A song sung by a noting mother sets a brightly sunlit, era-through-era, coast-to-coast journey in motion, as Michael Head and The Red Elastic Band return with a joyous soundtrack to cherished memories and long-held dreams in Ciao Ciao Bambino. As the first new music to emerge since Head’s unanimously-praised second solo album, Dear Scott, hit the UK Official Album Chart’s Top Ten in June 2022, the revered former Pale Fountains, The Strands and Shack figurehead has saved a radiant, ‘vintage Mick’ return just for when the year’s finishing line looms into view.
If personal equilibrium led to the creative balance of Dear Scott, then a further year-and-a-half of settled reflection, health, happiness and artistic curiosity has pushed Head and his band from contained contentment to overt and unapologetic ambition. Sequestered for a second time in West Kirby on the ocean-facing Wirral peninsula to record with Bill Ryder-Jones, Ciao Ciao Bambino strolls in with an effortlessly assured, promenading sense of cheery, sunlit confidence.
Referencing Connie Francis’ song of the same name, sung to Head at bedtimes long past, the single also namechecks David Bowie and his cataclysmic impact on the young songwriter. Giving both Paris and Blackpool equally romantic dues, the single offers a dream-like, winding path through Head’s life as it’s been lived and glows to the very last note with the relief, joy and hope that love brings.
Head says: “’Ciao Ciao Bambino’ came to me one night when I was thinking about the first words I ever heard. It was a song called ‘Ciao Ciao Bambino’ that my mum used to sing to me when I was a baby. The song then kinda evolved from there and became a journey through time.”
Picking up accolades including Mojo and Record Collector’s Album Of The Year, whilst happily accepting No.3, against stiff competition, in a round-up of 2022 releases from Uncut, Head and his permanent Red Elastic Band – featuring Phil Murphy (drums), Tom Powell (bass), Danny Murphy (guitars) and Nathaniel Cummings (guitars/backing vocals) – discovered that Dear Scott would be a catalyst for no more of the same, but even bigger opportunities, after coming through the most uncertain of times together in the years prior.
The sun rose higher still for the quintet, not least on stage, where Head and the band took to the biggest, most welcoming venues to date, including a rapturous return to London and Shepherd’s Bush Empire, before returning home to play sold out nights at Liverpool’s Invisible Wind Factory. After a run of hand-picked outdoor summertime dates the band travelled long haul to play a run of eagerly-awaited dates in Japan earlier this year, offering ample time for Head to turn to lesser-known pages of his songbook as well as roll out his greatest hits.
With 2024 offering the milestone of the 40th anniversary of the release of The Pale Fountains adored, cult-classic debut album, Pacific Street, featuring the ethereal single Unless and early set-list favourite, Something On My Mind, Head and his fans can bask in a moment of reflection before landing back in the present. Plans for music, live appearances and more are set to be announced from the start of next year.