This article is second in three part series on Miracle Legion/Mark Mulcahy. For article one, which provides background information on front-man Mark Mulcahy, click here.
Released and re-issued on Mulcahy’s very own record label, Mezzotint, Portrait of a Damaged Family is the fourth and last (insofar) full-length studio album of the cult rock band Miracle Legion. Formed in Connecticut in 1983, they’ve since earned moderate fame in their home New Haven, but also internationally. Never breaking into mainstream fame, their records have nonetheless boasted college-rock hit status. Miracle Legion‘s best known releases include their first EP, ‘The Backyard’; first full length album, ‘Surprise Suprise’; and their latest LP: the subject of this post, ‘Portrait of a Damaged Family’.
Across the years, band members have left and joined, with Mulcahy and lead guitarist Ray Neal being the only surviving original members. The duo have experienced series of set-backs across their career. Firstly, half the band leaving left them with what was potentially a band-ending situation. However, they chose to continue, touring as a duo, a set-up which worked well for them (see below). From 1993, they were left in limbo as a result of legal issues with their (now debunked) record label Morgan Creek. These issues forced a four year quasi-hiatus, where the band was still in existence, but unable to release.
‘Portrait of a Damaged Family’ was reissued following the reformation of the band (with new members) in 2016. The reissue saw the track listing shuffled, and the inclusion of a new track, entitled ‘The Depot’. A folk/college rock hybrid, the album is standard of Mulcahy’s preferred style, mixing rhythm guitar with simple drum tracks to produce songs which are both catchy, and easy to listen to. The lack of extensive orchestration often allows the finger-picking of the guitars to take centre stage. Mulcahy’s voice is rarely strained, and this helps add to the easy accessibility of the record.
The album is a treasure trove of great songs, with only a couple of tracks (including ‘Good for Her’) failing to live up to the overall high quality of the album. Standout tracks include the opening track: ‘You’re My Blessing’, as well as ‘Homer’, ‘I Wish I was Danny Kaye’ (An American actor from the mid-20th century), and ‘Madison Park’. When you are unable to list all the good tracks from an album on an already overly-extensive list, it is a clear sign that the album is of the utmost quality.
Not picked up by many of the mainstream music sites, Miracle Legion‘s reissue was one of the best releases of 2016. Accessible, catchy, and worthy of greater appreciation, ‘Portrait of a Damaged Family’ is an album you shouldn’t let pass you by for any longer.
Artist: Miracle Legion
Release date: 1997 (Reissue: April 16, 2016)
Play time: 53
Standout track: Screamin’