The Proclaimers – The Very Best Of: 25 Years 1987-2012 (2013)
Finally, a worthy Proclaimers compilation that goes a long way towards doing justice to their back catalogue! 2002’s “Best Of” was a brilliant single-disc selection of songs, but this double album is the definitive place to come if you want to discover the truly magical music of Charlie and Craig Reid. I will set my stall out straight away… I have every Proclaimers album there is, so it could be said that I’m a bit of a fan. To reward the hardcore fans (or to entice completists to buy it, whichever way you want to look at it), there is a brand new song on here, the excellent, upbeat “Not Cynical”. There are also the 2011 remaster versions of their earlier singles, which gives the earlier material a little more equality with their later recordings when it comes to sonic punch and the powerful vocals and beautiful harmonies really do create the most sublime aural fireworks throughout this whole release. This is a collection of some of the most truly intelligently, lovingly and beautifully crafted songs you are ever likely to hear in your life.
So, for the uninitiated, what is there to discover from this album? Well, you have absolutely magnificent songs of love, such “Sunshine On Leith” (one of the greatest songs ever written), “Life With You” (such a joyous, glorious piece), “I’m On My Way” (is there a more infectious song about new love in existence?), “Spinning Around In The Air” (the key change in the last verse makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up in rapture) and “Let’s Get Married” (which speaks the language of love in a way virtually everyone can relate to). There are songs of heartbreak, from the amusing but genuinely stirring pathos of the simply fantastic “What Makes You Cry?” and the deceptively upbeat cry of pain that is “There’s A Touch” to one of the most emotionally wrenching songs I’ve ever heard, “Act Of Remembrance”, written about the death of their Father. I defy even the hardest of hearts to listen to that song, knowing the context, without having to fight back the tears.
There are political songs about their disdain for the honours system (the biting “In Recognition”), many compositions about their love for Scotland (“Scotland’s Story”, “On Causewayside”, “Joyful Kilmarnock Blues”) and its relationship with England and the union (“Throw The ‘R’ Away”, “Cap In Hand”), social commentary (“Role Model”, “Born Innocent”), the decline of industry (“Just Look Now”) and even the likeable, affable cover of Roger Miller’s “King Of The Road”. I haven’t even mentioned the big hits yet. Of course, there is the undeniably fantastic “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)”, the hit that, thanks to Peter Kay, introduced the band to a whole new generation and is going to be the reason that many people will be looking at this album with interest, I’m sure. If you’re one of those people, you’re so lucky because you have so much simply amazing music to discover for the very first time. Then there is the wonderful “Letter From America”, the single that made the world stop and listen to The Proclaimers back when it all started. I remember, at around twelve years old, hearing that track for the first time and being astounded at just how, well… Scottish they sounded! Most Scots who made music that was played on the radio didn’t particularly embrace their accents, but here was a band who literally wore it as a badge of authenticity. It was so beautifully different. I loved their music from that very first day and my love has only grown throughout the years.
This compilation doesn’t replace the need for all of the other Proclaimers album, absolutely not, but it provides a magnificent introduction to the Reid brothers’ work and will surely make the vast majority of people who listen to this cherry-picked selection (by Craig and Charlie themselves) of their work want to discover more of their music. Believe me, there is so much more to love in their back catalogue and, although I have no criticism of the track listing (there’s only so much you can fit on two discs), there are a number of my personal favourites which have been omitted. There’s even a loving and enthusiastic foreword in the CD booklet by fellow Scot, David Tennant, as well as the full lyrics if the accents are too strong for you… or if you simply want to sing along. Which you will. Altogether it all combines to form the perfect way to discover the superb, exhilarating, heart-breaking, fist-pumping, tear-inducing, grin-making music of The Proclaimers. What more could you people want?