All-Time Albums: #58


SWING OUT SISTER It’s Better To Travel

1 Breakout 3:46 (UK single, #4)
Twilight World (Superb, Superb, Mix) 6:27 (UK single, #32)
3 After Hours 4:48
4 Blue Mood 4:18
Surrender 3:53 (UK single, #7)
6 Fooled By A Smile 4:06 (UK single, #43)
7 Communion 4:40
It’s Not Enough 3:46
9 Theme (From – “It’s Better To Travel”) 4:32

Back-to-back UK Top 10 hits created enough of a buzz for Swing Out Sister’s debut album to enter at #1, despite the relative failure of Twilight World a month before its release in May 1987.

The downside of having so many singles come out beforehand (add in the 1986 flop Blue Mood and there were four), was that the campaign petered out before the summer was over. Fooled By A Smile was remixed and chucked out as the only other 45, but it predictably (though undeservedly) fell short of the Top 40.

Few albums in my collection evoke a particular time quite as strongly; perhaps because its chart legacy didn’t stretch out for several months, taking in autumn and winter of 1987, it remains etched in my memories of May and June of that year. At just 40 minutes, and with only 8 proper songs fleshed out by an atmospheric instrumental and a 12″ mix of one of its singles, it never outstays its welcome. The hits were pristine and punchy, Swing Out Sister finding a happy formula and successfully mining it, but the most interesting tracks are the mellow After Hours and moody Communion.

If I’d been in charge of choosing singles, It’s Not Enough would have been my pick for the 5th instead of Fooled By A Smile, which just felt a little too samey to previous efforts.

Martin Jackson’s clattering percussion was always high in the mix, and when he left after this record the subsequent albums suffered as a result. The juxtaposition of smooth, retro jazz/pop stylings with the clunking, metronomic rhythms gave It’s Better To Travel a freshness that they would jettison thereafter, with mixed results.


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