Sharleen Spiteri, Johnny McEllhone (Altered Images, Hipsway) and Ally McErlaine formed Texas in Glasgow in the late 1980s, signing to Mercury and releasing their debut EP Everyday Now (an ambitious studio and live six tracker) that is now much sought after. Sharleen had been working as a hairdresser, absorbing musical influences ranging from The Clash to Prince, Diana Ross, Blondie and Marvin Gaye. A soul girl with a controlled contralto Spiteri was a natural front for the boys’ musical prowess. They were so evidently gifted that it was no surprise when the Tim Palmer-produced debut album Southside hit the #3 slot in the UK with attendant single smashes “I Don’t Want a Lover”, “Thrill Has Gone” and “Everyday Now” tweaking sales towards the Gold status of 100,000 plus.
Mothers Heaven (1991) and a cover of Al Green’s “Tired of Being Alone” were critically well received and commercially impressive. Noted for their bluesy slide guitar, box fresh rhythms and that Spiteri voice Texas seemed to be on the verge of superstardom when “So In Love With You” (a virtual homage to Al Green) decorated the third album Rick’s Road but it was White on Blonde that caused the breakout stir. Veteran producer Mike Hedges and Dave Stewart added a glossy sonic edge to the songs, enhanced them with strings and loaded the first half with a run of hits that propelled Texas into mainstream public consciousness. By midsummer of 1997 with “Black Eyed Boy” seeping out on the airwaves Texas had moved into the zone where bands transform from contenders to champions.
The Hush was no less impressive and thanks to the charged video for “Summer Son” and a breathtaking performance at Glastonbury Festival Texas ended the 20th century on a massive high.
In 2000 The Greatest Hits confirmed their popularity, turning 6xPlatinum, also hitting #1 in time for Christmas. Suddenly everything here sounded like a bona fide hit and they also found space for two new songs, “Inner Smile” and “Guitar Song.”
This is an obvious place to discover Texas. It is also available in different formats, including the Deluxe Edition bonus disc that adds some fine club mixes, including Roger Sanchez’ remix of the single “I’ll See It Through”, co-written with Guy Chambers.
Careful What You Wish For and Red Book reactivated the band before they went on a sabbatical, allowing Sharleen to release her debut solo album Melody where she explores a different strain of European style chanson with producer Bernard Butler. Two years later The Movie Songbook (2010) followed. A spectacular selection of the singer’s favourite soundtrack songs – “Xanadu”, “God Bless the Child”, “What’s New Pussycat”, “The Windmills of Your Mind”, Cat People (Putting Out Fire)” et al – this is an essential part of her own story and is well worth seeking out.
The BBC Sessions (2007) is a cool collection of radio highlights from 1989 to 2003. The most recent studio album is The Conversation, for PIAS Recordings. This includes their terrific collaboration with Richard Hawley on “Dry Your Eyes” and a Live in Scotland Deluxe edition bonus disc recorded at the Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival in 2011.
And don’t overlook Texas 25 where they rework tracks from the past and include new songs with the single “Start A Family” (the video is poignant for starring Alan Rickman) premiering online in 2015.
With live shows in the offing and talk of new material this is the best time to dig a little deeper and find out where Texas come from.
Words: Max Bell
Intelligent, tuneful adult pop with terrific female vocals and bluesy slide guitar work.
Words: Steve Aldrich
Blessed with a stylish production and sharp commercial songs, White on Blonde made Texas into superstars everywhere except America -- a situation familiar to many British acts of the '80s and '90s. Like most of their peers, Texas failed to deliver in the U.S. because of bungled promotion, since singles like "Black Eyed Boy" could have easily fit onto adult alternative radio. Texas must have been aware of this, since they switched labels in America, releasing White on Blonde's sequel The Hush near-simultaneously in the U.S. and the U.K. -- a sure sign that they were aiming for the big time. As it turns out, they pulled off a minor coup with The Hush -- they build on the strengths of White on Blonde, creating a sophisticated, sexy pop album that manages to balance commercial and creative concerns, with seemingly very little effort. It won't please longtime fans, who might be pining for a return to the rock of their early records, but the album's lush blend of melody, blue-eyed soul, dance and pop is undeniably alluring. Wisely, they take their cue from Sharleen Spiteri's hushed vocals, which are sultry but never histrionic. Some could argue that the entire affair is too self-consciously mature -- after all, the majority of the album is devoted to mid-tempo pop numbers, and even the up-tempo cuts never work up much of a sweat -- but the fact remains, few bands are capable of delivering a mainstream pop record as assured and listenable as this.
