For his latest, Rupert Wates has switched up quite a bit, going more to the acoustic and troubadoric side of the house, less to the former cabaretic wont for which he's ever more lauded. That doesn't mean, however, that Wates has forsaken that direction, as the title alone, The Rank Outsiders Ball, indicates. Instead, he's cleaving to a long tradition of submerging the more flamboyant side of drama for subtler sets of poetic infiltration. Thus Outsiders is much more in line with Pierre de Gailland's brilliant reworkings of Georges Brassens (here and here). Take, for instance, the first stanza of Behind the Mask:
Behind the mask that is the daily wear
Even Janis Ian never went to so far in her highest evocation, the brilliant Between the Lines, Wates travelling a step beyond where folkies and mello-rockers fear to tread, invoking a world of comment between "the daily wear" and "strange forbidding longings". The subtext hints of things darker than the puerilities of rock "poetry" and even folk protestation and its cheeky dissatisfactions. Outsiders Ball is decidedly Rupert's most mellifluous, most stripped down (just The Band of Geeks quartet, him included), and most internally subversive release, almost a burlesque of a satire of a parody—with fangs not noticed until they're deep in your flesh, smiling back up at your shocked face.
Note the song titles for affirmation of that as you lend an ear to a sometime samba boogie, other times a breezy Balkan ditty, once or twice as though Gordon Lightfoot were contemplating turning Lothario before seeing Bryan Ferry across the room and thinking twice, with yet other instances evoking a Kenny Rankin-esque wistfulness. One more name: Brian Protheroe. He released a trio of xlnt LPs in the 70s still hideously ignored (fellow FAME scribe Frank Gutch, Jr. is also an admirer of the cat) because he toed no specific line while luxuriating in an exquisite mélange both dead serious and archly light simultaneously. He and Wates have much in common. Then there's Rupert's voice, as smooth as silk, even crooning in the above-cited Drowned, seductive but with a smirk. Start anywhere you like in his catalogue, it doesn't really matter, 'cause you'll soon be moving on to the rest rather quickly.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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