in Europe, (MTV, MCM etc) – here in Greece it certainly was a big radio hit, everybody knew and loved it – many still recall it. It’s arguably AAE’s most remembered song for the big public.
And again, what a great, great album, (also produced by Paul Samwell-Smith). There was nothing like that album around. It Rocks here, (“Tuesday’s child”, “Gold and silver”, “Only one reason”), whispers there, (“Scarlet”, “The pearl fishermen”), with the AAE identity and melodic nous fluently spread, (“Dream now”, “More than the blues”), it’s a delicate and sophisticated album through and through. It's a sign of good artistry to top your great 1st album with a –some may say- even better one.
Things looked brighter: ‘my’ fave band could break really big.
“I told you so”, that’s what I’d say, to anyone.
Actually, up to that point, AAE were quite big in Britain and in the best part of Europe.
And then AAE had to look for a new guitar player: Bricheno out.
The 3rd studio album “Touched by Jesus” (1991)
When good song ‘Farewell Mr. Sorrow’ came out as a single it was alright. “Strange way”, track 1 : Great! A fave AAE track right there and then. Things still sounded/looked good as you started listening to the vinyl album in sequence. Noteably, David Gilmour of Pink Floyd played guitar on two tracks of the album: "Wishing the Hours Away" and "Are You Lonely".
Cleverly enough: most of the standout tracks run the Side A’ of the vinyl record. Only through the years I got more friendly with ..Side B’ of TBJ. It’s a good record after all, half (and a bit) as good to the amazing previous couple's high standards.
Considering the huge change that is the change of a guitar player in a band, you could wait for the next, the fourth AAE album to recover things. The general interest was still there, just a little damaged. (I would also prefer a different general album title, 'Touched by angels' maybe?).
Touring the album, the setlist was still ok too, (check “Live in Bonn 1991”).
The ‘Ultraviolet’ album (1992) and tour was a departure, a change and to many: a disappointment. For starters, you can hardly hear the vocals, (the main strength of the AAE canon), on the recordings. Honestly, my very first reaction was that something was wrong with my ears. It’s a wonder how such a mix was released as a ‘proper album’, it begs to get remixed properly. There are a few good songs in there (“Freeze”, “Outshine the sun”) if you can figure them out.
The songwriting also shifted to an 'alternative' approach with all folk & rock-ey elements removed – some of that stuff is 'filler' really. Well: AAE, a band with a unique identity so far, suddenly adopting the sound of acts 'du jour' that I don't even care to name.
Even more improtantly: the UV tour largely displeased the AAE-friendly following. Watching videos from that UV tour are downright violent, brutal against the band’s successful and acclaimed past, almost painful to watch/listen-through for a once AAE enthusiast. Just a couple songs from their respected catalogue – only in new, bastardised, sour versions. Not playing any of their most known songs!
(I wouldn't have nothing against if they just didn't call it AAE).
It’s a band taking an almost suicidal u-turn.
I still get a feeling of “We’re going away now” when I listen to the intro of track 1, “Phased” - a good song buried in bad production. Through repeated listening 'UV' it's not as 'bad' as I thought then, (in an imaginary properly remixed edition that is). It's 'different' -which is not a bad thing- but again: even if it was properly remixed it would still fare as the weakest album on the list, in all aspects.
That sound, the lazy psychedelic guitar loud on, the inexplicably ‘buried’ in the mix vocals etc, channel the band back in the indie scene proper, a much smaller scene for AAE that months before still was a growing international sensation.
Can’t blame the record company.
They dropped the band, they offered Julianne Regan a solo deal but she did not take it. And that was the last studio album by All About Eve, 26 years ago!
The band split.
In hindsight, many bands had a hiccup, a 'bad album', (“Ultraviolet' was not a total disaster after all), and came back strong or even stronger. Some did'nt. Others just take a break, short or longer. Well, this one just dissolved amicably. (A few years later they reconvened).
