March 17, 2023

Vintage Lancashire musician Adrian Melling a.k.a. Mel, has been living the life of a rock’n’roll troubadour ever since he dropped out of school at fourteen years old to join, I kid you not, the circus, working in its travelling fairground. He has gone on to perform pretty well all possible functions on the music scene over the past five decades, including record shop proprietor, promoter, tour manager, producer, label boss, and band member and leader. His combo The Outsiders UK toured extensively and released four albums, and now Mel is back with his new band The Mel Outsider Reformation, and their debut album Miss Victory V. It’s a concept album of sorts, recalling events from his extensive and flamboyant career.

Mel and band

Mel’s vocal style is half-sung, half spoken word, in the loose style Mark Knopfler or perhaps Ian Hunter of Mott The Hoople. He begins this odyssey with the song Disley Blonde, which describes an encounter in Disley, Manchester – the backing music rolls along in a laid-back style as he drawls equally laconically over the top. The backing is far from incidental though, and this one includes a succinct but superb piano solo from Barney Williams of The Animals.

The catchy Misty Colour Hotel begins with a twangy, country guitar riff and includes proggy, horn-backed breaks and a sax solo towards the end from Andy Morell, who leads the Pocket Central horn section. Queen Of The City is a gently melodic ballad with something of the feel of Dire Straits’ Romeo and Juliet, especially in the quiet, half-spoken verse in the middle. It’s the first of several duets; in this one, substantial sections of the song are taken by Ellie Coast, one of two female vocalists to grace the set – the video is featured at the foot of this page. This is followed by the title song, which describes an intense, but somewhat regrettable encounter with a beauty queen dubbed Miss Victory V, accompanied by an ominous funk backing with a bit of deep, parpy saxophone and almost jazzy breaks.

There’s a fair degree of humour sprinkled throughout the lyrical content, and visible in some of the song titles, such as Much More Than A Three-Chord Wonder, which is a sweet song about someone making you feel good even if you’re not that good really, Bikini Diet Plan, which doesn’t seem to have anything to do with swimsuits or eating habits, and the excellent Education, in which Mel bemoans the ignorant idiocy he seems to encounter often, which might be annoying, but it’s also pretty amusing. S Bend Phantom is another great song title, if somewhat surreal!

A 13-song, hour-long run continues with Real Go Getter, showcasing rapid-fire vocals that veer towards rap territory, but also features a great solo on electric piano, and the collection ends with the groovy funk of Bad Boogaloo, with its conga-backed rhythm. The set gets better with every listen, as different musical, lyrical and vocal aspects present themselves at every turn, with cues from acts as diverse as The Troggs and Echo & The Bunnymen. It’s fun, and the musicianship is both varied and excellent.

Miss Victory V by The Mel Outsider Reformation is now available on CD and vinyl from Planet Records