The Blue Nile
's debut album has a rather fascinating genesis. Scotland's Linn Electronics wanted a demo track to demonstrate the fidelity and versatility of their new recording console and tapped a struggling local trio, the Blue Nile
, to provide it. Their effort was a deliberately disjunctive song called "A Walk Across the Rooftops." To demonstrate the recording equipment's dynamic range and clarity, the song was arranged most peculiarly, with vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, drums, and full string and horn sections all appearing, but never at the same time. Linn liked the song so much that they formed a record label and bankrolled the recording of this full album. The seven lengthy tracks on A Walk Across the Rooftops
all follow the model of the opener, with Paul Buchanan
's rich voice at the center of near-symphonic arrangements that manage to sound lush and incredibly austere at the same time. The tempos are deadly slow, with the most upbeat track, "Tinseltown in the Rain," barely rising above a graceful saunter, and the inventive arrangements make extensive use of empty space. This was a popular album for demonstrating the lack of hiss and background noise in the then-new compact disc medium, but A Walk Across the Rooftops
works even better as a piece of music than as a stereo demonstration record.