"A charcuterie board of delightful music, with all sorts of flavours, textures and surprises": Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel keep it leisurely on Timeless Flight

Timeless Flight: The Steve Harley album that followed the one with the big hit on it

Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel: Timeless Flight cover art
(Image: © EMI)

You can trust Louder Our experienced team has worked for some of the biggest brands in music. From testing headphones to reviewing albums, our experts aim to create reviews you can trust. Find out more about how we review.

Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel: Timeless Flight

Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel: Timeless Flight cover art

(Image credit: EMI)

Red is a Mean, Mean Colour
White, White Dove
All Men Are Hungry
Black or White
Everything Changes
Nothing is Sacred
Don't Go, Don't Cry

A hack for the East London Advertiser who swapped deadlines for limousines, Steve Harley remains a hero to desk job dreamers everywhere. After forming the glam rock band Cockney Rebel in 1972, he wrote his own headlines for the next few years, and 1975’s The Best Years Of Our Lives found Harley effectively a solo artist, although he persisted with the "& Cockney Rebel" part of the band name for a while. 

The album contained the hit single Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me), and the world was his oyster. But punk was on the horizon, and the funkier, if less thrilling Timeless Flight that followed didn't quite fit with the times. 

“My fans weren’t interested in punk,” Harley told Classic Rock. "The Sex Pistols… I was five years too old to dig that, why should I pretend to dig it? It wasn’t aimed at me. I wasn’t a punk, I wasn’t going to jump on any bandwagon, I wasn’t even going to pretend that it had any merit to it. 

"It was a social phenomenon, it wasn’t music. It didn’t take the place of music, did it? So… it came and it went. It allowed a lot of people with exceedingly limited ability to get on the telly. I couldn’t really care less, to be honest."

Lightning bolt page divider

Every week, Album of the Week Club listens to and discusses the album in question, votes on how good it is, and publishes our findings, with the aim of giving people reliable reviews and the wider rock community the chance to contribute. 

Join the group now.

Lightning bolt page divider

Other albums released in January 1976

  • Desire - Bob Dylan
  • Frampton Comes Alive! - Peter Frampton
  • Coney Island Baby - Lou Reed
  • Station to Station - David Bowie
  • Futuristic Dragon - T.Rex
  • Run with the Pack - Bad Company
  • Look into the Future - Journey
  • Born to Die - Grand Funk Railroad
  • How Dare You! - 10cc
  • Inner Worlds - Mahavishnu Orchestra
  • Native Sons - Loggins and Messina
  • Sandman - Harry Nilsson
  • To the Hilt - Golden Earring


What they said...

"Steve Harley followed up the ambitious fusion of pop and artsy glam rock he perfected on The Best Years of Our Lives with this even more ambitious and artsy outing. Unfortunately, Timeless Flight neglects the strong pop hooks that made the former so appealing. Much of the album finds Harley getting bogged down in deliberately impenetrable wordplay (Black or White (And Step on It)) and songs that, despite slick arrangements, are rather hookless vehicles for the verbose lyrics (Don't Go, Don't Cry). (AllMusic)

"Harley almost seems intent on sheer hooklessness, avoiding any of the trademark oddball hooks that made him interesting in the first place - perhaps he thought those were too gimmicky and that glam was too juvenile - now he's grownup and making mature music for serious consideration. But if there's a recipe for a formerly exciting artist slipping into menopausal boredom, that would be it." (Alltime Records)

"Having already established himself as a major rock innovator in Europe and a growing cult figure in the States, Harley now reaches out to grasp the big rock market via his new LP. Harley's approach is unique enough to earn Cockney Rebel recognition as David Bowie's favourite band. Harley's coarsely narrative vocal technique lends credibility to his deeply imaginative lyrics. Though the entire album will delight FM listeners with taste. AM programmers should not overlook Everything Changes and Don't Go. Don't Cry. (Cashbox)


What you said...

Mike Canoe: Maybe I still have Zinc Alloy rolling around in my head but Timeless Flight has more than a little in common with our recent T. Rex pick, starting with the naming style of *guy's name* & *band's name.* It's important to them that you know Steve Harley (or Marc Bolan) is the star here (You don't see anyone else's face on the album covers, do you?) even if the album is presented as a band work. 

It also has the similarly gorgeous background vocals and plumped up instrumentation of Zinc Alloy... Timeless Flight arguably also shares common ground with art rock like Roxy Music or Be Bop Deluxe, where pastoral passages can suddenly yield to futuristic, fantastical solos. Current favourites are Understand, Nothing Is Sacred, and Don't Go, Don't Cry but this is one I'll keep listening to.

