Swing Out Sister
is a Soul-Jazz-pop musical group best known worldwide for their 1987 song "Breakout", their only song to reach the U.S. Top Ten. Various listeners have classified their sound as everything from smooth jazz to cool jazz to acid jazz.Swing Out Sister
was formed by Andy Connell (keyboards), Martin Jackson (drums) and Corinne Drewery (vocals). (The name came from a 1945 movie starring Arthur Treacher, called Swing Out
.) Both Connell and Jackson had been playing in other bands prior to forming SOS
, while Drewery was actually a fashion designer before joining up with the band.
Together with their producer, Paul Staveley O'Duffy, they signed with Mercury Records and released their debut album, It's Better To Travel
, on May 11, 1987, which went to number one on the UK album charts; the singles "Breakout" and "Surrender" were top ten hits in the UK. "Breakout" went into the top ten in the US as well and was nominated for a Grammy in 1988.
The album registered with listeners for its mix of jazz and electro-pop, with an unusual blend of real horns, synthesizers (arranged subtly, to sound like strings), drums and xylophones, scored by producer/arranger Richard Niles. In addition to "Breakout," it also yielded the single, "Twilight World", which has been the subject of many remixes and is a dance club favorite worldwide; and "Surrender," whose powerful lead and backup vocals are accompanied by John Thirkell's powerful trumpet solo.
From the start, Drewery and Connell have been able to rely on some of the best in British and American pop to help shape their albums, including longtime partner O'Duffy; Thirkell and saxophonist Gary Barnacle, the famous Henpecked Horns
known for their work with Level 42
; percussionist Luis Jardim; guitarist Tim Cantsfield; and trumpet/fluegelhorn master Jerry Hey.
Original member Jackson, whose acoustic drums drove the "Surrender" single, left the group during the making of the second album, Kaleidoscope World
; while the liner notes give "special thanks to Martin Jackson", they also note that "Swing Out Sister
are Corinne Drewery and Andy Connell." Drewery and Connell have been the core of the group for all subsequent albums. Jackson later worked for Frank Zappa.
The second album, Kaleidoscope World
, was released in May 1989 to great acclaim. It was more classical in arrangements and songwriting. One of the duo's inspirations for the album was songwriter Jimmy Webb, who led some orchestrations for the album.
The third album, Get In Touch With Yourself
, was released in May 1992. With more danceable rhythms than ever before, it sports a cover of the Dusty Springfield classic "Am I the Same Girl," originally an instrumental for Young-Holt Unlimited
and later a vocal showcase for Barbara Allen. The album's title track, a blend of 70s soul and modern pop, gained the duo heavy airplay on smooth-jazz radio.
The fourth album, The Living Return
, was released in September 1994 and is a departure of sorts. Long-time producer Paul O'Duffy was replaced by Ray Hayden, combining a "raw" feel to the songs that in most cases were the results of jam sessions in the studio. Swing Out Sister
was now a complete band of ten members.
Few of the band's releases charted highly on the pop listings in Western countries after the successful debut album (though they became radio-airplay staples on jazz stations); however, the band had become extremely popular in Japan. Their song "Now You're Not Here" (from their album Shapes and Patterns
, one of several released only in Japan) was used as the theme to a Japanese TV program, and received a Japanese Grand Prix
(the equivalent of a Grammy
) for best international single in 1997.
The fifth album, Shapes and Patterns
, was first released in Japan only in March 1997, but it was released in Europe and USA the year after. Producer Paul O'Duffy was back at the helm, and so were the lush arrangements of the first three albums.
The sixth album, Filth and Dreams
, proved yet again that Swing Out Sister
was eager to reinvent themselves. The album was released in Japan in March 1999, and it is still the only album not released in any other country.
The seventh album, Somewhere Deep in the Night
, was released in May 2001 in Japan with subsequent release in Europe and USA. It is quintessential Swing Out Sister
: lush, brassy and stringy arrangements to melodic tunes.
Their old recording label, Universal dropped them from their contract in America due to poor CD sales, so they signed on with Shananchie Entertainment.
The band's latest album - Where Our Love Grows
- the eighth studio effort, was released in Japan on April 28, 2004. The UK edition came in July 2004. GQ
Magazine reviewed it and called it "indisputably their finest record to date".
The first album in 1987 was hailed as "jazzy, horn-colored pop that puts an '80's techno veneer to the smoky aroma of late-'50s nightclubs"! And while the techno veneer has been toned down since then, their music is still lush and upbeat. The power of Swing Out Sister
: "They don't fit niches, because they create their own time and time again."Swing Out Sister
composer/keyboardist Andy Connell cannot tour with the band any longer leaving Corinne Drewery and the others to continue touring/performing without him. Dan Swana is now keyboardist during the present tour. They have appeared on tour without the horn section, upsetting many SOS
fans, since it has always been part of the distinctive Swing Out Sister