CD Reviews

Export - 'Contraband' / 'Living In The Fear Of The Private Eye' Hot

Added by James Gaden     September 03, 2010    
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Reissues of the albums by Liverpudlian band featuring Steve Morris.

Liverpool band Export are pretty close to my heart, not least because I used to see them regularly at all kinds of small venues in the North-West of England, including many, many times in my hometown of Wigan. Along with many of the NWOBHM bands of the time – a movement that they weren’t really part of – they seemed to be going it alone, recording demos and releasing a self-titled album on their own His Master’s Vice label back in 1980. They continued to plug away and eventually won the locally prestigious Battle Of The Bands contest run by legendary Liverpool DJ Phil Easton, the prize of which was a recording contract. Unfortunately that contract didn’t get past the release of a solitary single, ‘Julie Bitch’, but the band persevered and eventually landed a lucrative deal with no less than the US arm of Epic, for whom these two albums were recorded.

The band, consisting of future Ian Gillan/Heartland guitarist Steve Morris, drummer Lou Rosenthal, bassist Chris Aldeman and vocalist Harry Shaw, had made such a strong set of demos that their first major label album would be the very demos that got them signed, albeit tidied up a little and overdubbed by producer Bob Feineigle and released as ‘Contraband’ in 1984. At the time Export were a classy hard rock band who successfully merged their gritty British rock sound with a bit of US gloss. They penned a handful of really memorable rockers around simple riffs and a solid backbeat, with the tuneful and assured vocals of Shaw raising them above most of their peers. At their simplest, like opener ‘Rockin’ For You’ and ‘You Gotta Rock’ (probably their best known songs of this era) they should have had the immediacy to haul in the casual radio listener, but delve a little deeper into the album and you find the band were already starting to branch out into other areas. ‘Destiny’, for example, has all the same energy and drive but also a little something extra in the songwriting, whilst ‘Take My Hand’ was a remarkable ballad with a sparse arrangement, great harmonies and a spellbinding guitar solo. ‘Stay’ was a good 12-bar blues workout and ‘On The Run’ was another good rocker built on prominent bass lines, but a big US influence was starting to find it’s way into their music with both the light and shade of ‘Spotlight’ and the gritty ‘Rough Diamond’ both hinting at Y&T. ‘Contraband’ was a solid major label debut that sadly went largely unnoticed.

By the time Epic had decided to pump some more money into the band – sending them to the States to work with the well-respected producer Lance Quinn (Bon Jovi) – the songwriting had taken a distinct shift towards keyboard heavy hi-tech AOR. It was a style that the band proved to be particularly good at with clever arrangements, catchy choruses and an altogether smoother approach that suited Shaw’s voice to a tee. Export made all the right noises on ‘Living In The Fear Of The Private Eye’, with the tuneful title track and the catchy melodies of ‘No Escape’ and ‘You Make Me Wanna’, with the only hints of their earlier style on the more direct and guitar driven ‘Tear Me Apart’ and ‘Can’t Say No’. They delivered another excellent ballad in ‘Summer Nights’ and the beautifully written and performed ‘Closer To You’ had different musical parts, but despite the fact that ‘Airwaves’ should have been a huge radio hit in the crossover style of Mike & The Mechanics, the album just wasn’t promoted like it should have been and Export never toured it, falling apart a while later.

With a nice remaster and interesting sleeve essays this is a belated chance for these hard to find Export albums to at least be heard in their native country. The transition from ‘Contraband’ to ‘Living In The Fear Of The Private Eye’ was quite startling, and in truth wasn’t to everyones liking, but it would have been interesting to see what they would have done next had they been given the chance.

Phil Ashcroft

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Jim Jones said:

saw them in the early eighties in Blackpool and bought there self produced album i always wondetred what happened to them can now check there stuff out and thanks for the background as knew little about them
November 06, 2012
Votes: +1

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