Before splitting, AAE started working on new material. Right after Julianne peacefully called it quits, the rest of the band released that material under another moniker. All I'll say is: Thank goodness Julianne left that stuff away, preventing the worse.https://youtu.be/rmFzuBS-Uhs
After the end : Mice and reunion
In the mid 90’s Julianne Regan’s new band Mice is an interesting venture that could go places but un-luckily got lost, victim of its indie label’s bankruptcy. Listen to the beautiful should-be-a-hit ‘Miss world’ of Mice, a song included in the AAE reunion’s setlist.
All About Eve regrouped in 2000 to support The Mission’s reunion. Wayne Hussey did the trick again.
The reunion lasted for three years. 15 years now with Nothing About Eve live.
Most of the 2000-2003 setlists on the electric gigs were still based on the ‘Ultraviolet’ vibe – except for a good set of songs in the “Live & Electric at Union Chapel” cd (2001) and elsewhere. The acoustic gigs setlist was more satisfying –including more material from the first two albums- and resulted to the release of two Acoustic albums’ releases: ‘Fairy Light Nights’ vol. 1 & 2.
Under the AAE moniker there's also the 'Iceland' EP (2002), a Christmas mini album of covers and two new versions of 'December'.
‘Keepsakes’ (2006) and Re-Issues of the first two albums (2015)
There’s also this fantastic collection with most of the best AAE songs plus stellar bonus material, new songs and re-recordings of 2006: the ‘Keepsakes’ double cd, (or triple with a dvd).
It contains essential AAE material – it's a proper 'Greatest Hits'/'Best of' made by Julianne & all members, even Bricheno plays in a few of the new songs. What a beautiful song, the title track, 'Keepsakes', a dynamic statement.
This is a more-than-worthy release and the last -so far- to include original material. On the other hand: it's a lost opportunity for touring. Say: a 'Keepsakes tour', with a 'Best of' setlist matching the album's material – it's obvious it should happen. It didn't.
In 2015 each of the first two albums -'All About Eve' and 'Scarlet and other stories'- were released as 2cd sets, including extra material and live versions, (as parts of the Universal "Re-Presents" series).
As for 2018: No new music, no concerts and Julianne firmly denies any rumor of a reunion, regrouping, or any sort of comeback of AAE.
But, wait, there's an upcoming book.
Julianne Regan is doing great these days. A Music Lecturer in Commercial Music and Songwriting in the Bath Spa University, passing her rich knowledge, free from unwanted obligations etc, voice in great form, always active musically, writing her memoirs too.
Well, I will read her book when it’s released, to –maybe- find some answers or get more perplexed! I would love an interview to promote the book.
I wouldn’t interrupt her now that she is in the process.
In all her out of AAE/ after AAE output you can find good or even great bits here and there, (“Jules et Jim” (2009), a Regan/Hussey duet album of covers named “Curios” (2011), and many more). And a big respect for doing what you want, what you feel, no matter what.
Also: I know and I embrace the feeling of wanting to distance yourself from the stinkin’ record companies. Julianne did find her way out of the monkey business.
Whatever the future holds, I will always send love and respect to a great musician/songwriter and vocalist extraordinaire that will always be a part of my world.
BACK TO EDEN – Epilogue
My main focus to write this piece is to stand and praise those first two albums that few seem to appreciate. I encourage you to discover or re-discover them. That material almost entirely disappeared from the band's live catalogue – until 15 years ago that there still was a AAE live unit, for the last AAE live gigs.
But no question that the albums ‘All About Eve” and “Scarlet and other stories” are the original, the best and the most widely known parts of AAE. Adding all the equally great additional material of that era you get an impressive and mesmerising body of work, totally wrong-labeled as ‘goth-rock’ or whatever alike– you could trace several musical styles and elements in AAE's recorded music and palette.
Artists often change their minds, their ways, anyone can deal with their oeuvre any way they like.
But I’ll go one step further to say that great music, great songs, will find their own way into the future, with or without the support of their own makers sometimes. I consider ‘All About Eve’ and ‘Scarlet..’ as timeless, diamonds.