Marshall Hain – Free Ride   2 comments

Free Ride

Marshall Hain were a songwriting and performing duo – Julian Marshall and Kit Hain. Julian was the music maestro contributing incredible keyboard playing, sometimes with an almost classical feel, while Kit looked after the lyrics and added occasional guitar playing. Free Ride contains the massive hit single Dancing in the City. If you grew up in the 70’s and heard this now you would know it instantly and sing-a-long to the chorus, although you may not remember who performed it. Dancing in the City reached no. 3 in the UK singles chart in the summer of 1978, no. 43 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1979, but it was in Australia, Germany and South Africa where it reached No. 1. The one follow up single Coming Home reached no. 39 on the UK singles chart, and the album Free Ride followed, released on the Harvest record label as the singles had been and produced by Christopher Neil (later to work with Sheena Easton). Unfortunately this was a flop, and the duo disbanded in 1979. Why did it flop ? Perhaps the mixture of styles was too eclectic to pin them down, but more likely  it was a case of “wrong place, wrong time”. This was the era of Punk and New Wave and perhaps a more traditional songwriting duo just did not fit the bill.

For anyone who had been familiar with the massive hit single Dancing in the City or Coming Home for that matter, the opening track Different Point certainly is that; more rocking in tempo with a jazz rock feel enhanced by a great keyboard solo from Julian. This song ends and Dancing in the City immediately begins with that familiar “thunder” sound. This was a massive hit single which somehow seems so evocative of summer, Kit’s vocal is so distinctive, and the chorus very catchy. The drum sound is typically 70’s (courtesy of Peter van Hooke) and also incredibly distinctive, a real sing-a-long favourite.  Next song up is You Two, which bounces along driven by Julian’s piano playing. This is one of only two songs which Kit plays acoustic guitar on. Track 4 Real Satisfaction opens with Harold Fisher’s Caribbean sounding drums, and this is another song driven along by Julian’s keyboard playing. It is very catchy with Kit’s multi-tracked vocals on the chorus, very redolent of early Judie Tzuke. The song unusually has a wonderful marimba solo from Frank Ricotti. The final song on Side One is the follow up to Dancing – Coming Home. This is a lovely song, which really should get more airplay. It opens with Julian’s (or Chris’ ?) spoken line intro, then Kit starts telling her story of an independent person who wanted their freedom, but now finds that exhausted and wants to “come home”, musically the song is really a duet between Julian’s keyboard playing and Dave Olney’s fretless bass backed with a lovely string arrangement.

Next up is Take My Rumber, which is basically Julian playing a rumba (I assume), perhaps a little odd on a debut album, or perhaps nowadays it is the sort of thing you would find as a secret track; it’s presence does make this a 9 song album, which is perhaps a shame, I would have preferred another song, particularly with hindsight. The title track follows which is a real rocker, not to mention an interesting lyric from Kit (full of double entendres). Kit’s vocal range is really shown to good effect here. The song ends on a guitar solo from (I assume) Phil Palmer. Take My Number follows, which is one of only three ballads here. This is a lovely song, with a really nice chorus and vocal from Kit. This could have made a single I think, the chorus is catchy enough. Mrs The Train follows (Kit really did like playing with words – Misses The Train – gettit ?) – “They call me Mrs the Train, cuz I’m never gonna stop at your station”. This is a great rockin’ boogie-ish track, and then somehow the album is almost over, we are at the last track Back to the Green. Dancing in the City is over and its time to get out and back to the country. A very nice way to finish the album off, the orchestration is beautiful – and that’s Marshall Hain done.

Cherry Red have done a great job of releasing this on CD, and the original album line-up has Ben Liebrand’s 87 Summer City mix of Dancing in the City added to it, (it was also remixed and re-issued again in 92). Has Free Ride stood up the test of time ? Well No, but then it is of it’s time. This is a 70’s LP, enjoy it as such, it is much more than one hit single and a not so successful follow up. If you like early Judie Tzuke (especially Welcome to the Cruise) you will like this. Please can Cherry Red get hold of Kit’s two solo albums now ??


2 responses to “Marshall Hain – Free Ride

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  1. One of the underrated albums that don’t grow weaker over time. I was touched by these songs when I was 18 and still am now, fourty years later. ve listened to them ever so often, had the record then and still love the beauty of the songs, their harmonic richness, great lyrics, and their rhythms. So many fine ideas – I will probably listen to that album for thirty more years.

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