The Imperials – The Lost Album
Unreleased for 30 years, The Lost Album opens reasonably enough with the creamy, clip-clopping Carpenters-like FM super-pop of Sunshiny Day (”I was feeling so sad, everything seemed so bad,” they sing – you’ll be pleased to hear Jesus arrived soon after and helped out). But by track two things begin to get odd. New Creation recalls Stairway To Heaven and the deep space blues of David Axelrod’s classic early 70s productions while still keeping the Big Man happy (”I am a child whose father is the almighty God …”). Earth, Our Island Home, meanwhile, is so overloaded with head-swimmingly rich harmonies it makes the Beach Boys sound like Bogshed. It also includes my all-time favourite Imperials lyric – ”Oh, the wonder, of our blunder, why do we shun our maker’s throne?” Be honest, haven’t we all felt that, at some point? As if that weren’t enough, We Are the Band, But He Is the Music is lightweight supper-club funk (and that’s a good thing, by the way) so ridiculously slick RZA could reignite the entire Wu-Tang Clan’s career with a simple and judicious six-second sample of the intro. Maybe he could arrange a two-fer-one deal with Lemon Jelly and they could put a sample of In the Same Old Fashioned Way on their comeback single (please come back, Lemon Jelly)?
The record’s producer, the brilliant Gary S. Paxton deserves a dedication all of his own – Brian Wilson, it is said, admired him, while Phil Spector feared him. Not all of The Lost Record is amazing – Soon and Very Soon is a push-up-your-lighters Gospel sway-fest that soon, very soon, out stays its welcome, while the ”rock” one, Closer to Jesus, is just horrible – but, really, apart from Him Upstairs, who’s counting? A version of the band – called The Classic Imperials – is still out there doing it (occasionally). But, as ever, it’s probably best to remember them thus