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Swing Out Sister

Swing Out Sister are a British pop musical group best known worldwide for their 1986 hit single Breakout.

The group presently comprises Andy Connell (born Andrew John Connell, Jul 26, 1961, Nottingham; keyboards) and Corinne Drewery (born Sep 21, 1959, Nottingham; vocals), though it began as a trio in the United Kingdom. The group was initially formed by Connell and Martin Jackson (drums), in 1985 who were later joined by Drewery. The group's name came from a 1945 movie called Swing Out, Sister, and they reportedly chose the name because there was only one thing they could agree on: they all hated it! Both Connell and Jackson had been playing in other bands prior to forming SOS, while Drewery was actually a fashion designer and model before she became the band's lead vocalist and lyricist.

It's Better To Travel (1987, debut album)
Together with their producer, Paul Staveley O'Duffy, they signed with Mercury Records Limited. Prior to their first album, they released the single Blue Mood in the UK in November 1985. However, it did not chart. In late 1986, the single "Breakout" was released. It peaked at #4 on the UK charts, and #6 in the United States. Consequently, when they released their debut album, It's Better to Travel, on May 11, 1987, it reached #1 on the UK album charts.

The album registered with listeners for its mix of jazz and electropop, a genre often also referred to as sophisti-pop, with a blend of real horns, synths (arranged subtly, to sound like strings), drums, and xylophones, scored by producer-arranger Richard Niles. The follow-up single to the effervescent "Breakout" was the brooding Surrender, which featured a trumpet solo performed by John Thirkell. It rose to #7 on the UK charts in January 1987. The next single was the more serious and jazzy Twilight World. This song was the subject of many remixes and was a dance club favorite worldwide. The final single Fooled By a Smile returned to the upbeat pop orientation characteristic of "Breakout".

The group was subsequently nominated for two American Grammy Awards in 1988: Best New Artist and Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Group or Duo (for "Breakout").

In addition to long-time partner O'Duffy as well as Thirkell, Swing Out Sister had also enlisted the talents of saxophonist Gary Barnacle (who with Thirkell also comprise the Henpecked Horns, known for their work with Level 42); percussionist Luis Jardim; guitarist Tim Cansfield; trumpet/fluegelhorn master Jerry Hey; and songwriter-arranger Jimmy Webb.

Kaleidoscope World (1989)
Original member Jackson, whose acoustic drums drove the "Surrender" single, left the group during the making of the second album, Kaleidoscope World. Although the liner notes give "special thanks to Martin Jackson" and his co-writing credits appear on the songs Tainted and Between Strangers, they also point out that "Swing Out Sister are Corinne Drewery and Andy Connell." Drewery and Connell have since become the core group on all subsequent albums. After leaving Swing Out Sister, Jackson later worked for Frank Zappa.

Kaleidoscope World was released in May 1989 and achieved critical acclaim. Their turn away from contemporary styles towards retro musical sources on this album would establish the musical path that they would continue to follow with their subsequent albums. The duo found inspiration in Easy Listening music, from the likes of Burt Bacharach, as well as songwriter Webb, who arranged two tracks, Precious Words and Forever Blue, the latter "an impeccable example of the band's craft"1 which was "reminiscent of John Barry's classic Midnight Cowboy theme"2. The incorporation of an orchestra to their recordings realized their sound in a richer, fuller way than their previous effort which relied more heavily on synthesizers. Consequently, this album featured arrangements and a songwriting style that were more classical in inclination. The lead-off single You On My Mind featured a more sophisticated blend of musical components than their previous efforts, while the upbeat tone of "Breakout" was echoed in the lead USA single Waiting Game. Further singles included Where in the World and "Forever Blue".

1, 2

Get In Touch With Yourself (1992)
In May 1992, the group's retro orientation became even more evident in both their sound and image on their third album, Get In Touch With Yourself. With strong dance rhythms reverberating throughout the entire album, tracks draw influences from 1960s and 1970s jazz, pop, soul, and funk, including a breezy cover of the Barbara Acklin late '60s classic Am I The Same Girl? (which became their last US hit, reaching #1 on the AC chart). The album's title track, a blend of 1970s soul music and modern pop, gained the duo heavy airplay on smooth-jazz radio and was a crossover hit, gaining airtime on adult contemporary stations. The musical influences of Stevie Wonder, The Jackson 5, and others would not only become evident in this album but continue on through their later releases. In line with the album theme, Drewery also grew out her hair from her trademark bob which had become a visual signature for their early years.

