Mike + the Mechanics
by David Chiu
When Genesis’ Mike Rutherford started Mike + the Mechanics 30 years ago, it was more of an informal musical solo project as opposed to a proper band. Yet the eventual self-titled debut album from 1985 was an unexpected success that yielded three Top 40 American hits -“Silent Running,” “All I Need Is a Miracle,” and “Taken In” – and showed that Rutherford was a viable commercial solo artist outside of Genesis along with Phil Collins. So any notion of a sophomore jinx was dispelled with the release of Living Years three years later. With its dynamic production, Living Years was a smooth hybrid of rock, pop, funk, hip-hop influences (and if you listen a hard enough, even a little bit of ’80s era Genesis). Aside from Rutherford’s guitar and songwriting, the key to the Mechanics success was due to its two talented singers, Paul Carrack and the late Paul Young, each proving his mettle on the tracks they sang lead on (the former on the soaring “Why Me?,” the latter on the dramatic material “Seeing Is Believing” and “Blame”). Undoubtedly the album’s focal point is the poignant title track, which not only gave the Mechanics its first and only U.S. Number One, but has since become a signature song for Rutherford and Co. While “The Living Years” was certainly the biggest hit of the record, a few of the songs should have cracked the Top 40 like “Nobody’s Perfect”and “Nobody Knows.” On the heels of the band’s first U.S. tour in 25 years, Living Years has now been reissued with both the original album and a companion disc containing archival live tracks of songs from the first two Mechanics records. The reissue also features a new version of “The Living Years” powerfully by sung by current co-Mechanics vocalist Andrew Roachford and accompanied by the Isango Choir from South Africa. Reworked with a bit of an uptempo electronic sheen, this update is just as sobering as the original without altering the song’s heart-wrenching message.