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Fruits of Passion – Kiss Me Now

passion2

In the mid-to-late 1980s, the Scottish music scene was clearly thriving, home to such an abundance of eclectic and uniquely talented artists, you could be forgiven for imagining the backstreets of Scotland’s major cities resembled the most famous sequence from Alan Parker’s original movie version of ‘Fame’: with gangs of Scottish musicians – Grandad shirts and beanie hats replacing leg-warmers and bandanas – bursting forth from overflowing rehearsal rooms, spilling out onto the streets of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee and breaking into spontaneous performance.

Many, such as Deacon Blue, Lloyd Cole and Del Amitri, succeeded in building lengthy careers, both here and further afield, while others, such as Orange Juice, The Bluebells and Altered Images, made do with only a handful of hits. There were even a few – some of whom have already been lovingly featured within the pages of Popvoid – whose lot in life was to be eternally damned as ‘one hit wonders’: Danny Wilson, Hipsway, Fiction Factory and Strawberry Switchblade, we thank you for your contributions.

With so much talent scrambling for limited chart spaces, someone was bound to get left behind.

Let’s remember Fruits of Passion, the tragically overlooked indie-pop quintet who, despite releasing five top quality singles – issued from late 1985 through 1986 and all collected on their self-titled (and only) album – somehow failed to make any impact at all on either the UK single or album charts. While this lack of success doesn’t do much for the artist’s legacy or the eventual financial inheritance of the band-members’ offspring, it’s all gravy for us, here at Into the Popvoid.

Hailing from Glasgow and a couple of its satellite towns, Fruits of Passion were primarily a four-piece comprising of Davey Fullerton and Glenn Gibbons, rhythm guitarist and lead guitarist respectively, bass player Stephen Alexander and vocalist Sharon Dunleavy, with drummer Colin Auld, a stalwart of  the Scottish underground music scene, joining them in the studio and on tour.

In 1984, after months of touring with the likes of The Bluebells and Lloyd Cole and the Commotions, the band signed to the Siren label, an off-shoot of Virgin records (the eventual home of Paula Abdul, T’Pau and Cutting Crew) and I became aware of the band at the start of the following year when debut single, All I Ever Wanted, picked up some Radio 1 airplay and enthusiastic support from Annie Nightingale during her Sunday night, post Top 40 rundown, show. That song was an irresistible slice of bombastic indie pop – think The Primitives meets early Voice of the Beehive – produced by Robin Miller, the man who’d steered Sade’s Diamond Life to multi-platinum success, as well as picking up a Brit Award for ‘Best British Album’, only a year earlier. But by the time they wrapped up the recording of their eponymous debut album, almost a year later, something had clearly changed.

Sessions with Miller had faltered almost immediately and the band had taken a long time to find someone whose vision matched their own. Eventually, the album was completed under the watchful eye of another well established and respected industry veteran, Jon Kelly: the long-time Kate Bush collaborator and the man credited with providing the safety net for Kate’s first forays into self-production. Evidently, Kelly had endeavoured to smooth away a few of the band’s rougher edges, giving their recorded output a welcome sheen and air of sophistication.

The newly acquired ‘spit and polish’ the band received from Kelly’s involvement is particularly apparent in the song which would become the band’s third single, Kiss Me Now.

At the band’s core were songwriters Fullerton and Gibbons, who obviously knew their way around a hummable melody, but, on the evidence of songs like this, it seems their aspirations included emulating the recent critical breakthrough of US alt-country, roots-rockers, Lone Justice. It was a comparison that was to be hammered home not just in their musical output, but in the way the band were represented visually – the image used for their debut album cover bears a passing resemblance to Lone Justice’s eponymous debut.

Like Lone Justice, Fruits of Passion’s secret weapon was undoubtedly their lead singer. Sharon Dunleavy proved to be an accomplished and compelling vocalist who could easily match Maria McKee’s impressive range as well as displaying much of the same emotional complexity in her interpretation and delivery. But there’s something else: while undoubtedly a ‘pop’ singer, just under the surface lies the same soulful, honky-tonk yelp and subtle undercurrent of heartbreak which Patsy Cline utilised to such devastating effect, giving much of Fruits of Passion’s material unexpected subtlety and depth.

There’s a moment towards the end of Kiss Me Now, as the song builds to an exultant, uplifting key change, when Dunleavy’s vocal just soars: effortless and joyful, but textured with a fiery determination, flecked with the merest hints of grit and bite. It’s easy to imagine Dunleavy delivering a top-notch version of Show Me Heaven, Maria McKee’s unquestionable commercial peak, and easily matching the original’s emotional clout – although she’d struggle to reach the dizzy heights of Nadine’s version during the early stages of Popstars: The Rivals, obviously!

What makes Fruits of Passion’s complete lack of success all the more painful is realising that only a couple of years later – in early February 1989 to be exact – Glaswegian four-piece, Texas – fronted by the similarly gifted Sharleen Spiteri – hit the top ten straight off the bat with their debut single, I Don’t Want A Lover.  Their subsequent, 25+ year career ploughed a similar furrow, combining similar aspects of rock, country and soul, bringing them multi-platinum sales and prolonged international success. As with most things: timing is everything.

fruits2Entered chart: Did not chart

Who could sing this today and have a hit? UK duo The Shires made chart history a couple of years ago by becoming the first home-grown Country act to score a UK top 10 album with their debut album. Maybe this could be the song to provide them with their first ‘proper’ hit single.

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