UNCUT: “The dazzling symphonic album he always threatened to produce. 5/5”
ROLLING STONE: “A soulful symphonic masterpiece”
Originally released in Japan only on CD in 2002, Plush's Fed lives up to the cult-like adulation it has garnered ever since. A stunning symphony of Bacharach-inspired pop, Toussaint-swing and Melody Nelson-era-Gainsbourg, it’s an album bound together by Liam Hayes' maverick genius; an uncompromising Brian Wilson-esque quest for sonic perfection. Positively indulgent in every way, this sumptuous record has long deserved to be treated to a deluxe vinyl edition. Lovingly overseen by Hayes and recent collaborator Pat Sansone (Wilco/The Autumn Defense), it will finally be available on the format it should’ve always been, this Record Store Day 2018. Remastered and presented as a double LP - cut specially at 45rpm – it comes housed in a beautiful gatefold jacket with expanded artwork throughout.
Its expansive, singular vision infamously took years to realise, involving Earth Wind & Fire’s horn arranger (the legendary Tom Tom MMLXXXIV) amongst other elite personnel. Recorded with five different engineers (including Steve Albini and John McEntire), Hayes meticulously extracted every ounce of pop from each note. A long list of renowned studio ringers (including soul drummer Morris Jennings) and Chicago regulars (McEntire, Rizzo, Parker) among many others provide playing of demonstrably professional precision. As such, Hayes' complex, meandering melodies are rendered far more coherent and satisfying than they otherwise might have appeared, bringing his epic, anguished pop to a rarely seen level of perfection and depth. This unstinting dedication to the overarching vision was rewarded handsomely - artistically, at least.
However, as might have been expected, his deluxe approach resulted in a bill too steep for any American or European label to ultimately support. It has since seemed unlikely that it would see the light of day on either side of the Atlantic. Yet we were determined not to allow Hayes' lifetime achievement to go unnoticed or let music fans across the world miss out on one of the finest albums of this century.
A wide-eyed opus of stunning intensity, Fed oozes Hayes’ impeccable influences without ever becoming overwhelmed by them. Incredibly, it touches upon Blaxploitation soul, Boz Scaggs-soft-rock, hints of jazz and blues, timeless baroque and skewed pop. In one long minute, the stabbing, soulful "So Blind" moves through five different melodic segments; horns shift easily from haunting backdrop to explosive forefront, smoothly giving way to strings as Hayes' voice casts its bewitching spell. The ambitious soul of “Having It All” has been described as the diffident cousin of Marvin Gaye’s “Save The Children” whilst the breezy "Greyhound Bus Station" is pure 70s AM Gold, evoking the easy warmth of Jimmy Webb’s beloved Land’s End period. The sublime resignation of "No Education", a beautifully slow number that begins, "Never read a book in my life/ But I feel just fine" is post-rock ballad heaven. Arriving towards the end, the title track arrives as a majestic suite; moving from a horn-and-guitar-led instrumental via shifting melodies to Hayes’ compelling vocal bursts.
An album of such brilliance, Fed can comfortably sit alongside such staggering statement pieces as David Bowie's Young Americans, Randy Newman's 12 Songs or Harry Nilsson's Nilsson Schmilsson. Indeed, for all the sprawling elements that went in - lengthy guitar builds, exploding horn sections, solemn strings, female backup chorus - it is a deeply personal and original record. Employing a distinct “more is more” aesthetic, he demonstrates remarkable restraint in producing an album of such intimacy. "My creation has drowned me," he memorably sings on languid opener "Whose Blues", yet he navigates the shifting styles and ideas with enviable ease.