Animal Nightlife - Shangri-La

Animal Nightlife: “Shangri-La” Deluxe Edition

By rights Animal Nightlife should have been huge, at least for a while. Darlings of London’s jazz-funk scene, they released a couple of singles on the infamous Inner Vision label (which came a cropper when labelmates Wham! dared to query their royalty rate), before moving to Island where their sophisticated blend of funk, jazz and pop earned them two top thirty singles and a top forty album, which has now been expanded and reissued by Cherry Red offshoot Cherry Pop.

Opening with early single and inexplicable non-hit Native Boy, straight away we’re sipping cocktails by a pool somewhere as the caramel tones of singer Andy Polaris soothe our ears. This is fine for a while, as we cruise through the silky funk-lite of Waiting For The Bait To Bite, After Hours and Love Is Just The Great Pretender (a #28 hit in 1985), but there’s a worrying tendency to slip too far into self-indulgent jazz. Insomniazz, despite its title, is soporific and Basic Ingredients – here, incredibly, in an extended 12″ mix as well as standard issue album version – would leave even Jazz Club‘s genial host Louis Balfour checking his watch.

When they raised their game, though, Animal Nightlife were capable of some great pop songs, and disc two rounds up some of the lost ones from non-album singles such as Preacher, Preacher and the band’s biggest hit, 1984’s Mr Solitaire – surprisingly not on the original album, which must have hampered its sales somewhat, and included here by way of two 12″ mixes but not the 7″ version. There’s also a round up of B-sides and remixes of the album’s singles, most of which adds up to a pleasant couple of hours’ listening. With a bit of quality control and someone to guide them away from the jazz route, this could have been better, but the high points are worth the price of admission.

6/10