It’s fair to say in the last ten years, The Quireboys have experienced a renaissance in terms of their recording output with regards to quality and quantity and a live show which never disappoints, putting bands half their age to shame. It’s even more fair to say their debut album, A Bit of What You Fancy, is one of the best debut albums you’ll hear and for many people, still regarded as their zenith. A lot of their live staples comes from this album and it’s easy to see why. There’s lightning in a bottle being captured on that album and can easily stand toe-to-toe with anything that came after.
Which is why it’s ripe for a re-release, thirty years after its original release (technically thirty-one but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why). But rather than just re-master it and call it a day, Spike and the boys have rallied to re-record it to sit more in line with where they are in 2021 and give it the reverence an album like this deserves.
There’s no deviation from any of the songs and the full dozen have been committed to this version exactly as you’d remember the 1990 version, especially if you know the album inside out. The only real difference is in Spike’s vocals but his inimitable rasp has only bettered in the intervening years. Now, songs like “I Don’t Love You Anymore” and “Take Me Home” hold new weight, bolstered by age and experience. Meanwhile, “Roses and Rings” and “Misled” allow him to attack in full flow, and “Whippin’ Boy” holds a new darkness to it, laced with bitterness and cynicism.
What this version does benefit from is a cleaner production while keeping that raw, rough and ready spirit of the original which would have been lost in a re-master. It’s an album which gets to keep its soul and by extension, they can avoid the possibility of tarnishing the reputation this record has. Not that they would because The Quireboys are one of those rare bands who don’t make bad albums.
Spike and Guy Griffin may be the only members on this version who featured on the first version but both Paul Guerin and Keith Weir (guitar and keyboards, respectively) handle their own parts with aplomb, born from playing these songs night after night for well over a decade and the chemistry on the record is the same as the original. This is where the album also benefits as it sounds closer to their present-day live performances, all that’s missing is the on-stage banter.
This re-recording doesn’t besmirch the reputation of the original and the fresh lick of paint to these songs allow it to feel less good-time rock and roll and more in their self-style gypsy stylings the band evolved into. It’s more music from The Quireboys, albeit a bit more familiar and it’s a welcome addition to their catalogue. It isn’t any better or worse than the original – it still has the same heart and soul, never becoming self-indulgent or a vanity project. A Bit of What You Fancy is an album which has stood the test of time, these songs endure in their initial recordings but essentially, it’s going to come down to personal preference which version you continue to listen to.
Header image by Tom Gold
A Bit of What You Fancy 30th Anniversary Edition is out now