Cut from the same college rock cloth as their Georgia neighbours R.E.M. to the south, the five piece led by brothers Mike Connell (vocals, guitar) and David Connell (bass) and featuring Doug McMillan (vocals), Peele Wimberley (percussion) and George Huntley (guitar) carved out a niche for themselves in the early ’90s alt-rock scene with their brand of wholly introspective pop.
Formed in Raleigh, North Carolina in the mid-eighties, by the time European success arrived they had already released four albums. It was their fifth, 1993's 'Ring' however, that proved their most successful. A slow burn, by 1995 it would go on to reach the top ten in eleven countries.
Perhaps the timing was just right. The post-grunge world had already seen jangly hits form the likes of Soul Asylum and Blind Melon, and when '74-75' - 'Ride's big single - was finally released in Europe, it proved a monster hit. A beautiful, understated lament to days gone by, it's no overstatement to say that this one song made the album, and thirty years later, it's still the undoubted highlight.
One of those tracks that cuts right to the heart, '74-75' is achingly beautiful, with its air of hopeless whimsy. An acoustic ballad, the song is steeped in nostalgia, with writer Mike Connell reflecting on failed relationships and the fleeting nature of time. It is however, no wimp-out, and although the tender lead vocal is dripping with melancholy, the infectious acoustic riffs and subtle lead licks lift the song beyond simple shoe gazing.
Reaching number 14 in the UK singles chart, and number 6 in Ireland, '74-75' propelled the band briefly into the mainstream, and anyone who picked up the album on the back of it, got more of the same. The album's other highlight, 'Spiral', follows a similar format, and there are no massive shocks, sound-wise on 'Ring'.
Where album opener 'Slackjawed' gave the band a Top 10 hit on Billboard’s alternative chart, 'Doin' You's huge Hammonds sound immense, and although tracks like 'Find You', and 'Eyes on the Ground', are more upbeat, that hint of melancholy is never far from the surface.
Released on standard and limited edition yellow vinyl, the CD and digital deluxe editions of the album have been newly remastered by Brent Lambert and include twenty-one bonus tracks, including rare b-sides and twelve previously unreleased demos (unavailable at the time of review).
Whether Mike Connell looks back to '93-'95' with the same sense of nostalgia is uncertain, but '74-75' remains a classic, and reason enough to pick up this reissue.
'Ring' is released on 11th August 2023. Click here to pre-order.