Alex Hayes: For me, Timeless Flight by Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel joins other Club picks like Angel's debut and Solo In Soho by Phil Lynott, in that, although it's a pretty interesting album for us to cover, and is also far from a bad listening experience, it's not one that I would necessarily make the effort to listen to again.

My previous knowledge of Cockney Rebel's oeuvre begins and ends with that song. I will say that I've always been a pretty big fan of it, though. It's blessed with great vibes (lyrics notwithstanding), and is perfect background music to accompany a decent night out in the pub. Timeless Flight also has a pleasant, relaxing atmosphere running through its grooves. It's an extremely laid-back album.], one that carries more than a little bit of a whiff of the baking hot summer of '76 about it, something that was later acknowledged by Steve Harley himself in interviews.

It's not an album that I would personally associate with classic rock, although that isn't a problem in and of itself. Although this is music that is outside my usual wheelhouse, I did get some enjoyment out of it. One thing that I will say about Timeless Flight is that it's an album that initially seems to offer decent lyrical insight, but, on further inspection, fails to deliver convincingly in that regard. There's too much clever wordplay here that rarely actually pays off for me. Red Is A Mean, Mean Colour is an anti-communism song apparently? Well, okay then, if you say so.

It's still a pretty good track, though, and Understand is even better, definitely the highlight of the album. Timeless Flight may drag on a little in places, but this is a decent collection of songs all told. 6/10.

Karl Gibson It's not classic, it's not rock, has no 'hits' and is not on a par with Human Menagerie or Best Years of Our Lives but, I too rate Timeless Flight among Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel's best work, with a special mention to the contributions of Jim Cregan and Duncan Mackay . There are a couple of weaker tracks on side two but side one is definitely worth a listen, especially Understand.

David Woods
This is one of my favourite albums. I never get sick of listening to it (especially on headphones, to pick up what a great recording it is).

John Davidson: Steve Harley was one of those artists in the 70s that was always being talked about but when I think back I can only remember the hit single Make Me Smile which was released on the album before this.

A bit glam, a bit art-pop, more aimed at grown-ups than Bolan, Slade or Suzi Quatro but not as popular as Elton John or David Bowie. Timeless Flight sees him abandon the up-tempo crowd pleasers of The Best Years of Our Lives in favour of a laid-back mood that neither rocks nor pops.

The lyrics are as quirky and interesting as ever and Harley's Bowie(ish) vocal delivery remains the main draw, but the music while well played and produced doesn't inspire repeat listenings. Much like Bolan's Zinc Alloy, this isn't representative of the artists at their best and I wouldn't recommend it as an entry point.

Gary Claydon: Bit of a slow burn is Timeless Flight. An album that definitely takes a few listens to really get into. Not that I ever did. Get into it, that is. I liked (and bought) the early Cockney Rebel singles Judy Teen and Mister Soft. They had a sound and the band an image that flitted around the avant-garde edges of the glam scene. Clever songwriting coupled with Harley's distinctive Bowie-esque vocals gave them an appealing quirkiness. I admit, it was sometime later, maybe my late 20s, before I got around to digging deeper into their catalogue. My interest waned pretty quickly after the first couple of albums, though.

As for Timeless Flight, it saw a more laid-back approach than the earlier stuff. So laid-back that it's almost soporific at times. It has its moments. However, one of the best tracks wasn't on the original album. Throw Your Soul Down Here was a single b-side and is a bonus track on the CD version that really deserved to be included the first time around. Harley was always a thoughtful and interesting songwriter and Timeless Flight is worth taking a bit of time over. Ultimately, though, it doesn't really grab me.

R.I.P. Steve Harley.

Greg Schwepe: As is the case about half the time, I have no idea and have never heard of a particular week’s album selection, because we aim for… not the obvious! It might have been something popular (or not!) in the UK, but never heard at all in the rock'n'roll capital I live in called the “Midwest USA.” And such is the case of Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel’s Timeless Flight. Unfortunately, I had seen notes about Steve Harley’s passing on various music sites I follow, and we seem to always honour the passing of a fallen musician by reviewing one of their albums shortly thereafter.

The nice thing about not being familiar with a particular album for an artist is that you have no idea if this is “the album everyone likes because it’s out of the norm” or “the album everyone hates because it’s out of the norm.” You can listen objectively and form your own opinion without any baggage of knowing the rest of their catalogue.

