‘Suits’ was the first ever Fish album released on his first independent label Dick Bros Record Company in 1994. James Cassidy produced and co wrote many of the songs on this album with Fish who also cowrote with David Paton ( bass player with Kate Bush, Elton John) on the hit single ‘Lady Let it Lie’. The 3 CD’s have all been remastered by Calum Malcolm. CD1 is the original album plus B sides ‘Black Canal’ and ‘Out of my Life’. CD2 is an array of demos charting the song development from 1992 to the final album arrangements while CD 3 contains live versions of the material on various tours since they were recorded. The CD’s come in a hardback book with photos and artwork by Mark Wilkinson together with 15 000 words of extensive sleeve notes written by Fish with contributions from James Cassidy.
‘Suits’ was originally released on 16th May 1994 on Fish’s own label, Dick Bros Record Company Ltd. This was his first studio album as an independent after being let go by Polydor who he signed to after leaving EMI records in 1990. His first release under his two licensed album contract, ‘Internal Exile’ had been a moderate success but the following commercially disappointing cover version album, ‘Songs from the Mirror’ and a deteriorating relationship with the record label led to an amicable parting of the ways in March 1993.
‘Suits’ had originally been offered to Polydor, but they refused to commit to another album. The songs were being written during the recording of ‘Songs from the Mirror’ and the company wanted a new studio album but were unwilling to financially support Fish through what was a difficult period in his life. The legal costs of both a contractual challenge against EMI and the ‘divorce bill’ from ‘Marillion’ had taken a toll. The repayments on loans from building his own studio in 1991 were substantial and the advances from Polydor had run out.
The 1993 tour supporting ‘Songs from the Mirror’ was ironically his most successful for some time and provided him with a live recording from the Vredenburg Hall in Utrecht that would be the second release on the Dick Bros label.
Just previous to the inauguration of the Dick Bros label Fish released the compilation album ‘Outpatients’ on Fishy Records – FishyCD1. It was a selection of tracks from artists who had worked (mostly for free) at his studio, ‘The Funny Farm Recording Studios’ and was a means of financing studio loans as well as showcasing bands. The ‘Dream Disciples’ would eventually be signed to Dick Bros and release one album. ‘In Amber’ produced by then house producer James Cassidy who Fish had met while singing on Jeff Wayne’s ‘Spartacus’ album. He was offered work at the ‘Funny Farm’ and would produce ‘Songs from the Mirror’ while at the same time helping write and assemble the ‘Suits’ album.
‘Outpatients’ also contained a track ‘Swing your Bag’ contributed by Edinburgh band ‘Guaranteed Pure’ and featuring soon to become ‘Stiltskin’ vocalist Ray Wilson who would move on to briefly become the singer with ‘Genesis’ after Phil Collins left.
The Fishy Records release in 1993 was initially on numbered limited editions but was then rereleased as DDICK01CD on the Dick Bros label. ‘Sushi’, DDICK02CD was the live album from the Utrecht show and released in March 1994. The income from both releases prior to the ‘Suits’ album helped fill the massive hole left by the absence of any further record company advances.
‘’Outpatients’ had a selling point of featuring three Fish songs, ‘Out of my Life’, ‘The Seeker’ and ‘Time and a Word’ (featuring Steve Howe). The latter two were cover versions held back from the ‘Songs from the Mirror’ project on the advice the former ‘Yes’ manager Brian Lane who had been managing Fish for a short period. He would be dismissed shortly after the ‘Mirror’s’ tour after being unable to find a suitable deal for the ‘Suit’s’ album which Fish had by this time fully demoed.
‘Out of my Life’, written with Robin Boult, was the first track released from the new sessions and would reappear as one of the B-sides on the single ‘Lady Let it Lie’ released on 5th April 1994 as DDICK03CD
Writing for ‘Suits’ had started as far back as 1992 with guitarist Robin Boult, keyboard player Foss Paterson, bass player David Paton and drummer Kevin Wilkinson the core band. In order to keep the unit together Fish had put together a tour of small and medium sized venues, primarily in Scotland which were supplemented by some European festival appearances and fan club gatherings. It was wrapped up under the title of ‘The Toile Tour’, toile being the cheap material used to make a mock-up of a suit. One of these shows can be found on the now deleted ‘official bootleg’ ‘Toiling in the Reeperbahn’ recorded on 23rd June 1992 at the Grosse Freiheit in Hamburg, Germany. On that album you can hear early live versions of ‘Pipeline’, ‘Out of my Life’ and ‘Raw Meat’.
