The best-laid schemes of mice and men go often askew, never more universally than during our current annus horribilis. Whatever anyone had planned for this 2020…well, that obviously went out the window months ago. Even A Man Called Adam, who we’ve always thought of as existing in some rarefied state of balearic bliss unsullied by the troubles of this earthly plane, have had to rejigger the year’s program. In March of 2019, the long-running duo’s Sally Rodgers and Steve Jones had released ‘Farmarama,’ their first long-player in two decades and a beauty at that. A series of stellar remixes followed, including that stunning Prins Thomas adaptation of ‘Paul Valéry at the Disco,’ a track that evoked the palm-tree-shaded dance floor of our dreams. Rogers and Jones’s idea was to put out a few more remixes, then revel in the results — a bit of touring, a touch of champagne, that sort of thing. Then, of course, you-know-what came along. But rather than simply wait it out, the duo instead made the decision to dive headfirst into ‘Farmarama’ and the existing remixes, along with assorted rushes, instrumentals and alternative versions that happened to be handy, and the happy result is ‘The Magnificent 7s’ a collection of radio edits, 7-inch dubs, versions and other assorted whatnots.
The result is a string of pocket-sized AMCA beauties, most clocking in at three to five minutes, with their relatively short run time often working to their advantage. That’s particularly true of the hookier tunes, which in short chunks have the feel of sparkly little gems. The dreamy pop appeal of the original ‘Michael,’ for instance, was always there — but rather than the slow-burn fizz of the album cut, the new radio version serves up that appeal from the get-go. Similarly, while the LP’s title track may lose of bit of its gently drifting vibe when edited to half its original length, the focus is now on the song itself, which happens to be sublime.
And so it goes — a series of AMCA charmers in miniature, some of which will sound familiar to those well acquainted with ‘Farmarama’ and its follow-up 12s, and others of which will be fully new. Here, the synthetic pastoralism of ‘Ladies of Electronica,’ stripped of its intro and coda (but retaining that Delia Darbyshire quote) has the feel of a half-remembered Young Marble Giants track; the Reachin Dub of ‘Higher Powers’ floats along with a subdued jazzy grace, while the Disco Rockers version of ‘Tic Toc’ doles out three and a half minutes of good dubby fun. The truncated version of Prins Thomas’s aforementioned mix of ‘Paul Valery’ arguably loses a touch of its ritual hypno-grandeur in its reduced state — but that’s more than made up for with a bubbly little instrumental take on the same song’s original mix, here titled ‘PV Lashup’ which, with its strutting disco bassline and naggingly familiar cowbell/woodblock sample, is damn hard to resist.
Running throughout it all, AMCA’s wistful utopian viewpoint seems more apt than ever. For the cynical among us, Rodgers lyrics — full of declarations like ‘let yourself love’ and ‘surrender to the higher powers’ — might have come off as the flower-child musings of an innocent romantic in ordinary times. Now, in our days and nights of semi-isolation, those aphorisms, and the melodies they live in, feel essential. As with pretty much any AMCA release, ‘The Magnificent 7s’ showcases a skill that Rodgers and Jones excel at: They decipher the dreams that have always brought us together.