A reformed Goodbye Mr Mackenzie unleash a live album, that demonstrates again, what a great live and musically unique band they are, and why we have missed them so much.
Release date: Available now
Format: DL/CD/CD and DVD
Scotland’s iconic and unique Goodbye Mr Mackenzie shone brightly from the early 1980s to their final live show in 1995. Thankfully, despite a number of challenges, they reformed in 2019, to mark the 30th anniversary of their debut album Good Deeds And Dirty Rags, with a number of very well-received live performances. Their gig at the famous Glasgow venue, the Barrowland Ballroom, was recorded with this resulting live album, A Night In The Windy City.
A documentary, Until The End Of The Road, produced and directed by Karen Lamond and Gigi Welch, has also been produced, including live footage from the recent gigs, as well as older material.
A quick bit of history. Goodbye Mr Mackenzie, from Bathgate in Scotland, was named, so the story goes, after Jean Rhys’s second book, Leaving Mr. Mackenzie, an autobiographical novel, set in Paris and London, and published in 1931. This reviewer first came across them, on the 1986 cassette tape compilation Honey At The Core, which included early recordings from emerging Scottish-based bands such as Hue And Cry and Deacon Blue, alongside Goodbye Mr Mackenzie. Their sound even then stood out, edgy and abrasive, yet also melodic and warm, completely idiosyncratic, and sounding like no-one else. In a way, part of the Scottish indie/post-punk scene of that time, though markedly and courageously taking their own artistic path.
The reformed band is based around the core of singer Martin Metcalfe, guitarist Big John Duncan, Rona Scobie McRae on keyboards, Fin Wilson on bass and Derek Kelly on drums, members of the original six-piece band. With former keyboards player and vocalist Shirley Manson, of course, busy with her band Garbage. With the addition of Glasgow-based singer-songwriter Marie Claire Lee from Seil Lien on vocals, and Jim Brady from The Rezillos on guitar and vocals, this is a fiery live unit.
On this great live set, all the songs from the debut album Good Deeds And Dirty Rags are played. Open Your Arms from that album is a powerful opening song, on the theme of intolerance, with an epic swirl of guitars and keyboards, and a mesmerising anthemic beat. A fantastic abrasive guitar break cuts through the live mix, and Martin and Marie Claire’s voices completely complement each other, with some utterly engaging vocal counterpoints.
Wake It Up, which follows, lyrically is an affecting treatise on the impact of poverty and a loss of hope, and musically is complemented by some stark and driven melodic guitar lines, and electro pop-like keyboards. The vocals from Martin and Marie Claire are impassioned and an emotional call to arms. A fantastic live reading of a great and sadly still so relevant song.
Candlestick Park takes the band into sublime ballad territory. Almost country music like in its story telling lilt, speaking about objectification, and juxtaposed with chiming indie guitar chords. There is a real poignancy to Martin’s vocal, and a haunting quality to Marie Claire’s wordless harmonising. Almost like a musical meeting of The Smiths and Scott Walker. It receives deservedly, a really appreciative audience reaction.
No review of Goodbye Mr Mackenzie would be complete without reference to The Rattler, perhaps their most well-known song. Here played live, it is a celebration of all that is great about this fine and massively underrated band. With its striking keyboards/accordion intro, it launches into a fabulously catchy melody and rhythm, laced with hard-edged almost metal guitar, and a beautifully tender and melancholic vocal from Martin, and quite wonderful shimmering vocal sections from Marie Claire. It also has that anthemic quality that the band, particularly live, delivers with such joyful passion. Watch the video for The Rattler here.
Closing track of the set, Now We Are Married, from the Hammer And Tongs album, is a power pop classic, with a line that speaks to the power of love “Now we are married/All the ghosts have a happy home”. A great finish to a wonderful live set.
Welcome back Goodbye Mr Mackenzie.
Further gigs are scheduled for later this year, and are not to be missed. For what will be without doubt, a further sequence of dynamite live shows.