The album together with another 4 ‘official bootlegs’ from shows between 1990 and 1991 were released through Battleside Ltd as FIS001 rather than on the Dick Bros label so as not to confuse people into thinking that his new label was just a ‘bootleg’ distributor.
‘Pigpen’s Birthday’ (Hammersmith Odeon April 1990), ‘Derek Dick and His Amazing Dancing Bear’ (Haddington Corn Exchange 3rd November 1991), ‘Uncle Fish and the Cryptcreepers’, (Dusseldorf Phillips Halle 7th December 1991) and ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ (31st December 1991) were all stereo recordings taken from the mixing desk and sold mainly through the international ‘Company’ fan club set up.
Fish had been bootlegged for years and with no major record company behind him he had to think out the box. He even sold the license to print the ‘official bootlegs’ to a genuine bootlegger who wanted to be seen as legitimate. Soon after selling the license Fish then released his own editions on Battleside and sold directly to his fans. The funds raised from those releases and from the first 2 cd’s on Dick Bros paid the wages, the session fees, and the studio loans, took the building pressure of the overdraft and helped set up the promotion campaign for the first single ‘Lady let it Lie’ which was going to be released with associated media fireworks.
The making of the album is well documented within the 15 000 words of Fish’s own sleeve notes of the ‘Suits’ remaster but at the end of 1993 recording was complete and mixes began in January. ‘Lady Let it Lie’ was scheduled for an April release.
Around this time Fish was approached by Rob Ayling who ran his own independent label and distribution service, ‘Voiceprint’ in Durham. Rob would become a pivotal figure in the crucial next phase of the set up of the Dick Bros label. He offered manufacturing contacts and introductions to European distributors. Any country not covered would be dealt with by the Voiceprint distribution network. Fish struck deals with Intercord in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, ‘Play it Again Sam’ (PIAS) in the Netherlands, France and Benelux and with companies in Poland and elsewhere in Europe. Pinnacle would distribute in the UK. Fish had his major bases covered.
A video for ‘Lady Let it Lie’ was filmed in the locale of his new hometown Haddington. Directed by Ed Booth it featured his then wife Tamara who had also been in the ‘Kayleigh’ video. Shooting locations were at the Nungate bridge and the then derelict Archerfield house stables with the burning Wendy house filmed at Barns Ness beach. (Which he’d later revisit on the video shoot for ‘Just Good Friends’)
Adverts were taken in all major music media and in store shop displays were booked together with live acoustic appearances at 14 HMV records stores across the UK. The single was released on 2 CD’s and cassette and a 12” picture disc of the cover which as always was created by Mark Wilkinson. The DDICK3CD1 had ‘Out of My Life’ and a new bonus track, ‘Black Canal’, a broody dark piece which perhaps should have been on the album. DDICK3CD2 had ‘Emperors Song’ and ‘Out of my Life ‘recorded at a fan club convention in Rheinberg, Germany from October 93 and ‘Just Good Friends’ from the Utrecht show in March the same year.
The pluggers for the single hit a brick wall and the much-anticipated radio plays didn’t happen. The single charted just outside the official Top 40 at number 46 in the UK but was in the top 10 in independent charts. Without radio plays it went unnoticed outside his fan base and even with the fanfare of advertising and in store performances it would be a disappointing start and another hard lesson on the steep learning curve of operating as an independent record company.
Undeterred Fish released the ‘Suits’ album on the 16th of May 1994 with another firework display of promotions. Street poster campaigns, full page adverts and a wild merry go round of interviews both in the UK and internationally.
DDICK04CD had a limited-edition version with a photo booklet made up of shots taken by Dutch photographer Connie Moest during the recording sessions. There was also a cassette version, a double vinyl album DDICK04LP with the B-sides of the singles and 5000 numbered editions of a picture disc DDICK04PIC of the original album track listing. All are long since deleted.
Reviews were mixed but the meter was reading more positive than not overall. Some reviewers didn’t like the ‘poppiness’ of some tracks, others complained about the length of the songs and endings that dragged out, the lighter feel of the production that some felt didn’t capture the live energy and attack that the songs had in the formative stages on the earlier tour.
But others identified the strength of songs such as ‘Raw Meat’, ‘Fortunes of War’ ‘Jumpsuit City’, ‘Somebody Special’ and of course ‘Lady Let it Lie’ all of which would get a new lease of life in later years on the acoustic ‘Fishheads Club’ tour that spanned 2010 -11.