After the quirky, out-of-context “almost made me bail in the first 20 seconds” intro of Red Is a Mean, Mean Colour, I instantly fell into something that really interested me. Loved the vocals, the guitar, the keyboards, the lyrics. Always important at the beginning of an album!

An enjoyable first track led me to White White Dove, then Understand, which ended up being my favourite song on the album. Each successive song kept my interest. I then realized even though I knew nothing about Steve Harley, I was encountering “unfamiliarity sprinkled with familiarity” (and there’s the banner line for the online review!). 

The more I listened I heard bits and pieces of artists who I’m very familiar with. Heard a little Al Stewart. Some Ian Hunter/Mott. Maybe some Bowie. And even Mark Knopfler and Dickey Betts. And is there also something that sounded like Crowded House? That kind of laidback acoustic vibe made for a very pleasant surprise. Listened a second time after the first.

Overall, this was not a huge “what have I been missing?” moment, but this album got saved to my Favorites and explored a little more of the Steve Harley catalogue. 8 out of 10 for me on another nice find.

Brett Deighton: I’m always excited when an album goes up that I don’t own. In this case I think I know why. Just not in my wheelhouse, I guess. Definitely some interesting arrangements and I did enjoy those vocal harmonies on Red Is A Mean, Mean Colour. Understand is interesting too with the piano and some pretty cool sounds. Overall I just couldn’t get into this one and at just forty-odd minutes it was over before I knew it. Not going to be one of my higher scores, but glad I gave it a listen.

Hai Kixmiller: A wet, stormy, Sunday evening. My first attempt at listening to Timeless Flight was definitely a crash-and-burn scenario. Paraphrasing Julio; [This is] bad. [This is] so bad. [It] should be in detention. (Easy Money, 1983)

Monday afternoon I decided to give it a second listening. This time I involved alcohol. The album seemed to sound more appealing this time. I kind of pushed the vocals and lyrics to the back of my mind and focused on the music. It was actually kind of enjoyable. 

The guitar solo in Red Is A Mean, Mean Colour sounds like there's some backwards masking or reverse-delay effects going on. Very cool. This deserves a repeat listen and a libation in its honour. White White Dove comes in with a serious funky groove and I get vibes of Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers of the band Chic. The chorus part strays a bit for me but the guitar solo at the end has me nodding my head in approval. A couple of repeat listens and another libation is in order. 

I'm starting to doze off as the piano for Understand begins to ring out its pretty melody. For some reason the lyric "been playing cat and mouse now for too long" really caught my subconscious's attention, and is probably the reason why, at around the 3:15 time stamp (when those chirping kind of notes start being played by the synthesizer), I get this idea that this song sounds like Captain & Tennille making a porn soundtrack. Yep, imagine Muskrat Susie and Muskrat Sam with their own OnlyFans page. I laughed and wondered aloud, what the hell is wrong with me? Definitely need more libations. 

This is starting to get good. The music of All Men Are Hungry hits me like a Keanu... that's Hawaiian for a cool breeze. The beautiful melody is like a casual stroll through a long, lost, blissful, rose-coloured memory. I replayed this one about half a dozen times. The only other song that caught my attention was Nothing Is Sacred, the acoustic flamenco/Spanish style guitar playing was a fun listen. Multiple repeats of this one as well.

The musical style of this album is just all over the place. Rock guitar, funk guitar, Spanish guitar, Piano, synthesizer, harpsichord, it's all here and it's all mixed together and coalesced with a unique vocal style. Timeless Flight is a charcuterie board of delightful music. It has all sorts of flavours, textures and surprises. But you're gonna have to want to listen to it. This one is definitely not gonna jump out at you. Oh... and if you don't like it on the first listen, try having a libation while listening to it. Happy listening, and cheers.


Final score: 6.76 (43 votes cast, total score 291)

Join the Album Of The Week Club on Facebook to join in. The history of rock, one album at a time.

Classic Rock Magazine

Classic Rock is the online home of the world's best rock'n'roll magazine. We bring you breaking news, exclusive interviews and behind-the-scenes features, as well as unrivalled access to the biggest names in rock music; from Led Zeppelin to Deep Purple, Guns N’ Roses to the Rolling Stones, AC/DC to the Sex Pistols, and everything in between. Our expert writers bring you the very best on established and emerging bands plus everything you need to know about the mightiest new music releases.