Armed with an impressive résumé (the Index, Shake, The Teardrop Explodes, Fashion) dating back to ’77, singer/guitarist Troy Tate made his solo debut with the assistance of an eclectic set of musicians, including David Balfe, Nicky Holland, Virginia Astley and Woodentop Rolo McGinty. Tate uses his attractively husky voice and substantial songwriting skill — as well as deft electronic effects and complex arrangements — to put across ten melodic songs that approach modern pop from several different directions. “Safety Net,” “Love Is…” and “Thomas” are the most memorable tracks on Ticket to the Dark, but most of the album is well worth hearing. An exceptionally good record.
Simply played by an unfamous guitar-bass-drums trio and produced with equally effective restraint, Liberty focuses attention on Tate’s best asset, his handsome crooning. Although this sophomore LP doesn’t have enough great songs (“Sorrow,” “God’s Puppet” and “Tomorrow I’ll Be Gone” are the highlights), the stylistic consistency and Tate’s engaging personality keep Liberty appealing. Stranger-than-fiction art note: the squiggly face drawn on the back cover bears a striking resemblance to Bart Simpson, who hadn’t yet been introduced to the world.