The Living Return (1994)
Numerous changes were afoot by the time their fourth album, The Living Return was released in September 1994. The replacement of producer Paul O'Duffy after initial studio sessions with Ray Hayden contributed to a looser, raw feel to the songs that were often the results of studio jam sessions. Though Drewery and Connell still fronted Swing Out Sister, additional musicians (including former 52nd Street bassist Derick Johnson; Pa'lante percussionist Chris Manis; drummer Myke Wilson, formerly of the Jazz Defectors; and trumpet player John Thirkell increased their group to 10 members that replicate the live performances that had been captured on the Japan-only release Live at the Jazz Cafe. The album featured the single and cover song La La (Means I Love You), which was also included on the Four Weddings and a Funeral soundtrack.

Shapes and Patterns (1997)
Few of the band's releases charted highly on the pop listings in Western countries after their successful debut album (though they became radio-airplay staples on jazz stations). The band, however, became extremely popular in Japan. Their song Now You're Not Here (from their fifth album Shapes And Patterns, one of several released only in Japan) was used as the theme to a Japanese TV program, and received a Japanese 'Grand Prix' (the equivalent of a Grammy) for best international single in 1997.

Shapes and Patterns was first released in Japan in March 1997, and then in Europe and USA the year after. Producer Paul O'Duffy, who co-wrote half of the songs, was back at the helm. As an orchestra was once again employed (led by Gavyn Wright), the lush arrangements characteristic of Kaleidoscope World resurfaced. The liner notes, written by Mary Edwards, point out the influences of Bacharach, Webb, and composer John Barry, which are perceptible in the string arrangements and Latin rhythms, as well as that of Minnie Riperton, Rotary Connection, and The 5th Dimension.

The album included Stoned Soul Picnic, a cover of Laura Nyro's original, as well as the original version of Better Make It Better, which appeared in a different mix on their previous album. A pervasive longing marks songs such as Now You're Not Here, Somewhere in the World, You Already Know, and Icy Cold as Winter. This album would also mark the beginning of the duo's use of Japanese musicians in their studio sessions.

Filth and Dreams (1999)
Filth and Dreams, their sixth album, proved yet again that Swing Out Sister were eager to reinvent themselves. The album was released in Japan in March 1999, and it remains the only album not released in any other country. This album featured stronger jazz leanings than some of their early pop-oriented albums, and is restrained in mood. The track Who's Been Sleeping was promoted as a single and released with several remixes. The album has a trip-hop feel to it. For this record, SOS adapted to the growing popularity of hip-hop in the late '90s. "Who's Been Sleeping" kicks off the record with an aggressive beat and a few hip-hop flourishes (such as Drewery's counting and uttering "Yeah..." in the background). The rest of the record incorporates such sounds a bit more subtly, through the soaring retro stylings of Closer Than the Sun and When Morning Comes, the excitable lounge of the title track Filth and Dreams, to the mid-tempo trip-hop of Invisible and scratch-laced Sugar Free. Traditional SOS sounds are challenged successfully with the dark if dreamy If I Had the Heart and Make You Stay. Background noises, from phone conversations to child's play, are layered in to enrich the record and give the listener much more to cue in on. Drewery strays out of the usual love lyrics and colors a portrait of a darker world (as the title indicates) by singing about more urban subjects such as drugs (the eerie Happy When You're High) and prostitution ("When Morning Comes"). All of their experimentation works surprisingly well and the result is probably the strongest SOS outing to date. Ironically, Filth and Dreams was the first SOS record not released in their native England, and is currently the most difficult CD to find.

Somewhere Deep in the Night (2001)
A seventh album, Somewhere Deep in the Night, was recorded in France, and released in May 2001 in Japan (with subsequent release in Europe and USA). It was dedicated to their friend Kazuhiko Yanagida. While it is quintessential Swing Out Sister, with lush orchestral arrangements, the melodic tunes often feature melancholy, languid, or introspective atmospherics and are more sombre in tone. Many of the tracks are instrumental, or only feature vocalised harmonies sans lyrics. One song even features a soliloquy in French. O'Duffy, who produced the album, also has co-writing credits on all the songs, and provided backing vocals along with Connell and Cansfield.

Due to declining sales, their record label Universal dropped them from their contract in the US. Consequently, they signed on with Shanachie Records.

Where Our Love Grows (2004)
Undeterred, the duo bounced back with their eighth studio effort, Where Our Love Grows. It was released in Japan on April 28, 2004 with the UK edition following in July. GQ reviewed it and called it "indisputably their finest record to date". The album features a return to a rich, upbeat retro sound, with tracks like Love Won't Let You Down, When The Laughter Is Over, and Let The Stars Shine, that fuses jazz, soul, R&B, latin, and easy listening music. Samples of Roger Nichols & The Small Circle of Friends and Herbie Mann were incorporated also into some songs.

