From The Archives: Nikki Sudden and Red Brocade

nikki1Nikki Sudden creates enchanting rock ‘n’ roll. From the late 70’s excess of the Swell Maps, to the Jacobites and his own distinguished solo career, Sudden’s music remains vital, charming the listener with a rich kaleidoscope of sounds. From Stones-like swagger to acoustic songs drenched in raw emotion, Sudden is indeed a breed apart. This rock ‘n’ roll balladeer has just released his new album ‘Red Brocade’ on Vicious Kitten, and if you are just discovering Nikki Sudden only now, welcome to a performer whose music is truly an enriching experience.

In a career spanning over twenty years, Sudden has experienced it all. From topping the independent charts with the Swell Maps, to recording with R.E.M, to the rock excesses of the Jacobites, to touring the world and it’s furthest most corners.

Yet it was in March, 1998 that Sudden found himself in Chicago recording what has turned out to be his best album to date. This project, which was recorded with various members of the Chamber Strings and other assorted luminaries from the Chicago music scene has just been released on Australian label Vicious Kitten under the title of ‘Red Brocade’. Amongst others the album features Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy who sings a duet with Sudden on the song, ‘Farewell, My Darling’. The album was re-mixed during November, 1998 in Woodbine St Studio, Leamington Spa, England.

rbThe album has already been called Nikki’s best ever. This is a point that Sudden concurs on. He does, however, wish to point out that every album he has ever done he’s considered to be his best at the moment of recording. This ballad-heavy release should stand up to the test of time.

Nikki reflects on the making of ‘Red Brocade’. “I just know that at the time ‘Red Brocade’ was being made my emotions were more swayed than at any time before in my life. I feel each and every one of the lyrics on ‘Red Brocade’. ‘Red Brocade’ is all about meeting one very special girl. Even though some of the songs were written before I’d met her (‘Farewell My Darling’, ‘Broken Door’, ‘Undressed’, and parts of ‘Countess’) the new songs and the old ones merged together perfectly. And ‘Broken Door’, ‘Undressed’, and ‘Countess’ all featured new lyrics to reflect the situation. The rest of the songs were all written in the States. ‘Scent’ was begun at my friend Raúl Mirá’s place in North Hollywood and finished on Kevin Junior’s couch. ‘Stained Sheets’, ‘Silver Blanket’ and ‘Miss You So’ were both written one gloomy Sunday in Kevin’s apartment. ‘Scarred’, ‘Take Me Back Home’ and possibly ‘Tie You Up’ were written on the spot at Ellis Clark’s Angel City Studio. Everything just fell into place so naturally. I thought when I was recording ‘Stained Sheets’ that it could be the last song I ever recorded in my life. I felt so ill at that moment. We did two takes, both imperfect, I said that the next take had to be the last one as there was no way I could sing the song again. The third version was the one which ended up on the album. Improvised on the spot with just vocal and acoustic guitar. This version is made up of bits of the two versions I recorded. The full length acoustic version (‘Scarred Again’) can be heard on the Chatterbox Records version of ‘Red Brocade’. The vinyl version will include the complete, unedited version of Scarred Again II. Because the girl who the album is for, said that was her favourite version.”

Basically the whole album is Nikki’s ‘Blood On The Tracks’, but whereas Bob Dylan with that record was chronicling the break-up of a relationship the picture painted with this set of songs is, hopefully, the start of the story. As Nikki commented to Producer Ellis Clark some short way into the recording of the album: “It’s strange but this record seems to deal with me being scarred and stained, mainly because of girls and life, but staying positive throughout the whole debacle.”

Hopefully he will remain so for many more years.

Nikki Sudden is currently based in Berlin where he is working on his first novel, ‘Albion Sunrise’.
He is also 95% of the way to completing a book of his lyrics. “It’ll be finished as soon as I stop writing new songs!” In the meantime he is writing a book on The Rolling Stones. He contributes to various rock ‘n’ roll magazines around the world. His favourite band remains The Rolling Stones. “They’ve never let me down.” His favourite guitarists are Johnny Thunders and Keith Richards.  Nikki Sudden’s next project is an album called ‘The Last Bandit’ (The Best Of Nikki Sudden) which will
be released by Glitterhouse Records in early 2000.

‘Red Brocade’ is an album to be experienced, not just listened to. Allow yourself to be swept along by the story, and indulge yourself in it’s enriching charms. ‘Red Brocade’ is out now .

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(Review by Col Gray. Archive Source: Cat Scratch Fever/Vicious Kitten Records Newsletter Issue 3: December 1999)

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