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The Sports ex-frontman Stephen Cummings sounds more rejuvenated than ever on 'Prisoner of Love'

It's an intriguing listen from the heralded songwriter.

Armed with his first taste of music in a few years, it’s as if Stephen Cummings has turned full circle. The earnest, jittery sport has reunited with Michael Gudinski and returns to the well established whimsy falsetto and puckish intrigue that manages to tickle the parts no one else seems to reach.

The autumnal quality of this record unfurls slowly and many songs belie a creative solidity that has developed over decades. Like great outsiders including Robert Wyatt and Robyn Hitchcock, Stephen Cummings extends his vaudevillian pop arrangements on this album. Beneath the chipper exterior lay ragged tension and tortured songwriting nous. Songs like ‘Mr Ripley’ and ‘Poor Pilgrim’ are as strong as the pleading ‘Don’t Break Up With Me’. Some of his prior work had the sense of weary defeat surrounding the whole affair, yet here he sounds rejuvenated as he toys with a sussed economy.

The mastery of atmosphere in ‘The Wind Blew Hard’ suggests Cummings is quite immune from passing trends and he should occupy a space like Neil Diamond. There are many delights on Prisoner Of Love, and Cummings is a benchmark of an era which delights with snappy dynamism.

8.5