Taxxi, trenchant raconteurs of the rock persuasion, have much to declare on States of Emergency, their new Fantasy album.
The British trio’s provocative, finely crafted pop songs are performed with the guts and emotional power of the rock tradition yet with a spirit uniquely their own.
The band is comprised of drummer Jeffrey Nead, keyboardist Colin Payne, and guitarist David Cumming, a first-rate vocalist who sings with fiery conviction throughout. Musical support on the new LP is provided by Bay Area guitarist Danny Chauncey; bassist Randy Jackson, who’s worked with Billy Cobham, Michael Narada Walden, and Herbie Hancock; and keyboard player Tim Gorman (“almost like a member of the band”), who recently went off to England to join the Who on an upcoming tour. States of Emergency was produced by engineer Phil Kaffel, with Taxxi co-producing.
Taxxi’s songs ostensibly cover the familiar territory of sex and rock ’n’ roll, but they’re buoyed by a wicked wit and imbued with an intelligence and sense of purpose. “The songs are like vignettes, with strong images,” notes lyricist Nead. “They’re mostly romantic fantasies, but I will say that ‘Cocktail Queen’ was inspired by an actual experience in a bar in Arizona!”
Other highlights of States of Emergency are the lead track, “Girl (New York City),” which is featured in Taxxi’s video; Cumming’s “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter,” a dramatic, beautifully wrought ballad of classic stature; and the acerbic “Gold Digger,” a tale of kissing and telling for monetary gain.
All the members of Taxxi fell into music careers somewhat inadvertently. Colin Payne was trained as a photographer in his native London but had always “tinkled around” with the piano in his family’s house. By the time he was 16, he was going off to American bases in Germany, playing piano with numerous bands. Colin eventually be-came one of England’s foremost reggae artists.
Jeff Nead, also a Londoner, never had any particular musical inclinations, but when he was 15 or so, his schoolmates’ band was in need of a drummer, and Jeff found himself learning to play as he went along.
David Cumming, born in Perth, Scotland, took up piano and guitar, and also did some repertory theater work in Perth before moving to London in the mid-Seventies.
There he met Jeff Nead, with whom he worked in a series of rock bands such as the Cleaners and the Soho Jets. At that time Cohn was a member of Trax, a popular funk/reggae group.
After getting together in London, the Taxxi boys met an American music biz type who assured them they’d be a smash in the States and convinced them to relocate. About two years ago, they came to the San Francisco Bay Area, which has more or less been their base ever since.
It was in the Bay Area that they hooked up with their present manager David Leiken, who brought them to Fantasy Records, and with engineer Phil Kaffel, who worked with the band on the production of both States of Emergency and Day for Night, Taxxi’s debut LP.
Day for Night’s strongest market worldwide was France: last summer, the track “Not Me Girl” was a bona fide club smash in the south of France, and by the fall had taken off in Paris and the rest of the country. “Girl (New York City),” the single from States of Emergency, hit the top 20 on France’s Hit Parade des Clubs immediately upon release earlier this month.
Stateside, Day for Night did exceptionally well in the Midwest, reaching Top 5 in St. Louis and Detroit and Number One in Terre Haute, Indiana.
As all this was going on, Colin, Jeff, and Dave retreated into a state of productive vagabondage, traveling around the U.S. and Europe, writing songs. They returned to the Bay Area with a passel of them and headed for the studio.
States of Emergency is a classy and convincing record which should ensure the wider recognition Taxxi deserves. As Jeff deadpans: “They’ll be hailing us all over the world.”