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Life at 33 1/3   By Carl Meyer


Update July 25, 2015

Ray going country (again)

Ray Charles: Wish You Were Here Tonight (CBS)

*From the vaults of Carl Meyer, an original album review written in February 1983.*
The rhythm & blues and soul-giant Ray Charles never made any secret of his love for country music. As early as 1962 he annoyed and shocked both his own fans and country & western-fanatics – for different reasons - with the albums “Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music” (volumes 1 and 2), topping the pop charts all over the world with his exquisite version of Don Gibson’s “I Can’t Stop Loving You”.
Charles turned 52 last year, and recently signed with Columbia Records (CBS), and wouldn’t you know, he chose to start his new engagement with an album that although recorded in L.A., sounds 100% like pure Nashville - steel guitar, fiddles, mandolin, piano, female voices, a muted orchestra, the works. Both elegant and restrained, Ray prefers understatements, both when it comes to the arrangements and his own way of singing.
“Ain’t Your Memory Got No Pride At All” is a fine example of how Ray cleverly places his black heritage into the all-white setting. The musicians establish a smooth western-groove, perfect for the tongue-in-cheek lyrics, but the vocal attack is a huge holler, bringing the song closer to gospel.
By avoiding the more pompous vices of modern country music, Ray sometimes gets a chance to deliver in a narrative style reminiscent of Randy Newman (“I Wish You Were Here Tonight” is a good example). The downside is that the musicians end up playing second fiddle to Ray most of the time, they are good, but they don’t add anything to the performances.
The selection of songs is a bit uneven as well, “Let Your Love Flow” being the worst of the lot (how could he?). On the other hand we get the two aforementioned plus “I Don’t Want No Stranger Sleepin’ In My Bed” and “You’ve Got The Longest Leaving Act In Town” (what a great title!), which probably will end up on my top 10 country-recordings of 1983.
Released: January 1983
Produced by: Ray Charles
Contents: 3/4 Time/I Wish You Were Here Tonight/Ain’t Your Memory Got No Pride At All/Born To Love Me/I Don’t Want No Stranger Sleepin’ In My Bed/Let Your Love Flow/You Feel Good All Over/ String Bean/You’ve Got The Longest Leaving Act In Town/Shakin’ Your Head

Update July 18, 2015

The guitar hero and the little boy lost

Gary Moore, Back On The Streets (MCA)

*From the vaults of Carl Meyer, two album reviews written in March and April 1979.*

Gary Moore became a permanent member of Thin Lizzy last year. It’s his second run with them as he was a member six years ago as well, if only briefly. Since then he tried his luck with Skid Row and Colosseum II. His new solo album is a bouncy walk through muddy heavy rock, breakneck jazz rock(!), electric blues and tender ballads.

Phil Lynott is very much present both as bass player and singer – he even wrote three of the tracks. One of them, “Don’t Believe A Word”, is taken from Lizzy album “Johnny The Fox”. Moore transformes it into a slow, plaintive blues.

The swirling “Hurricane” is a highlight, Moore attacks his guitar, shooting razor sharp notes faster than lightning. “Song For Donna” is a nice ditty, and then there’s Lynott’s sad beauty, “Parisienne Walkways” (with a wonderful, cascading guitar solo). A versatile album, chock full of guitars.

Released: September 1978

Produced by: Chris Tsangarides and Gary Moore

Contents: Back on the Streets/Don’t Believe a Word/Fanatical Fascists/Flight of the Snow Moose/Hurricane/Song for Donna/What Would You Rather Bee or a Wasp/Parisienne Walkways.


Gary Moore: guitars, vocals

Phil Lynott: bass guitar, double bass, acoustic guitar, percussion, backing vocals, vocals

John Mole: bass guitar

Don Airey: keyboards, organ, piano

Brian Downey: drums, percussion

Simon Phillips: drums, percussion

Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers, Back In Your Life (Beserkley)

What a strange character he is, Jonathan Richman. A little boy lost in a grown up world. You either hate or love his wide-eyed and simplistic little songs. “Back In Your Life” is his fourth studio-album, and he stays in character. He smells the flowers, mimics bees buzzing and entrusts us that all people are good at heart. And as a bonus, we get the sad story of Abdul and his beloved Cleopatra.

The combination of his rather flat voice with its charming off-key qualities, his shining eyes of wonder and his innocent and very childish smile is slightly disturbing. Is this man for real? And yet there he is, so in awe of the flowers, waiting for the ice cream man.

His new album offers a mix of acoustic campfire-sing-a-longs, children’s songs and down in the basement rhythm & blues. The Modern Lovers are playing nice and easy, stripped down and simple. The jangly guitar solos are as wide-eyed as the songs, the rickety rhythm section almost, but not quite falling down the stairs, and the band’s harmony singing next to absurd as it highlights rather than camouflages Jonathan’s vocal shortcomings.

“Back In Your Life” is kind, naive, warm hearted, simple and fun. And highly different. There is only one Jonathan. Recommended.