The album charted at number 18 in the official UK charts and was again a Top 10 in the independent charts. No mean feat for an independent label with its first official release. It actually charted higher than the Polydor releases with ‘Internal Exile’ reaching 21 and Songs from the Mirror’ not even making the official Top 100!
Fish made one further attempt at the singles charts when on the 19th of September 1994 he made an audacious plane to release 4 versions of ‘Fortunes of War’ across 4 weeks in an attempt to keep the single in the charts and attract radio play to carry it on to the next level.
As part of the promotional ‘tool kit’ Fish had taken advantage of the demand at radio stations for ‘unplugged’ sessions at the time by recording his band perform a number of tracks acoustically at the Funny Farm Studios. With sessions being asked for at different times of the day, including morning shows, it was impossible to have the band on call and perform at sometimes ridiculous hours. He circumvented this by playing ‘live’ recordings down the line on the studio’s brand-new ISDN links. Mixed in with Fish’s live interview a lot of people wouldn’t know the difference.
These recordings, together with live recordings from the shows that he added in the schedule of HMV instore performances in order to help pay for the band members on these promo outings, gave him the material to build the ‘Fortunes of War’ project.
DDICK08CD was originally released as one disc in a fold out cardboard wallet that would eventually contain the 4 CD’s each of which had a version of ‘Fortunes of War’ to comply with official chart rules. The missing cd’s were initially replaced by paper inserts indicating what was being released over the coming month.
Cover art was a photograph taken by Fin Costello at Edinburgh Castle (Fin had also taken the ‘One Man Band’ photo that was used on the inside cover of the album) and there was an accompanying video again shot by Ed Booth with locations in East Lothian at Gullane beach and the gardens of a private house mixed with studio set footage. It was an emotional song matched with a powerful video.
Problems abounded with the release from the outset with a lack of understanding from the UK distributors and retailers who didn’t get the message. Some only took the first release and not the other 3 or waited on the full 4 CD release to sell it as an acoustic album. Fans couldn’t sometimes find the missing CD’s and just gave up while some just paid the inflated prices for the ‘unplugged’ album.
With no radio play and a muddled release the single, although getting rave reviews both as a track and as an acoustic compilation from expected quarters, failed yet again, peaking at 67 in the UK Official charts.
DDICK06CD, ‘The Funny Farm Acoustic sessions 1994’ was released originally as a fan club only version but later to general sale. The ‘Fortunes of War’ single ‘project’ would eventually be compiled and released as one album DDICK30CD in 1998 with Mark Wilkinson’s artwork of the ‘bullet and the poppy’ on the front. This would ironically be the last release of the Dick Bros Record Company Ltd before the company was dissolved and Fish signed a new licensing deal with Roadrunner Records in the Netherlands.
The ’Suits’ tour of 1994 was a hotchpotch affair of acoustic shows and full electric performances including his first solo show and return to Poland since he was last there with ‘Marillion’ in 1987. There were some memorable gigs, and the tour was relatively successful. It didn’t make the inroads or widen out as much as Fish had hoped for. The booking agent was finding it difficult to sell shows to concert promoters without the international promotional support that major record companies could provide. There was a huge cluster of gigs in Germany and Holland and a scattering of shows beyond, but it wasn’t enough to break out the album.
The ’Dream Disciples’ provided support on the main tour. They were signed to Dick Bros after a decent response to the 2 tracks on the ‘Outpatients’ album. James Cassidy liked their new material, believed they had promise and recorded them at the ‘Funny Farm’. The album ‘In Amber’ DDICK07CD was released to coincide with the tour. (DDICK10CD was an EP of the same name released later)
‘In Amber’ had positive reviews in the main but didn’t sell well. Dick Bros had paid for their tour bus and costs in a gamble that the support tour would set them up for touring on their own. Their promise didn’t live up to the investment. They were dropped from the label by mutual agreement in 1995.
Fish had taken on a lot and looking back now even he would probably admit he took far too much at the time. Managing himself, running his own record company and being the artist was tough enough without the financial pressures that were compounding on a weekly basis.
The ‘Suits’ album had taught him a lot in a very short space of time. It had been a hugely expensive project and returns weren’t what he had hoped for. No matter the financial losses it had been a brave and worthwhile venture and there was a great deal of pride to be taken from stepping away from the major labels and setting up on his own.
