City Boy – The Day The Earth Caught Fire

1979 (reissued 2008 Renaissance Records)

1: The Day The Earth Caught Fire (5:20)
2: It’s Only The End Of The World (4:04)
3: Interrupted Melody (5:27)
4: Modern Love Affair (3:33)
5: New York Times (5:09)
6: Up In The Eighties (4:14)
7: Machines (5:02)
8: Ambition (11:52)
  -Me And My Tarot
  -Rev-On (The Crunch)
  -The End (Came Easy)

I used to have two of the seven LPs that British six-piece City Boy made in the mid-70’s, early ’80’s. Especially “The Day The Earth Caught Fire” from 1979 was a big favorite and still is. When I hear the lush art rock with heavy guitars and complex vocal arrangements on the re-issue published in 2008, I am very happy again. It’s Queen, A.C.T, Sparks, Styx, Ten CC and (go crazy) Saga mixed together.

The album contains stories about the fact that the earth will soon be hit by a devastating disaster. This is pinned down in eight songs of which the opening title track and the almost 12-minute closing track Ambition are the absolute highlights, despite the fact that all the intermediate songs do not renounce anywhere.

Some bombastic music like in the opener is always nice and it is commendable how one manages to create a turmoil atmosphere without becoming hectic. That high voice is very reminiscent of that of Roger Taylor (Queen). Speaking of Queen…… the lead vocals of Lol Mason have a big resemblance to Freddie Mercury and that’s great. Furthermore, this song has a neo-proggy keyboard solo and a nice guitar moment.

City Boy is compositionally especially creative. For example, the four-quartered Ambition is a true magnum opus full of melancholy, theatricality and melody. All this is supported by an orchestra led by Louis Clark, a well-known conductor at that time for e.g. ELO. Rhythmically, the song is also very strong. Shifting the accent in Rev-On is truly genius. It’s nice that in the euphoric final movement all three lead singers are present: Lol Mason, Steve Broughton and Roy Ward.

The album may sound like a child of its time, but that’s not  due to the somewhat slick sound quality.

Chris Dunn: bass, acoustic guitar
Roy Ward: drums, percussion, vocals
Steve Broughton: vocals, bass, guitar
Max Thomas: keyboards, guitar
Lol Mason: vocals
Mike Slamer: acoustic and electric guitar, bass, backing vocals
Tim Friese Greene: synthesizers
Derek King: percussion
Robert John Mutt Lange: bass
Huey Lewis: harmonica
Kentall Tubbs: bass, percussion

© Dick van der Heijde 2022