Released: March 1979

Produced by: Glen Kolotkin, Kenny Laguna and Matthew King Kaufman

Contents: Abdul And Cleopatra/(She’s Gonna) Respect Me/Lover Please/Affection/Buzz Buzz Buzz/Back In Your Life/ Party In The Woods Tonight/My Love Is A Flower (Just Beginning To Bloom)/I’m Nature’s Mosquito/Emaline/Lydia/I Hear You Calling Me.

Update July 11, 2015

Viva Australia

The Saints, Prehistoric Sounds (Harvest)


*From the vault of Carl Meyer, an original album review written in November 1978.*
The Saints’ third LP is an interesting and impressive experiment. The Australian group combines British new wave, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed and 60s rhythm & blues and soul – and dare I say it, jazz. The basic core of drums, bass and sizzling guitar chords give the songs a magnificant punch. They are relentless and ustoppable, without going head over heels. These guys are in control, they know how to hold back.
They also know how to surprise, and surprise they do, incorporating a full brass section on most of the tracks. A bold move, and a succesfull one too, as the horns add to the punch and inject a freshness in the overall sound that is most welcome. They don’t overdo the use of brass either, at times it stays in the background like metallic whispers, but thundering forward when required, as in Otis Redding’s “Security”.
Chris Bailey has the perfect voice for the music’s hypnotic intensity, he bleats, spitting the words out with a rotten edginess that strongly resembles Iggy Pop. “Swing For The Crime” and “Crazy Googenheimer Blues” could have been included on Iggy’s “Lust For Life”-album. Bailey rarely strays off his path, a pity maybe, cause he reveals explosive abilities in his razor-sharp take on Aretha Franklin’s “Save Me”, one of the album’s highlights. She stole it from Them’s “Gloria”. Bailey steals it right back.
If this isn’t the album of the year, it’s definitely in the Top 10.
Released: October 1978
Produced by: Chris Bailey and Ed Kuepper
Contents: Swing for the Crime/All Times Through Paradise/Everyday’s a Holiday, Every Night’s a Party/Brisbane (Security City)/Church of Indifference/Crazy Googenheimer Blues/Everything’s Fine/The Prisoner/Security/This Time/Take This Heart of Mine/Chameleon/Save Me
Chris Bailey - Vocals, Composer, Producer
Ed Kuepper - Guitar, Composer, Producer
Ivor Hay - Drums
Algy Ward - Bass
Martin Bruce - Trumpet
Martin Drover - Trumpet
Paul Nieman - Trombone
Roger Cawkwell - All saxes piano & horn arrangements

Update July 4, 2015

Rear-view mirror views

Steve Gibbons Band, ‘Street Parade’ (Polydor)

*From the vaults of Carl Meyer, an original album review written in May 1980.*
Steve Gibbons continues to be helplessly nostalgic - but in his own very captivating way. Gibbons’ rear-view mirror views have a purpose and make sense. Whether he throws himself wide-eyed into childhood (as he does in the street marching title track) or is scraping authentic British rock traditions off the basement club walls, Gibbons knows his rock ‘n’ roll inside-out, there’s no need to rush it. Even when he hits the curves like a runaway train, sobbing like a guy on the brink of losing it, there’s an elegant finish to it. He knows what he’s doing.
“Street Parade” is a relatively low-key album. The rockers are on side 2, while side 1 offers the reggae cut “The Human Race”, the blood boiling “Graffiti Man” and a couple of tracks driven by a distinct, fluid, minimalistic guitar-shuffle – J.J. Cale/Dire Straits-style. Gibbons’ croaky voice is extremely likeable, a perfect instrument for these songs. He is a down to earth kind of guy with a big heart, delivering stories for and about ordinary people. Writes strong lyrics too!
*Steve Gibbons is still around and lives in Birmingham. He has been involved in numerous charity projects over the last 20 years. In the late 90’s he formed The Dylan Project, mixing a truckload of Dylan-songs with his own. He has also been part of the show “Brum Rock Live” with, among others, members of The Move. And he still has his Steve Gibbons Band up and going. If you are in Birmingham on August 28, you’ll find him in The Roadhouse. Don’t miss it. (Carl Meyer, June 2015)
Released: May 1980
Produced by: Steve Gibbons Band
Contents: A-To-Z/Human Race/Graffiti Man/Sonny Day and the Tropics/Blue Lagoon/I’m a Man/British Rock’n’Roll/New Romance/Abracadabra/Fair Play/Saturday Night/Midnight Moon/Street Parade
Bass, Keyboards, Guitar, Vocals – Trevor Burton
Drums, Vocals – Harry Rix
Lead Guitar, Rhythm Guitar – Robbie Blunt
Saxophone – Bill Paul, Nick Pentelow
Vocals, Rhythm Guitar, Harmonica – Steve Gibbons


HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Ray going country (again)

The guitar hero and the little boy lost

Viva Australia

Rear-view mirror views