Pleasure Productions - Live It Up
This is something you are unlikely to hear as it is a self-released vinyl issued in Hong Kong twenty years ago. Pleasure Productions took their name from a porn film company in the States and were well known to me (indeed, two of them featured on my own band of the era, The Sun The Sun, which also put out a 12" single the year before). When this album came out, one of the Territory's leading dailies described them as Hong Kong's best English language band. Though that may sound like a high accolade, in truth, all that meant that they were better than the other one. Home-grown English language music never stood much of a chance against the relentless drivel of manufactured, glossy and largely talentless high-end Cantopop which dominated the local music scene.
The band itself was of a diverse style. That is something which comes as a result of having two different principal foci for the songwriting on this album. However, the diversity does not detract from the coherence of this album - this does not sound like two different bands. Initially a five piece, with a male and female lead singer sharing the vocal duties, they were later joined by a permanent keyboard player which added a little more depth to the sound. The songs they did were catchy and had a political undertone which was sometimes so subtle it was hard to pick up. However, though those songs feature on this album, it would be true to say that this was not their best performance. The leading track is "Fat in the Rain", which has a really catchy and well-crafted but is a bit more "lounge jazz" than a lot of the other work on this album.
The vocals, it has to be said, are rather patchy. Lead vocalist Tony Dickinson was perhaps not the most charismatic frontman there has ever been and while competent, his voice lacked a certain degree of power which could have carried across into the songs. Lisa had a much more distinctive voice, and one which was more suited to the slower numbers. Her silky smooth vocals shine through when she takes the lead role, which she does all too infrequently on Live It Up. But to those who are attuned to these sorts of things, the true highlight is the bass playing which at times is superb and often saves some of the numbers from abject mediocrity.
However, by far the biggest problem with this album was that the production was awful. The band never really got the mix right. It was far too tinny and far too quiet - just listen to the intro on the final track to get an idea of what I mean, it drips where it should slam. The guitars were never loud enough and all too often just turned to a tinkling sound. To be fair, this was something the band recognised right from the start and they were able to overcome in their second and final release. In addition, the drumming was a half a beat behind where it should have been most of the time, and the whole thing did not do itself or the band justice.
Still, the album is ultimately rescued by the fact that it contained a number of simply very good songs - for the most part. Occasionally the songs were a let down, with "Refugee" being particularly out of place. But if you do get the chance to hear this then overlook the dodgy production and try to hear the music and the potential it carries. Live the band were much better. It was a pity that they couldn't carry the sound over into their first album.
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