Beautiful Mess (2008)
Late 2005 saw Swing Out Sister return to their studio in London to commence recording of their new album. The band planned on making a second tour of the US in 2006. However, due to recording commitments, this had to be canceled. In 2006, they composed incidental music for the ITV1 drama The Outsiders. August 2007 saw a new single Secret Love (You're Invisible).

The new album entitled Beautiful Mess was released by Japanese record company Avex Trax on February 27, 2008. The title is taken from one of the tracks on the album, Beautiful Mess. Prior to its release, in late December 2007, two other tracks were made available for download: Butterfly and Something Every Day. In the first months after its Japan launch, a limited number of specially-packaged copies of the CD, autographed by Connell and Drewery, were put on sale online to promote the album, and were quickly sold out. Beautiful Mess was eventually released in the UK on September 8th, 2008.

Beautiful Mess was finally released in the US May 19, 2009, with two bonus tracks added in.

2008 Asian Tour
In 2008, Swing Out Sister went on a successful promotional tour shortly after the release of Beautiful Mess, performing at several venues in Japan including Osaka (Mar 27), Nagoya (Mar 28), Tokyo (Mar 30), and Fukuoka (Apr 1); in the Philippines, filling up Manila's Araneta Coliseum (Apr 7); and rounding up at Indonesia's Jakarta Convention Center (Apr 10).

2009 Asian Tour
In 2009, Swing Out Sister once again packed their bags for a tour of the Far East, performing in a series of concerts organized by Billboard Live of Japan. The concerts, billed as "An Intimate Evening with Swing Out Sister", included stops in the major Japanese cities Tokyo, Fukuoka, and Osaka in several of Billboard Live's own music clubs:

· Billboard Live Tokyo - Feb 26, 27, and 28
· Billboard Live Fukuoka - Mar 2 and 3
· Billboard Live Osaka - Mar 5 and 6

The duo rounded off the tour with their final stop in Indonesia at the Jakarta International Java Jazz Festival (Mar 6-8) where they performed on the final evening, in the company of artists like Dianne Reeves, Jason Mraz, Brian McKnight, Laura Fygi, and Matt Bianco.

In Dec 2009, Swing Out Sister headed east once again, this time making their first-ever concert stops in Singapore - where they staged their outdoor Breakout Concert by the beach on Dec 16 - and Bangkok, for the Bangkok Decembery concert on the grounds of Sanam Suepa on Dec 19.

The song O Pesadelo Dos Autores from the album The Living Return (1994) features a medley of cover versions of "Brazilian Rhyme", "Celebration Suite", "Come With Me", "My Cherie Amour", "The Smiling Hour", and "Butterfly".

In July 2000, Swing Out Sister performed as the opening act in a concert tribute held to honor the songwriting duo of Burt Bacharach and Hal David at London’s Royal Albert Hall.

In 2002, Drewery and female Japanese singer Akiko recorded Waters of March, an English cover version of celebrated Brazilian singer-songwriter Antônio Carlos Jobim's Aguas de Marco.

It's Better to Travel (1987) UK #1, US #40
Kaleidoscope World (1989) UK #9
Another Non-Stop Sister (1989)
Get In Touch With Yourself (1992) UK #27
Swing Out Singles (1992)
Live at the Jazz Cafe (1993)
The Living Return (1994)
The Big Elsewhere (1996)
Now You're Not Here (1996)
Shapes and Patterns (1997)
Swing 3 / Swing Swing Swing (1997)
The Best of Swing Out Sister (1997)
Filth and Dreams (1999)
Somewhere Deep in the Night (2001)
Breakout (2001)
20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection: The Best of Swing Out Sister (2001)
Cafe Orange: Swing Out Sister Cafe Best (2002)
Where Our Love Grows (2004)
The Ultimate Collection (2-CD Asian edition, 2004)
The Ultimate Collection (Disc 1) (2004)
The Ultimate Collection (Disc 2) (2004)
The Ultimate Collection (Disc 3) (2004)
Live / Live in Tokyo (2005)
Beautiful Mess (2008)

Swing Out Sister are currently:
Corinne Drewery - lead vocals
Andy Connell - keys
Gina Foster - backing vocals
Tim Cansfield - guitar
Jody Linscott - percussion
Dan Swana - double bass

Official website:

See also:
Swing Out Sister's official Facebook page
Swing Out Sister's official MySpace page
Swinghistory - a compleat chronicle of the dashing duo by Björn Wahlberg
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