Overture

‘Hothouse Flowers’ has long been one of my favorite bands. From the eponymous ‘Thing Of Beauty’ to their moving cover of ‘I Can See Clearly Now’ I am always captivated by their grasp of the emotional power of music.

Hothouse Flowers has long been one of my favorite bands. From the eponymous ‘Thing Of Beauty to their moving cover of ‘I Can See Clearly Now I am always captivated by their grasp of the emotional power of music.

An Irish band, they fall musically between two Irish giants, U2 and Van Morrison, capturing the joy and intensity of the former, blending it with the warmth and soul of the latter. Liam O’Maonlai’s vocals are the band’s signature sound, with his piano playing a major factor in nearly every tune. Strong rhythyms remind me of U2’s Adam Clayton/Larry Mullen Jr. combination. A differentiating factor is the lack of real rock guitar leads. Instead, the guitar, whether acoustic or electric, supports the rhythym section or intermingles with the piano. Not a negative, just a difference. Strong use of horn sections and saxophones behind Liam’s vocals create a strong resemblance to Van Morrison’s early work.

Some highlights:

  • People (1988)
    • Don’t Go – Liam O’Maonlai’s piano solo is quintessential; lightning fast, but still somehow emotionally evocative.
    • It’ll Be Easier in the Morning – One of the reasons I consider HF a blues band of sorts. Like most blues tunes, the message is not very profound, but manages to sound deep and meaningful.
  • Home (1990)
    • Give It Up – Sounding ever so much like Van Morrison’s 1970 album His Street Band and the Choir the Flowers foray into American soul music. Big horn section and choral background flow through and around Liam’s lead vocals.
    • I Can See Clearly Now – Slow, deliberate, and beautiful. More poignant and hopeful than Johnny Nash’s original, sometimes this one just feels right.
    • Movies – Musically, it’s about Peter O’Toole’s bass bouncing off Liam’s piano. Lyrically, it’s about cinema-induced fantasies and adventures. One of my two favorites.
  • Songs From the Rain (1993)
    • Be Good – Simple bouncy fun, this may have been the first Flowers tune I ever heard, back when cable radio was new.
    • Thing of Beauty – Ahhhh. It is what it says. Fiachna O’Braondin’s guitar stands out rhythmically, writing the motif for the rest of the tune. Full of glowing word pictures, swelling larger and more intense right up to the end.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *