Album of the Week, January 17: Private Revolution by World Party

WorldPartyPrivRevKarl Wallinger was born in Wales in 1957. He was a music fan from childhood, partial to the sounds of the Beatles, Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, and Love. He attended the Charterhouse school in England (birthplace of Genesis some years before he entered), then returned to Prestatyn. He was in a short-lived band with future members of the Alarm, then worked in music publishing before moving to London as musical director of a long-running production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Mike Scott recruited him to play keyboards in the Waterboys’ touring band. Impressed with his work, Scott invited Wallinger to become a full-fledged band member. After two albums, he decided to pursue his own musical vision, and left the Waterboys (amicably) to record his solo debut.

Title Private Revolution
Act World Party
Label Chrysalis Release Date March 1987
Producer Karl Wallinger
U.S. Chart  #39 U.K. Chart  #56
Tracks
[U.S. Hot 100]
  1. Private Revolution
  2. Making Love (to the World)
  3. Ship of Fools [#27]
  4. All Come True
  5. Dance of the Hoppy Lads
  6. It Can Be Beautiful (Sometimes)
  7. The Ballad of the Little Man
  8. Hawaiian Island World
  9. All I Really Want to Do
  10. World Party
  11. It’s All Mine

Wallinger adopted the pseudonym World Party to reflect the global and ecological themes he wanted to explore. Private Revolution was a nod to the one-man-band approach he took to the project, whimsically creating pseudonyms for many of his own instrumental contributions. Three notable talents pitched in here and there: Waterboys Steve Wickham and Anthony Thistlethwaite and singer Sinéad O’Connor, whose debut included some Wallinger contributions. A talented musician and songwriter, Wallinger has an unusual vocal style that he understands perfectly how to adapt to his songs.

The title track is a perfect welcome to the proceedings. Talk-sung over a funky folk backdrop, it reminds us that “there’s a planet to set free” but that change must begin at home. It’s one of Wallinger’s best songs and showcases his talents nicely. Making Love (to the World) continues the theme, making it clear that all the best intentions won’t matter if we ruin the place we live. Wallinger mixes in some nice falsetto, a tribute to some of his childhood vocal heroes. The one big hit in the World Party catalog, Ship of Fools is a passionate declaration of independence, with the singer demanding his freedom to engage the world on his own terms. This eco-political triptych is a smart, well-executed kickoff.

Things change pace a bit with All Come True, a mysterious, ethereal song. The “she” who is making it all come true is never quite clear, but respect for her powers is demanded. Dance of the Hoppy Lads is a fun, brief instrumental featuring Wickham’s fiddle work. The falsetto returns on It Can Be Beautiful, another mystical song that conjures up Astral Weeks era Van Morrison.

The Ballad of the Little Man demands that we root out our own worst tendencies before trying to solve outside problems. A nod to early Dylan protest folk, it’s a strong track and a nice loop back to the themes of the first three tracks. Despite a nice backing vocal from O’Connor, Hawaiian Island World is the one filler track, a pleasant enough distraction that doesn’t quite fit. Thing pick up dramatically with a spot-on cover of Dylan’s All I Really Want to Do. It’s been done almost to death, but Wallinger infuses it with so much passion and fun that he reinvents it as a testament to his own vision. A risky move that really pays off, the song becomes another highlight of the disc.

World Party may not exactly be a title track, but it works with Private Revolution to create the mission statement for the album. It’s a delightful celebration of collaborative effort built on a layered musical foundation. Infectious and engaging, it makes the listener join in Wallinger’s invocation, “How can I say no?”. It’s All Mine is a dark coda to the album. Starting as a selfish demand, it evolves into a recognition that’s what’s wrong with the world is tied to what’s wrong with each of us. It’s a powerful statement that ends the celebration on a pensive note.

FURTHER LISTENING: World Party evolved into a bit more of a band over the years as members of the touring group contributed to the studio projects. It remains very much the channel for Wallinger’s vision, with each album staking out lyrical territory similar to the debut. Goodbye Jumbo won accolades and is fairly strong, but it suffers from less adventurous sonic choices. Bang! is a glorious mess. Both albums include one magical song — Put the Message In the Box and Is It Like Today? respectively — that stand up with the best of Private Revolution. After two more decent albums, Wallinger suffered a brain aneurysm that required several years of recovery; he continues to produce, perform and record. In 2007 he assembled Best In Show a nice overview of all four World Party albums and a fine starting place for casual fans.

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About Robert Hulshof-Schmidt
Freelance writer, researcher, online comic vendor, and project manager. Fan of a wide range of music -- especially folk and 80s pop -- vintage comics, British TV, and LGBT fiction.

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