Review: Birthday Party – Idle Race

Andy Munro listens to a new re-release from one of Birmingham’s early trailblazers.

If ever there was a time to be cheered up this is it, so I ordered a commemorative double CD of the Idle Race’s Birthday Party just released by Cherry Red records.

For those of you who can’t remember, the Idle Race were part of the under-rated Brum Beat scene of the sixties. They were very much bound up with the Uglies and the Nightriders, and wth Jeff Lynne up front laid the ground for the Move and then ELO.

I had the privilege of regularly enjoying live spots from the Idle Race, the Uglies and othr such notables at the Bulls Head on Coventry Road. This was at a time when the skinhead cult was on the verge of breaking through, so evenings there were rather lively with the combination of live rock bands and disco music. Many was the time that being identified as a Blues fan saved my bacon during the frequent altercations that took place after a few pints of brown and mild or a Micky Mouse.

The album is immensely enjoyable with both a stereo CD and a mono version featuring bonus tracks. It can certainly be described as Beatlesque with Jeff Lynne’s clever songwriting skills and touches of orchestral influence showing through now and again; an experiment that would lead to Jeff’s stamp on ELO.

My favourites are their only single which flirted with the top 100, Skeleton and a Roundabout, plus Birthday Party and Don’t Put Your Boys in the Army Mrs Ward (both Beatles all day long), Lucky Man, Knocking Nails into My House and I like My Toys.

Having enjoyed the plethora of tongue in cheek tracks, I marvelled at the band’s talent in putting together such an entertaining selection without mainstreaming on the easy touch of lurve themes. Let’s face it, who these days would write a song about a skeleton who gets a job at a fairground then does so well he gets fat on the proceeds and gets the sack?

If you want cheering up then pop along to the Idle Race Birthday Party without delay.