In 2003, to great acclaim, THE SWIMMING POOL Q's released their disc, Royal Academy of Reality (BRN-CD-145) on BAR/NONE RECORDS. Produced by Q’s singer/songwriter JEFF CALDER and producer/engineer PHIL HADAWAY, this was the first Swimming Pool Q's full-length album in over ten years. Across the spectrum of American media, RAR has generated the highest praise.
Royal Academy contains 20 tracks recorded at various studios and remote locations in Atlanta and Savannah. During the sessions, The Q's' core line-up since 1982 [BILL BURTON, drums; Jeff Calder, vocals, rhythm guitar; BOB ELSEY, lead guitar] was augmented by Neill Calabro (vibes), Marty Kearns (keyboards) and percussionist Pete Jarkunas, who played bass on The Q's' 1981 debut, The Deep End.
ANNE RICHMOND BOSTON, The Swimming Pool Q's' exquisite vocalist, returned to active service as the making of Royal Academy entered its final stage. Her alto achieves its characteristic emotional effect, most evident on the duet, "Radio in Memphis". The Q's received additional support from a distinguished cast of more than two dozen musicians, including: BRENDAN O'BRIEN (producer of BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, TRAIN, PEARL JAM &c); MOE TUCKER (drummer of THE VELVET UNDERGROUND); TOM GRAY (composer of "Money Changes Everything" by Atlanta greats, The BRAINS); SAMARAI CELESTIAL (the late drummer for SUN RA).
Contributing to the album's rare atmospheric beauty and reinforcing the Royal Academy's themes, The Q's supplement their guitar-based sound with glass harp, Clavioline, harpsichord, dulcimer, bagpipes, Leslie steel guitar, muted trumpet, turntables, tamboura, sitar and the Chinese version of the koto, known as the chang.
As fans of The Q's previous work might expect, the group's incomparable lead guitarist, Bob Elsey, conducts his solos in trigonometric fashion throughout (see, "Yin Yang" and "For No Reason"). Drummer Bill Burton’s undiminished powers of invention are of particular note on the closing 5/4 jam, "Alpha Centauri's Rise", The Q's tribute to coastal net-casters who secretly serve as interstellar senders-and-receivers.
The composition of Royal Academy of Reality is punctuated by ambient interludes ("Cosmogonical Heliopolis") and ecological concerns ("The Earth Makes Us Feel Things"). Still, "Everybody Knows Tomorrow" and "Out of Nothing" affirm that The Swimming Pool Q's have lost none of the Pop sensibility that defined their mid-80s's work. Jeff Calder's familiar growl and wicked sense of humor remain intact, especially on rambunctious jaunts like "The Do What and The Who What", wherein the song's protagonist has a flashing light on the top of his head, so the planes won't hit him in the dark. Among the Royal Academy's many highlights, The Velvet's Moe Tucker pounded drum and tambourine one afternoon between 2:45 and 3:00, forming the basis for "Wheel of the Sun".
Royal Academy of Reality reestablishes The Swimming Pool Q's as an American band of first consequence.
Reviews"Royal Academy of Reality is an ambitious and successful summer blockbuster of a release...a sexy tour de force...glorious odes to the solar system. It's an anthem of the sun that would bust out in blows against the empire if anyone had the energy to launch a wooden ship, much less a rocket." - VILLAGE VOICE