EMI Records, released 1st March 1986
By the release of The Colour Of Spring, there was barely any trace of Talk Talk’s previous synth-pop incarnation. Out went the Duran Duran, in came the Debussy, Traffic and Satie.
Instrumentation was generally centred around acoustic piano, acoustic guitar, Hammond organ, electric bass and drums, with the addition of quirky items like the Variophon, Mellotron, melodica, harp and dobro.
The core unit of singer/co-writer/co-producer/keyboardist Mark Hollis, co-writer/co-producer/keyboardist Tim Friese-Green, bassist Paul Webb and drummer Lee Harris distilled their sound to eliminate all but the essentials.
The opening 16 bars of the majestic, haunting ‘Happiness Is Easy’, a winning combination of man and machine (Lee Harris’s drums and a nifty bit of programming, followed a little later by Martin Ditcham and Morris Pert’s percussives) is surely one of the great album intros of the ‘80s. It hooked this writer immediately back in 1986.
The 1980s were full of albums whose big-name guest spots barely made a mark on the music. Not The Colour Of Spring; the session players are chosen with the precision of a good movie casting director.
‘I Don’t Believe In You’, a left turn into doomy, atmospheric rock, features one of the great guitar solos by Robbie McIntosh. David Rhodes’ deliciously swampy lick, with minor but important amendments, holds ‘Life’s What You Make It’ together.
Double bassist Danny Thompson’s tone is immediately recognisable on ‘Happiness Is Easy’, before ex-Average White Band man Alan Gorrie brings in some light funk for the piece’s second half.
Steve Winwood also adds some tasty Hammond to three tracks, while Friese-Green’s piano on ‘April 5th’ even brings to mind the great Bill Evans. We must also acknowledge James Marsh’s exquisite cover artwork, an auspicious start to his triptych of TT album designs.
Though to my ears The Colour Of Spring tails off around the middle of side two, the album was a hit, reaching #8 in the UK chart and #50 in the US, while ‘Life’s What You Make It’ remains one of the most original singles of the mid-‘80s.
Next stop was the post-rock magnum opus Spirit Of Eden – the retreat from pop would be almost complete.
8 thoughts on “Talk Talk’s The Colour Of Spring: 30 Years Old Today”
I really want to hear this now. I’ve got a bunch of their albums, including this one. But I’ve always stuck to Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock and haven’t moved on from those yet.
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Hey HMO, I think you’ll enjoy it. You can really feel them going in the direction of ‘Spirit’ on several tracks, but even the poppier stuff seems really out of place in the overproduced mid-’80s. Some classic guitar playing on it too.
I’m with HMO, I’m very definitely a Spirit of Eden man, so far.
Hard to disagree with that… There’s not a lot else like ‘Spirit’ but ‘Colour’ was definitely preparing the ground.
You had me at ‘Morris Pert’. And then you threw in Danny Thompson, Steve Winwood and Bill Evans as if these guys often worked with eighties pop acts. Looks as though I need to pay more attention to Talk Talk’s later material. Much more. Thanks, Matt.
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Thanks, glad you enjoyed it, you won’t regret checking out a bit of ‘Colour’. I like the Morris Pert comment – I only know him in relation to Peter Gabriel III but is there other stuff I need to hear him on?
I knew Morris Pert as a member of Brand X and was unaware of the Peter Gabriel connection. I looked him up and was astonished to find that he was a composer and pianist as well as a drummer. According to Wikipedia he worked with lots of well-known artists, too. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morris_Pert There’s something else I/we need to explore!
Ah right, I didn’t know he was part of Brand X, I must admit I’ve tried and failed to get into them on a few occasions even though they should be right up my street. I think I’m listening to the wrong stuff. Thanks for the other info on Morris, I need to check out his orchestral work, it sounds fascinating. He’s all over Peter Gabriel’s ‘Intruder’ – he even gets a solo!