‘Suits’ may not have been seen as one of his finest solo efforts, but it will always have a special place in his catalogue of albums
Deluxe Remaster Edition
01 Mr. 1470 (Dick, Paterson, Boult) 6:06
02 Lady Let It Lie (Dick, Paterson, Cassidy) 6:54
03 Emperor’s Song (Dick, Cassidy, Boult) 6:19
04 Fortunes Of War (Dick, Cassidy, Boult) 7:51
05 Somebody Special (Dick, Boult, Paton) 5:23
06 No Dummy (Dick, Cassidy, Boult) 6:17
07 Pipeline (Dick, Paton, Boult) 6:44
08 Jumpsuit City (Dick, Boult, Cassidy) 6:50
09 Bandwagon (Dick, Paton, Boult, Usher, Paterson, Wilkinson) 5:07
10 Raw Meat (Dick, Paterson) 7:18
11 Out Of My Life (Dick, Boult) 3:45
12 Black Canal (Dick, Paterson) 8:26
Lead Vocal - Derek W. Dick (FISH)
Guitars - Frank Usher and Robin Boult, Keyboards - Foss Paterson
Drums - Kevin Wilkinson, Bass - David Paton
Additional keyboards - James Cassidy
Charles McKerron and Mark Duff of Capercaillie - whistles and flute (appear courtesy of Survival Records)
Additional backing vocals - Lorna Bannon & Danny Campbell
Fraser Spiers - harmonica, David Murray - bagpipes, Saxophone - Bill Gilles
Ken Johnson - choir director of the Knox Academy senior choir, Armourer - Gordon Watson
Engineered, mixed and produced by James Cassidy
Assistant engineer - Steve Pearce
Recorded at the Funny Farm Studios, Haddington, East Lothian November 1993 - January 1994
Disc 2 (Demos)
01 Somebody Special - April ‘92 (Dick, Boult, Paton) 4:25
02 Pipeline - April ‘92 (Dick, Paton, Boult) 6:18
03 Out Of My Life - May ‘92 (Dick, Boult) 3:39
04 Mr. 1470 - May ‘92 (Dick, Paterson, Boult) 4:23
05 Pipeline - May ‘92 (Dick, Paton, Boult) 7:10
06 Somebody Special - June ‘92 (Dick, Boult, Paton) 4:21
07 Raw Meat - June ‘92 (Dick, Paterson) 4:44
08 Lady Let It Lie - Summer ‘93 (Dick, Paterson, Cassidy) 6:05
09 Bandwagon - Summer ‘93 (Dick, Paton, Boult, Usher, Paterson, Wilkinson) 3:30
10 Mr. 1470 - Summer ‘93 (Dick, Paterson, Boult) 6:10
11 Jumpsuit City - Summer ‘93 (Dick, Boult, Cassidy) 4:44
12 Somebody Special - Summer ‘93 (Dick, Boult, Paton) 5:08
13 Emperor’s Song - Summer ‘93 (Dick, Cassidy, Boult) 6:13
14 Lady Let It Lie - July ‘94 (Dick, Paterson, Cassidy) 5:55
Lead Vocal - Derek W. Dick (FISH)
Guitars - Frank Usher and Robin Boult, Keyboards - Foss Paterson
Drums - Kevin Wilkinson, Bass - David Paton
Tracks 1-7 engineered and mixed by David Bogie
Tracks 8-14 engineered, mixed by produced by James Cassidy
Recorded at the Funny Farm Studios, Haddington, East Lothian
Disc 3 (Live)
01 Mr. 1470 (Dick, Paterson, Boult) Haddington Convention 28/5/94 6:30
02 Fortunes Of War (Dick, Cassidy, Boult) Haddington Convention 28/5/94 6:27
03 Somebody Special (Dick, Boult, Paton) Waterfront, Norwich 21/6/94 4:46
04 Black Canal (Dick, Paterson) Schuurr Club, Lucerne 28/11/95 7:04
05 Jumpsuit City (Dick, Boult, Cassidy) Schuurr Club, Lucerne 28/11/95 5:09
06 Pipeline (Dick, Paton, Boult) Schuurr Club, Lucerne 28/11/95 7:31
07 Emperor’s Song (Dick, Cassidy, Boult) Krakow P1 studios 11/10/95 5:52
08 Lady Let It Lie (Dick, Paterson, Cassidy) Krakow P1 studios 11/10/95 6:05
09 Jumpsuit City (Dick, Boult, Cassidy) Haddington St Mary’s Church 26/8/06 5:30
10 Fortunes Of War (Dick, Cassidy, Boult) Haddington St Mary’s Church 26/8/06 6:37
11 Raw Meat (Dick, Paterson) The Blue Note, Poznan 30/3/2011 9:55
Lead Vocal - Derek W. Dick (FISH)
Tracks 1 - 8: Guitars - Frank Usher & Robin Boult, Keyboards - Foss Paterson, Drums - Dave Stewart
Tracks 1 - 3: Bass - David Paton / Tracks 4 - 8: Bass - Ewen Vernal
Tracks 9 -10: Guitars - Frank Usher & Andy Trill, Keyboards - Tony Turrell, Steve Vantsis - Bass
Gavin Griffiths - Drums, Dave Haswell - Percussion
Backing vocals - Angela Gordon, Anne-Marie Helder & Heather Findlay
Track 11: Frank Usher - Guitar, Foss Paterson - Keyboards
Tracks 7-10 recorded, mixed and produced by Calum Malcolm
Tracks 1- 6 & 11: additional engineering by Steve Vantsis
CD 1,2 & 3 Re-mastered by Calum Malcolm 2017
Cover Artwork Mark and Julie Wilkinson from a concept by Fish
Additional artwork and sleeve design Mark Wilkinson
