Just two of many albums that have been celebrated this year for reaching the 30 years milestone. I kept thinking throughout the year what about A Letter from St. Paul? Will it get the same BBC treatment? I have yet to see any mention of The Silencers 1987 debut anywhere. I was 5 years old when it came out.
I first became aware of the Silencers sometime in the mid 1990s. They had just released a stunning cover of Wild Mountain Thyme that was played to death on Scottish radio at the time. I recall visiting my Grandparents in Coatbridge Scotland, my Grandfather was a proud Coatbridge native who took great pride in telling me said band is from Coatbridge every time the track would come on the TV or radio.
Many years later I revisited the Silencers for a music challenge I took on – I had to listen to one new album everyday for the entire year and write some thoughts down about each one. I gave A Letter From St. Paul 3 stars out of 5 and said at the time “An album that sounds very much of its time, first half is excellent, the second half not so much. My favourite track is I Can’t Cry.”
Harsh! Very harsh, I knew that much later as its one the albums that I would revisit when I did a review of the best albums I discovered that year. Its a slow burner! The album has 9 tracks, here’s some of my thoughts on the album.
Painted Moon – For me the album has the wrong version. There is a much better version called the blues mix which should start the album off. A great single mind you!
I Can’t Cry – the track I kept going back to and ultimately made me give the album another listen.
Bullets and Blue Eyes – Took me awhile to get this one, but its turned into possibly the album highlight for me. The most underrated track on the album?
God’s Gift – Its all about this bass for me! Love the rhythm
I See Red – Another track where I think the wrong version is used on the version I heard first time around. From what I can tell there are three versions? The US album version, the European lp version and also the single version. The single version has Jimme’s vocals more up front on the chorus, where as on the other versions its buried in with others. The UK version, the intro is a more traditional guitar rock sounding track. The US version has a synthesized rhythm part, for me it sounds a bit more interesting than the standard rock version. But sadly this version does not feature the better vocals that are featured on the single version? That all said, a great track and one of my favourites.
I Ought to Know – A beautiful haunting track that sticks with you!
A Letter From St. Paul – Love the guitar , initially not one of my favourites but has long since grown on me.
Blue Desire – For an album that has so much drive and ambition, this track for me is simplest track on the lp. The song works because of that, it leads nice into the powerful last track Possessed with his heavy driven bombastic rhythm. The perfect album closer.
So there you have it, A Letter From St. Paul, Whilst I’m not saying its the greatest debut album of all time, it has its flaws. I just find it disappointing that the album has been lost to time, it seems unlikely the record label will fund a remaster. Its available to download & stream online, just forget about trying to buy the CD or vinyl new. Whilst I was too young to care in 1987, in 2017 the Silencers have been my earworm!
From what I have read and heard from Jimme’s interviews, the album did ok in Europe but fared a bit better in the US. They supported U2 once in Cardiff in 87, they also toured with Squeeze in the US which included a stop at NYC’s Madison Square Garden. The Silencers followed their debut with the even better A Blues For Buddha. Another album that has some release issues, check out both the US & European versions to see what I mean. The US version is quite different in places. The opener ‘Answer Me‘ is ruined on the US version. Scottish Rain on the other hand for me sounds better on the US version! Its shorter, a bit more harder sounding but it works. Nothing wrong with the longer version on the UK CD, just a personal preference. The lp also features the other song I knew from years ago on the radio – The Real McCoy. Track down the single version if you can, over 6 minutes long and has some extra lyrics. Much better for me but probably too long for radio.
The third and in my opinion the best Silencers album Dance to the Holy Man. 15 tracks long, again its a slow burner but given time is hugely rewarding. There are no such mixing issues with this album(just a different track listing!) I presume the US based label had stopped caring at this point. One Inch of Heaven is possibly Jimme O’Neill’s best song. This song should have been huge! Which sums up the Silencers in general, should have been huge but thank you Jimme for trying.
The Silencers play at least one gig every year in Glasgow around Christmas. I never could manage to get to one of these gigs as I live in Chicago USA these days. That changed last year, I was able to make the show at the Glasgow ABC on December 17th 2016.
Having seen over 200 shows, this show easily sits in my top 5 ever! It may even be the best of the lot, it was that good. The setlist was almost perfect, they played almost everything the crowd wanted to hear. They started with the long blues mix version of Painted Moon, the way this track should be heard! I see Red, I Can’t Cry, God’s Gift, Razor blades, Scottish Rain followed. Then tracks I wasn’t expecting.. This is Serious (brilliant version with Aura on vocals) One Inch of Heaven. The highlight of the night was probably the title track off their most underrated album Receiving. Live music at its finest! The band were pushed for time towards the end (the venue had another event straight after) but that didn’t stop the band joining the crowd for more Bulletproof Heart! It was majestic.
Once I got back to the US I ended ordering up all the singles on ebay or discogs so that I could get the b-sides I’d never heard. For example, check out Sleep Song! I’ll be in Glasgow again this Christmas, I’m sure hoping to see the Silencers live once again.
If you somehow got this far and are still wondering about the Silencers do check them out, you’ll be wondering like me how you never did years ago! Start with the debut, to the right is the playlist I’ve been playing and gives a good career coverage of the band, most of it is available to stream or download via the usual channels. The rare cuts you will need to invest in but worth tracking down I promise.
The live pictures I took at the Glasgow ABC 2016 gig.
The Silencers Best Of
Painted Moon (Blues Mix)
I Can’t Cry
I See Red (Single version)
Scottish Rain (US version)
I Want You
Something Worth Fighting For
Just Can’t Be Bothered
Cellar Of Dreams
One Inch Of Heaven
The Real McCoy (Single version)
Walkmans And Magnums
About The Sea
A Blues for Francie Brady
My Love Is Like A Wave / Razor Blade Reprise