Graham Chalmers of the Harrogate Advertiser reviews "Real Surprise"

Nov 11, 2011
"A Damn Fine Songwriter"

Harrogate Advertiser 11th November 2011: This is the complete un-edited article written by Graham Chalmers:

Back in the 70s music fashion was irrelevant in a million social clubs at holiday camps and caravan parks across the UK. Everyone danced or sang along to any song that was good.

Not that the first, self-penned album by ex-managing director of CODA UK, Mike Starkings sounds like the 70s. What's most old-fashioned about Real Surprise is that the song is everything.

That applies equally whether Starkings is writing and singing country-pop (False Pretences), jazz-soul (I Play The Game), acoustic balladry (Slipping Away), early 60s beat pop (Things You Don't Know About Me), sleazy blues-rock (Nothing New In Love) or lone piano Kate Bush-isms (The Great Escape).

With the help of classy musicians like guitarist/producer Simon McGrath, keyboard player Mark Walker and co-vocalist Lisa Mallaghan, everything sounds bright and clean and sophisticated.

It also sounds a bit too 80's for me, too what used to be called "middle of the road".

The real surprise, however, comes when I let my usual prejudices slide and focus on what really counts.

It's taken this part-time musician more than 30 years to finally release an album and, you know what, it turns out that Mike Starkings is a damn fine songwriter."

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