After 3 albums with GRIN on Epic Records, Nils Lofgren finally released his first solo album on A&M Records in March 1975 in the USA (SP-4509) and April 1975 in the UK (AMLH 64509). Lofgren handled all Guitars, Lead & Backing Vocals, Keyboards and Organ on his self-titled debut, while WORNELL JONES supplied the Bass and AYNSLEY DUNBAR the Drums. And a little Seventies gem it is too…
First up though - be careful you get the right version - Amazon UK wrongly credits this October 2007 American CD reissue as being by RYKODISC – it’s not – it’s a HIP-O SELECT release. Second - neither the title on Amazon nor the outside packaging nor the rear inlay mentions the all-important REMASTER word - and Mark Omann at Universal has remastered the album and to beautiful effect.
"Nils Lofgren" has 12 tracks, 11 originals and a stunning cover of Goffin/King's "Goin' Back" - first unleashed on the world by the BYRDS on their 1968 album "The Notorious Byrd Brothers". Carole King herself did a version of it on her 1970 debut solo album "Writer: Carole King", but Lofgren's take is altogether different - a sort of funky piano version that is fantastic - making it much more up-tempo and positive (for those interested, the expanded piano version on Lofgren's 1977 live double "Night After Night" is also a stunning highlight).
For such a famously fluid guitar player capable of making the hairs on your arms stand up with his flourishes and deft touch, there’s surprisingly little guitar pyrotechnics on the album (“Keith Don’t Go” (lyrics above) and “Rock ‘n’ Roll Crook” are notable exceptions).
It’s more about the songs. The total playing time is only 35:07 minutes, so the songs are short and sweet – but man are they good…
The slightly fuzzed-up guitar opener "Be Good Tonight" gives way to the band kicking in on "Back It Up". And it’s then that you begin to notice the sonic upgrade. Tracks like "I Don’t Want To Know", "The Sun Hasn’t Set On This Boy Yet" and the pre Mink DeVille street-hustle of "Two By Two" now sound full and clear – the remaster imbibing them with real muscle.
On the downside, it’s a damn shame that the inlay is merely a gatefold slip of paper with the most rudimentary details (the original album artwork was pretty much a bare-bones affair too) - and worse – there’s no tasty outtakes or bonus tracks. An opportunity missed there.
Still - I love this album - I played it to death then and I’ll do so again now.
"Nils Lofgren" is a great Seventies LP finally given the sonic upgrade on CD it’s needed for decades. Buy this US import with confidence.
PS: see also my separate reviews for his 2nd and 3rd solo albums - "Cry Tough" (1976) and "I Came To Dance" (1977) – now also reissued by Hip-O Select on remasters