Photographs Fin Costello, Stuart James, Jo Lund, Carl R.Mueller, Stefan Schipper, Roby Oschladt, Peter Wolters, Cees Roskam & Rick Janmaat
From the sleeve notes:
“My great grandfather Robert Dick had started a blacksmiths forge in the “back street” of Dalkeith in 1880. My grandfather Willie Dick and his two brothers, Robert and Johnny had been introduced to the ‘smiddy’ at an early age and when Robert died in 1912 they took over the family business and moved the forge from what is now St Andrews street to new premises on the New Edinburgh road, still known locally to this day as ‘Dickies Brae’. When my grandfather and his brothers went off to serve in the First World War their sister Maggie looked after the business. They returned to a new era as the automobile had arrived and the ‘smiddy’ would have to adjust and change. As well as the bike business they’d already grown they started selling petrol and operated a taxi and bus service that became really successful. ‘Dick Bros’, as the family firm was now known came very close to getting the contract for the main Edinburgh-London’ coaches until a spanner of bureaucratic corruption was thrown at them. They kept the rest of the business going without the bus contracts and although Robbie would leave to run a mobile fishmongers van soon after, Willie and Johnny continued to thrive in the busy garage.
In 1930 they branched out yet again and started selling gramophone needles and 78 rpm records that they bought from RCA Victor.
The Gramophone records story really gave me a chill. It was all too much of a coincidence. I’d decided after the consultation with
Bill that I was going to start my own record company and that I was going to call it ‘Dick Bros’. I met with my father to get his blessing and he was really touched and I think hiding a big smile.
I needed a logo and with my Dad we found an old picture from round about 1912 with the 3 brothers posing with hammers around an anvil. That anvil was the original one from the ‘smiddy and I still have it in my garden to this day after it was passed on down to me by my Dad when the garage was closed. The black and white logo we created was perfect for my new company, ‘The Dick Bros Record Company Ltd’.”
“The album title had been around from day one but the idea for the cover came to me in a dream in August and I woke up next morning and put together one of my ‘doodles’. I’d already asked Mark Wilkinson to get involved again and he was keen to get started. I sent him my rough drawing and he liked the idea especially as it had a surrealist touch of ‘Magritte’, one of his favourite artists.
My holiday to Kenya in January 92 had provided me with some inspiration. While visiting the National Museum in Nairobi I came across an anthropological section which had on display a number of ancient skeletons that had been exhumed from the Rift Valley. These were some of the oldest specimens ever found and it was quite eerie walking past the display cases taking in the different stages of man in his evolution.
The oldest skull on display was KNM-ER 1470, discovered in 1972 and dated at 1.9 million years old. I was staring into the dark empty eye sockets of one of my oldest relatives. I remember being drawn into the space and my imagination was triggered into thinking about how we had evolved as a species throughout that time. We consider ourselves civilised but deep inside us there is a primitive being that we can revert to given the right circumstances. Basic instincts that come to the surface that both frighten and save us; survival instincts that never leave us and that we can’t ignore. Nowadays, although we wear suits, deep down inside we are all the children of Mr 1470.
‘Suits’ I saw as the symbol of the modern day corporate alpha male; the big game hunter-providers in the world of global finance where only the strong and ruthless survive. I’d met my fair share of them over the years and they would provide the threads from which I’d weave the album lyrics.
