Delusions Of Grandeur

Fleming & John

Universal Records, 1995

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


With the success of their single "Ugly Girl," people are starting to take notice of the true "alternative" pop group Fleming & John. (Anyone who can successfully work instruments like the oud into a pop song deserves to be called alternative.) And while people are busy discovering the group's latest work The Way We Are (which we reviewed back in May), some people might be surprised to find that Fleming & John have one other album under their belts.

Delusions Of Grandeur was originally released independently, then under the banner of Universal upon their signing of Fleming McWilliams and John Mark Painter. While this album easily hints in the direction their music was moving, and this is still a decent album, it also clearly is a work in progress.

The one thing that will strike you about this album is it's not as pleasantly goofy as my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 The Way We Are -- and I mean musically as well as lyrically. It doesn't seem like Painter tries to work in heavy instrumentation on some of these songs -- but then again, as an up-and-coming artist, why should he have felt the need to do so? Still, I have to admit that the stripped-down sound on tracks like "I'm Not Afraid" was a bit of a culture shock to me.

The second thing I noticed is that it takes a little longer for Delusions Of Grandeur to really hook you in. I've listened to this album several times, and for some reason, I just can't get into "Break The Circle" or the title track like I'd hoped I would. (I will admit that, having seen Fleming & John perform "I'm Not Afraid" live, I have more of an appreciation for this track now.)

But if you think all is lost, fear not; McWilliams and Painter lock into a solid groove starting with "Love Letters," a beautiful song that should have shown people in 1996 that this group had the potential to be stars. The power continues with "Letters In My Head," "6570," "Hanging On A Notion" and "Rain All Day."

Ah, yes... "Rain All Day." When I first heard the operatic singing at its start, I thought to myself, "I've heard this somewhere before." Indeed... the song made a return appearance on The Way We Are. While the beauty of the song is very much present on the original version, it feels like it's rushed a bit, and the song isn't given enough time to really develop into something special. (The band agreed; I interviewed McWilliams recently, and she said that she and Painter wanted the opportunity to do this song the right way on The Way We Are.) Don't get me wrong; this version still is nice -- but it is missing some small little nuances.

Yes, Delusions Of Grandeur is not as happy-go-lucky as one might have expected if you listened to The Way We Are first. And, maybe, this is a good thing, as it shows the progression from a more introspective view of life and relationships to a more relaxed, carefree attitude. If anything, this album helps to explain The Way We Are more, and let us know how it was shaped.

Delusions Of Grandeur might take some searching, but it's worth checking out and adding to your collection, especially if you can appreciate Fleming & John for more than just "Ugly Girl."

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Universal Records, and is used for informational purposes only.