Stephen Emmer is a bit of an enigma. The Amsterdam native started his career in the ‘80s, releasing a solo album titled Never Share in 1982. He went on to spend time playing in such seminal new wave British bands as The Lotus Eaters and the Associates, before quietly returning to The Netherlands. There he found great success scoring Dutch TV programs and films. In 2008 he released Recitement which featured his music combined with spoken-word performances from artists like Richard Burton and Lou Reed, as well as the Dutch film actress Sylvia Kristel, among others. In 2009 he brought out Time to Face the Music.
The just released International Blue finds Emmer again working with other artists to realize his vision. On board for this effort are Glenn Gregory (Heaven 17), Midge Ure (Ultarvox), Liam McKahey (Cousteau), and Neil Crossely (Half Man Half Biscuit). The result is a big sounding slice of AAA that could easily be dropped into a stage production in London or on Broadway. Horns, piano, and strings dominate, making this a very un-rock record. His cohorts though, sound completely at home.
Not surprising given Emmer’s background, but it’s almost as if this is a soundtrack in search of a story. That doesn’t affect the quality of the songs at all, but does provide a certain longing. Glenn Gregory and Midge Ure deliver emotional vulnerability on their tracks, with Crossely and McKahey being more subtle. The latter’s track, “Song for a Deserted Wife,” would be the non-existent show’s big number, replete with smooth melody and horn section hooks.
Hopefully someone, perhaps one the vocalists, will take it upon himself to go ahead and write the play around this album. Built almost like a standards record, but with original tunes, International Blue is a welcome return to pop music for Stephen Emmer, fitting in perfectly with the likes of Buble, Jamie Cullum, Harry Connick Jr., and Diane Krall.
8 croons out of 10
PF Wilson has been writing about music, TV, radio, and movies for over 20 years. He has also written about sports, business, and politics with his work appearing in Cincinnati CityBeat, The Houston Press, Cleveland Scene, Cincinnati Magazine, Cincy Magazine, Atomic Ranch, and many more. Check out his podcast PF’s Tape Recorder available from Podbean or in iTunes.