The album cover was to show a beautiful jacket made from human skin, adorned with tattoos and hanging on a rib cage with the spinal column a huge needle. I wanted buttons in the clouds in blue skies over an endless savannah with standing stones indicating “the ancients”. I wanted to portray the “ultimate suit”. There are too many underlying metaphors to go into here and the symbolism can be discussed till the cows come home dressed in Armani.
Mark and I were never quite happy with the finished artwork. It was Mark who came up with the tattoos on the ‘suit’ but he wouldn’t get the right effect until the cover of the ‘Masque’ book we put together a few years later when he airbrushed an ‘illustrated woman’ with accompanying tattoos for part of the cover design. As always there wasn’t enough time and not quite the budget to deliver the details on the ‘Suits’ cover. There were problems with the printers and it never looked quite as we both had imagined. The jacket didn’t come over as human skin and the image lost some of its impact.
The single cover for ‘Lady let it Lie’ however was magnificent although once again we had printer issues to get the necessary luminescent effect. An ambiguous female with slicked back hair in a body painted pinstripe suit with a ‘silencing’ button on her lips; an image for a cuckold relationship or a power struggle? It was a very personal lyric and open to a lot of conjecture at the time. The song was co-written with Davey Paton, Robin Boult and James Cassidy who all brought strong melodic sensibilities on board. The kids choir led the song out and we all thought we had a hit single on our hands.
Everything was recorded by the end of the year with mixing beginning in January. ‘Lady let it Lie’ was pencilled in for an April release but before then I had to sort out manufacturing and distribution.”
“I have produced and recorded many artists over the years but there is no process quite like working with Fish. His creative DNA is different to most musicians and / or vocalists. He is first and foremost a poet, a lyricist, a wordsmith who seeks to shape his thoughts in a lyrically unique and thought provoking way. That creates juxtaposition between the lyrical process and the application of narrative to an appropriate musical bed or song structure, something that needs to work both as an original musical work but also allowing the narrative to speak in perfect balance. With a Fish album, the lyrics and narrative come first and the music needs to work with them rather than the other way around. It can be a very tricky but ultimately rewarding process.”
“We spent the better part of three to four weeks writing, chopping, changing, and massaging the initial music ideas to work with Fish’s first draft lyrics. No sooner did we think we had a structure nailed then Fish would come bounding into the room buzzing about a whole new verse or lyrical idea he had just created and which would of course completely alter the direction we had been working on! Mr 1470 was developed musically in those first sessions, a track Foss had written. I remember vividly it was a stifling, humid summer day and as Foss worked on the opening keyboard line, we could hear in the distance a storm brewing. As it got ever closer to Haddington I dangled a mic out the window and recorded the full thunderous bellow in all its glory. And there you have the beginning of the Suits album! The production was truly up and running thanks to Mother Nature’s timely intervention and a handily placed microphone”
CD Dick Bros. Record Co. – DDick4CD 31 May 1994
2xLP Dick Bros. Record Co. – DDick4LP 31 May 1994
Cass Dick Bros. Record Co. – DDick4MC 31 May 1994
PicDisc Dick Bros. Record Co. – DDick4Pic 31 May 1994
CD Roadrunner Records – RR 8686-2 28 Oct 1998
CD Snapper Records – SDPCD217 2007
CD Remaster 1 disc Chocolate Frog Records – CFVP011CD
CD Deluxe Remaster 3 disc Chocolate Frog Records – FHC015CD
Lady Let It Lie (CD) Dick Bros. Record Co. DDick3CD1 5 April 1994
Lady Let It Lie (CD) Dick Bros. Record Co. DDick3CD2 5 April 1994
Lady Let It Lie (Cass) Dick Bros. Record Co. DDick3Cass 5 April 1994
Lady Let It Lie (12"Pic) Dick Bros. Record Co. DDICK3Pic 5 April 1994
Fortunes Of War (CD) Dick Bros. Record Co. DDick8CD1 19 September 1994
Fortunes Of War (CD) Dick Bros. Record Co. DDick8CD2 26 September 1994
Fortunes Of War (CD) Dick Bros. Record Co. DDick8CD3 3 October 1994
Fortunes Of War (CD) Dick Bros. Record Co. DDick8CD4 10 October 1994
There’s an argument, which we’re about to make, that Fish’s solo career was cooling by the time he came to make 1994’s Suits album. Polydor had ditched him, record sales were becoming something of a diminishing return and he’d recorded a covers album in the shape of Songs From The Mirror. A nod to Bowie’s Pin Ups it might have been, but a covers album always gives off the faint whiff of an artist casting around for ideas when there are none.
