Mike + The Mechanics was a quasi-solo project by Genesis bassist and guitarist Mike Rutherford The 1985 self-title debut was a commercial success which spawned three hit singles and helped shape the sounds of the mid 1980s. Musically, the album features a mix of classic rock and new wave elements oriented towards the radio-friendly pop music of the day, fueled by the compositions mainly co-written by Rutherford and producer Christopher Neil.
Shortly after Genesis condensed down to a three-piece group in the late 1970s, each of the members decided to embark on parallel solo projects in-between the Genesis albums and tours. Rutherford released his first two solo albums, Smallcreep’s Day and Acting Very Strange in 1980 and 1982 respectively. However, he found the process of recording a record alone artistically unsatisfying and soon started a songwriting partnership with Scottish performer/composer B.A. Robertson. Following the success of Genesis’s 1983 self-titled album, the pair enlisted Neil as an additional composer and producer of the initial Mike + the Mechanics album.
It was decided that the core of the group would be Rutherford on guitars and bass along with keyboardist Adrian Lee and drummer Peter Van Hooke. Beyond that, session musicians and vocalists were brought in where needed, with three different lead vocalists performing on Mike + the Mechanics.
Mike and the Mechanics by Mike and the Mechanics
|Released: October 5, 1985 (Atlantic)
Produced by: Christopher Neil
Recorded: AIR Studios, Montserrat, 1985
|Side One||Side Two|
All I Need Is a Miracle
Hanging By a Thread
|I Get the Feeling
Take the Reins
You Are the One
A Call to Arms
|Mike Rutherford – Guitars, Bass
Adrian Lee – Keyboards
Peter Van Hooke – Drums
A long synth swell introduces the opening track, “Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground)”, a song written by Rutherford and Robertson and featuring Paul Carrack on lead vocals. When the song fully kicks in, it features great musical atmospherics to accompany the complex yet poetic lyrics. While dominated by Lee’s keyboards throughout, there is nice short rock guitar lead by Rutherford, making it a complete rock song, which was very successful on the pop charts in both the UK and US. The album’s second track was also its second single. “All I Need Is a Miracle”, sees the group moving into the realm of pop accessibility with strong synth motifs and catchy melodic hooks by Paul Young. While the lyrics have much less depth than those on the opener, this song became the biggest charting on the album when it reached number 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1986.
“Par Avion” is a slow-paced, synth-drenched ballad with soft and reserved lead vocals by the third lead vocalist, John Kirby. Rutherford originally wrote the song with a heavier arrangement but Neil thought it worked better as a softer ballad. “Hanging By a Thread” is much more complex than the previous track, laced with strong synth sections, most prevalent during the song’s extended bridge section. Next comes, “I Get the Feeling”, an upbeat showcase for Young’s vocals, features dual saxophones and Hammond organ throughout to sustain the feel-good vibe.
“Take the Reins” starts out with a pretty cool synth arpeggio but morphs into a song proper which sounds dated and superficial for a pop song sans soul and brain, making it the weakest so far on the album. “You Are the One” is a ballad with sort of the same feeling as late seventies era Genesis, when that group moved away from the complex theatrical numbers and more towards softer, accessible ballads. Speaking of Genesis, “A Call to Arms” began as an unfinished track which was rejected by that group before Rutherford gave it new life for Mike + The Mechanics. The song contains good bass and steady drumming under rich synths through the anthemic, save-the-world, adjust-the-attitude song with well-treated lead vocals by Carrack.
The album’s best song is save for last as “Taken In” features a subtle, sad and steady mood. The understated music is perfect backdrop for the fine lead vocals of Young, who delivers on the very effective use of lyrical repetition as composed by Rutherford and Neil. Further adding to the vibe is a slight sax lead after the each verse of this song which became the third Top 40 hit and a tremendous way to finish the able.
Mike + the Mechanics reached number 26 on the Billboard 200 album charts and, being satisfied with the results of this project, Rutherford decided to continue with this band rather than returning to a typical “solo” career. This paid off, as the group’s next album, Living Years in 1988, brought them even greater commercial success and Mike + and the Mechanics continued well into the 1990s.
Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1985 albums.