Words: Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Unexpectedly, Texas became a popular sensation prior to the release of White on Blonde when Chris Evans made the soulful single "Say What You Want" the de facto theme song on his morning program on Radio 1. On the strength of his support, Texas was catapulted to previously unthinkable success, and the majority of the fans who thought the number one single was fine shouldn't have been disappointed with the full-length album. A combination of roots-rock and soul, White on Blonde occasionally has more style than substance, but Sharleen Spiteri's gorgeous vocals and the band's professionalism make the record a charming, ingratiating listen.
Words: Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Texas took a bit of time to deliver the follow-up to Hush -- an indication that the group was either aware that some fans didn't feel the record was up to snuff, or an indication that the group wasn't quite sure where to go next, a theory bolstered by the appearance of a greatest-hits album -- a traditional measure for a band biding their time. When they finally did release their sixth album, Careful What You Wish For, in the fall of 2003, times had changed: they were no longer a shoo-in for the top of the U.K. charts, nor did they have a U.S. contract. Faced with this situation, the group crafted a very safe, very mature, very British set of soulful adult pop. There are the usual concessions to hipness -- a few of the beats gleam with modernity, there is the de rigueur cameo from rappers -- but this is solidly a smooth, soulful collection of well-crafted pop that intentionally plays it safe. It's not quite as lush as Hush, which highlighted Sharleen Spiteri's sexiness, nor is it the crackerjack, stylish, modern, blue-eyed soul of White on Blonde, which remains their highwater mark. Instead, it's a straight-ahead album that plays to their strengths without exploiting them. In other words, while this is certainly enjoyable as it spins, it doesn't provide many memorable moments. Since the band consciously tried to construct an album that evokes their best work, that's not an entirely surprising result -- they're so intent on delivering a specific sound, they've neglected to spend as much time on the songs -- and it's not a bad result, either, at least on the surface. But once you dig beneath the surface, there's not as much to offer as on White on Blonde, and, for that matter, the surface doesn't glisten as seductively as on Hush, either.
Words: Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Texas is a good name for this band, whose sound is open, brooding and just a bit on the twangy side; if you can imagine a sound somewhere between the dour, minimalist bluesiness of Cowboy Junkies and the yearning, gospel-tinged bombast of early U2, you'll have a good idea what to expect. Singer Sharleen Spiteri has the perfect voice for this kind of thing: it's low-ptched and dark-hued, and is shown off to best effect when she's belting out big, cathartic numbers like the title track and "Why Believe in You." Ally McErlaine is a brilliant slide guitarist who can move from grungy, greasy rock to desolate acoustic Delta blues without missing a beat. It's true that the group still needs to digest its influences a bit -- "Dream Hotel," in particular, sounds like a U2 reject -- but most of the time, Texas does a good job of mapping out its own territory. And this is just their second album, remember.
Words: Rick Anderson
Texas' third album was released in 1993 on Mercuy Records and includes 'So Called Friend', 'You Owe It All To Me' and 'So In Love With You'.
From a certain angle, Texas could be seen as proto-Amy Winehouse. In 1997, a full seven years before Winehouse's debut Frank, Texas reinvented themselves as a blue-eyed soul group via their fourth album, White on Blonde. Buoyed by the hits "Say What You Want" and "Black Eyed Boy" -- the former sultry, the latter bouncing along like Motown -- the album was a smash throughout Europe, arguably opening the door for Winehouse and later Adele to walk through, but Texas never saw the same level of prominence, particularly in the U.S. Maybe that's why they've decided to celebrate their quarter-century anniversary by reworking a substantial chunk of their catalog with the Truth & Soul collective, who supported both Amy and Adele on various recordings. Texas 25 has eight of those reworked hits, every one now emphasizing the group's retro-soul leanings, plus four brand-new songs that suit this style. Occasionally, the group sounds a little bit older and wiser -- vocalist Sharleen Spiteri is slightly huskier than she was when the songs were first essayed -- which is an attitude that fits nicely with the stylish groove of Truth & Soul. It's a subtle difference -- there's not a world of difference between the original and remake of "Say What You Want" -- but it's enough to make Texas 25 seem like a celebration, and one that long-term fans will likely enjoy.
Words: Stephen Thomas Erlewine