"This album was so unexpectedly ahead of its time in 1986 people are still catching up to it twenty years later, although that's not a bad thing. Colour of Spring is one of those rare albums that can be appreciated on a lot of levels. The first thing people always notice about Talk Talk is Mark Hollis's unique nasal-congested voice, and his slurred annunciation. It's often hard to make out the lyrics of a Talk Talk song, which in an odd way is what makes them interesting, in the same way that Michael Stipe's delivery adds a little bit of enigma to a lot of early REM songs. While many of the lyrics are a bit cryptic, Hollis offers a generally philosophical look at humanity, although at moments he can turn quite caustic. As hinted in the album title, there's a general interest here in the cycle of nature, and thus this album's positioning in "spring" reflects a desire to simplify and focus on the important things in life, admonishing listeners not to lose sight of the importance celebrating the simple beauty of the world and living for the present. It's not all oblique cryptograms however, as in this verse from the opening track "Happiness is Easy"
"It wrecks me how they justify their acts of war
They assemble, they pray
Take good care of what the priests say
'After death it's so much fun'
Little sheep don't let your feet stray"
What shouldn't be underestimated is the incredible feeling and power Hollis imbues into these songs. Hollis's vocals are deceptively effortless, and it's not until you hear someone attempt a Talk Talk song (Gwen Stefani for example, with her recent cover of 'It's my life') that you really appreciate what an incredible singer this guy was during this time period. The Colour of Spring is nothing less than the essential Talk Talk album, an album of artists at their creative and commercial peak, focused solely on the composition and recording process as an end in itself. Colour of Spring is Talk Talk's "Sgt Pepper's" if I might risk the employment of that overused cliche.
Having begun their life as a synth-pop band often associated with other bands of the time, most notably Duran Duran (as they shared the same producer initially) Hollis chaffed at EMI's attempts to market Talk Talk in the same vein as other synth pop bands, and despite the eventual success of several singles including "Talk Talk" opted for a change in direction and soon parted ways with synth keboardist Simon Brenner, leaving the band free to employ session musicians, as it was now comprised of a three person nucleus of singer, bassist and drummer.
The creative turning point for Talk Talk came when they met producer/Keyboardist/Songwriter Tim Friese-Greene, who would become a major force in the genesis of the band, co-writing many of their best and most popular songs, and playing on the tracks of Colour of Spring. Thanks to the success of the title single from their second album "It's my life", EMI allowed the band a lot of time and freedom in recording the follow up, and with Friese-Green, they began to adopt an improvisational Jazz approach, bringing in a variety of musicians (most notably Steve Winwood who plays Organ on a number of tracks) who were allowed to vibe and do whatever they felt like. If Friese-Green and the band didn't like the outcome they simply left it out of the final mix.
There are a number of songs on the album that have an undeniable, almost tribal groove thanks to the small army of percussionists employed. A myriad of instruments were used on most tracks, including Piano, Harp, Organ, sax, mellotron, variophon, Harmonica and Dobro. The resulting product was a solid top 10 UK hit, and a critical home run, which would also turn out to be the last album of its kind, as Talk Talk's subsequent albums veered into experimental territory, never to return. For a brief moment, Colour of Spring planted Talk Talk unexpectedly at the forefront of popular recorded music, and had Hollis not chosen to retreat, I imagine given the bands who have clearly followed in the album's footsteps (Radiohead, Coldplay, Keane and Sigur Ros most recently) that Talk Talk could easily have become one of the most popular bands in the world. Instead, they took over 2 and a half years to record the deliberately anti commercial "'Spirit of Eden" with Hollis expressing no interest in singles, videos or a tour to support. Some rumors began to float around that Hollis was addicted to Heroin, but the fact's were a lot simpler: by the time Colour of Spring was released, all the members of the band had become fathers, and ex-psychology major Hollis, always a bit of an introvert, simply wanted to raise his young children on a farm.
The band's final album was experimental, it would eventually become associated with a new genre, dubbed by critics in the 90's as "Post-Rock". Clearly Colour of Spring was a huge step in that direction.
Despite EMI's interest in resigning them, Talk Talk also took the opportunity to depart the label, leading to EMI's release of a greatest hits collection "A Natural History" in 1999, featuring a number of songs from Colour of Spring. That album quickly suprised many people by rapidly selling over a million copies. Colour of spring is an album I have returned to many times over the years, and I consider it one of the best in my vast collection, and one that has that rare quality that seems to transcend the passage of time and fads. Quite simply, if you bought "A Natural History" and enjoyed it, then you need to buy this brilliant album, stick it in your CD player and leave it there for a long time." amazon
1.Happiness Is Easy
2.I Don't Believe In You
3.Life's What You Make It
5.Living In Another World
6.Give It Up
8.Time It's Time
Talk Talk includes: Mark Hollis (vocals, guitar, melodica, piano, organ, Mellotron); Tim Friese-Greene (piano, organ, Mellotron).
Additional personnel includes: Steve Winwood (organ); Morris Pert (percussion); The Ambrosia Choir (background vocals).
Engineers include: Pete Wooliscroft, Dennis Weinrich, Paul Schroeder.