Argue that all you like, but Suits is the sound of a singer coming out swinging: he sounds like he’s actually squaring up to fight in the lyrics to Emperor’s Song. Little surprise then that it went Top 20 in the UK, though it would be Fish’s last commercial hurrah for some time. And its success sits at odds with ever-revealing liner notes that Fish provides in this dense and colourful three CD set. As engaging as the extra disc of demos and live disc are, it’s the essay and notes themselves that make this reissue such a gem.
Which is not to discount the album itself. Fish hit a rich creative seam with Suits, he was embracing the musical zeitgeist – the production, the arrangement, the tone – but age has not withered its magic, which you don’t often get to say about an album released in the 1990s.
Pipeline, Mr 1470 and Bandwagon are especially strong still, and while Fish leaves little of himself off the page lyrically, he’s even more direct when it comes to conjuring up the life and times that surround the making of this album and the aftermath. You’d be hard pushed to describe a Fish album as upbeat, but this sounds like a record of high end pop songs juxtaposed with the downbeat end to the essay that accompanies it; poorly attended shows, family woes, times of trouble looming up ahead like clouds crowding the horizon. This only adds to its irresistible charm, one final splash of colour to enjoy before the crash.
Louder than War review
At the time, Suits was a none too subtle jibe at the music business that reflected a certain disillusionment following the experience of being dropped by a major label and striking out on his own by forming the short lived but essential part of the learning curve, Dick Bros Records. A typical business rollercoaster of journey with as many highs as lows which is explained in some depth in the essay from Fish with significant contributions from producer/collaborator James Cassidy. Never one to hold back his feelings, the energy is channelled into set of songs that may not be his strongest album yet contains some powerful and at times typically vitriolic observations. A fledgling first ‘real’ solo album that set Fish off along a long and winding road that was, as Blackadder would say, strewn with cowpats from the Devil’s own satanic herd.
The variety on Suits runs from the delicate acoustic tumble of Fortunes Of War matched by the laid back feel AOR feel of Lady Let It Lie to the little bit funky, Somebody Special. There’s usually one (at least) killer track per Fish album, with Suits yielding Raw Meat as a piece that’s as aggressive and as passionate as it gets, which for Fish is quite an accolade. Looking back over twenty five years later following the release of some of his strongest ever material, it’s gratifying to hear Fish resolutely declaring how “I’ll always have the strength to carry on”
There’s also the wandering Black Canal that snakes ominously, driven by a spoken word discourse that Fish regularly makes a feature of his work; a seedy and detailed walk along the perimeter of darkness of a world that’s totally fugazi. A precursor and template for the more fully realised dangerous vibe of Sunsets On Empire’s homage to the fairground, ‘the shows’, on Jungle Ride.
A disc of demos, not always the thing for everyone although dedicated fans (and there are plenty) will enjoy dissecting the journey to the finished article; the three versions of Somebody Special which gather pace over a year being prime examples. It’s the third disc that contains live performances of material from the album is where some tracks come into their own. A musician who’s been very generous with live offerings during his solo careers, these are collected from various sources, the mid nineties and beyond, from Norwich to Lucerne to Poland and a clutch from his hometown in Haddington where the Fish convention gatherings and gig at the local St Mary’s church are primed for some intimate performances.
The pick again may well be a stripped back Raw Meat from Poznan in more recent times. The message still bold and clear, a sparse backing from Foss Paterson and Frank Usher, yet possibly more subdued, with maybe a sign of resignation, acceptance or simply sung with experience of hindsight.
With so much care and attention to detail to provide a seriously high quality product, a shame that the disc 3 tracklisting on the back cover is incorrect, just relisting part of the second disc list. Small point but knowing Fish, you can see him spitting blood……
The second reissue is the Suits album from 1994. I remember being a bit disappointed with this on first hearing it as it wasn’t at all what I was expecting. However, repeated plays and perseverance led to an eventual change in my opinion. This is not really a prog album, being more of the type of pop oriented music the likes of Peter Gabriel and Tears For Fears were producing in the eighties, and as such it took a little getting used to. It’s still maybe not one of his strongest works, but songs like Fortunes Of War, Pipeline and the epic Raw Meat still stand out, and it’s good to see the inclusion of the two bonus tracks from the ‘original’ reissue, particularly the seedy, atmospheric Black Canal. The second cd has demos from the two years preceding the release of the album, capturing the songs in various stages of development, while the third disc captures his band of the time in fine form. A special mention for the first class booklet accompanying this release, in which Fish goes into great detail about the background to and creation of the album, and its aftermath.
