The Beautiful South
The Beautiful South, accurately described by the New York Times as having "music by Mary Poppins, lyrics by Charles Manson," were a well-respected English band in the early '90s when their singles collection, Carry on up the Charts, became a surprise smash across Europe in 1994, selling in quantities on the level of the Beatles and Michael Jackson. Members of the Housemartins formed the band, with main vocalist Paul Heaton turning into a blue-eyed soul crooner who specializes in alternately witty, caustic and sensitive lyrics, and guitarist David Rotheray penning melodies influenced by everyone from Burt Bacharach to Paul McCartney to Marvin Gaye. This variety -- helped along by a large band and three vocalists -- is the band's strength, but their smooth, hummable music; tart lyrics; and a very personal, British outlook have ensured that they stay as unknown in the United States as they are famous in much of the rest of the world. Heaton -- an outspoken, free-thinking socialist -- puts his money where his mouth is, by distributing all the band's profits equally. Vocalist Briana Corrigan left after the band's best album 0898 in 1992 and was replaced by the equally fine Jacqui Abbot.