was a special year. I saw Fish live three times, once at one of the Vredenburg gigs in March, the second time at the first Planet Pul festival in June and again at the end of that year when he visited Holland for his Outpatient Tour. Outpatient was a compilation album with work by various (Scottish ?) artists, recorded in Fish' Funny Farm studio. The two bonus tracks of Songs from the Mirror originally appeared on that album, as well as an acoustic version of Out Of My Life. Other artists on the album were the Dream Disciples and now-Genesis vocalist Ray Wilson with his fun-band Swing Your Bag.
Fish had been working on material for his next album, Suits, for a while and decided to try it out in front of a live audience. Thus the Outpatient Tour was born. It included some amazing concerts and I bought one of my all-time favourite T-shirts at the gig; the Outpatient shirt with Funny Farm logo on the back and yellow Fish logo on the sleeve.
A total of 9 new songs were played and most of them sounded very promising. I couldn't wait to hear the album. Three songs had actually been performed as early as during 1992's Toile Tour !
Fish and Polydor had parted and Fish would release it on his own independent record label Dick Bros (which had seen the light during a spiritual session with the guy who had come in to examine the 'possessed studio equipment' and which was named after the garage which had been run by his father and grandfather).
Well .... I was in for a bit of a disappointment. Some of the songs which had been played during the Outpatient Tour had lost some of their power and energy. It seemed like producer James Cassidy had 'down-produced' the whole thing. Don't get me wrong, the album contains some splendid tracks but judging from their earlier live versions they could have been much better.
Mr. 1470 is a rock track with a 'groove' as Fish would say. It's rock music but it's got a certain 'danceability' to it. Fish had been wanting to try this direction for a while and Suits is probably an album on which it became very obvious. The track is very good, but like I've said, I've heard better versions than the one on this album.
Lady Let It Lie is a beautiful semi-ballad which was also released on single. It's a fantastic track with wonderful lyrics. One of the highlights of the album.
Emperor's Song is probably the song which suffered most from the 'Cassidy touch'. I remember this one blowing me away on the Outpatient Tour, whereas this version is more like its shy twin brother. Still a nice track though. They should have made this one a single; it's very radio-friendly.
Although I like the lyrics and basic melody of Fortunes of War, I always thought that the laid-back and jazzy arrangements did not do the emotional load of the subject justice. A good track, but I prefer the acoustic version.
Somebody Special has always been a tough one to cope with. It's one of those tracks you quite like but drags on too much to be really enjoyable. The re-recorded version for the Yin/Yang albums was better in my opinion.
No Dummy is a track which to me is more like B-side material. It's got a silly text, a very un-Fish melody and although it's not a really bad track, it's certainly a song which would be skipped if I would program the CD player to listen to the best tunes. The tune has a definite groove and lots of keyboard samples as well as slightly annoying backing vocals.
Pipeline is another great tune of which the early live versions had much more power. It's still one of the best tracks on the album though.
Jumpsuit City is a another 'groovy' tune with great lyrics about hookers of the Reeperbahn in Hamburg. Nice one !
Bandwagon is a very happy and positive song. Not a bad track, but I don't like the poppy arrangements and would hardly call the song essential in your Fish collection. Another one with a high skipping level.
Raw Meat is a beautiful emotional ballad about the 'hard life on the road'. Although there are some great live versions, this one is very charming as well. Another highlight.
The CD features two bonus tracks which appeared on the Lady Let It Lie CD singles. The first one is the amazing Black Canal which can best be described as Fish doing his own Somewhere Down the Crazy River. And a very smelly river it is ! The other one is another track which goes back a couple of years; Out of my Life. Whereas the Outpatient album featured the acoustic version this one is the studio version with lots of weird percussion and folky instruments. I actually prefer the energetic acoustic version.
The booklet of the remastered version contains new pictures, all lyrics (including those of the bonus tracks) and extensive liner notes about the origins of the album and the various tracks. The logo which has been designed for the Yin & Yang compilation albums is used several times, for instance as a print on the actual CD.
Most of the material on Suits is quite good and tracks like Mr. 1470, Lady Let It Lie, Pipeline and Raw Meat certainly deserve the title of 'Fish classic'. It's just that it could have been even better with different arrangements and production.
Conclusion: 8- out of 10.