Tuesday, 30 June 2015

"Ain’t Living Long Like This/But What Will The Neigbors Think/Rodney Crowell" by RODNEY CROWELL (2015 Beat Goes On 2CD Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Sounds Like A Breeze Dying Down..."

Over the last two years – England's Beat Goes On Records having been dipping their dainty Blighty toes in the muddy waters of Country and Country-Rock with CD reissue successes like The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Dan Fogelberg, Guy Clark, Linda Ronstadt, George Jones, Charley Pride, George Jones and many others. So it was always going to be the turn of Texan Tunesmith and Grammy Award winner Rodney Crowell next...and you have to say that BGO has once again done a bang-up job.

Like John Hiatt, John Prine and Karla Bonoff – Texan RODNEY CROWELL is the kind of singer-songwriter that sees his songs covered by serious names like Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris and lifelong friend and serial Texan Troubadour – Guy Clark. Why even Norah Jones and The Grateful Dead have had a go at Crowell songs.

This newly remastered 2015 2CD reissue offers up three albums from his Warner Brothers years  - 1978, 1980 and 1981. Here are the American Dreams by way of a New Orleans Bar and a Louisiana Honky Tonk...

UK released June 2015 – “Ain’t Living Long Like This/But What Will The Neighbors Think/Rodney Crowell” on Beat Goes On BGOCD 1188 (Barcode 5017261211880) features 3 albums on 2CDs and breaks down as follows:

Disc 1 (38:56 minutes):
1. Elvira
2. (Now And Then, There’s) A Fool Such As I
3. Leaving Louisiana In The Broad Daylight
4. Viola, An American Dream
5. I Ain’t Living Long Like This
6. Baby, Better Start Turnin’ Em Down [Side 2]
7. Song For The Life
8. I Thought I Heard You Callin’ My Name
9. California Earthquake (A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On)
Tracks 1 to 9 are the studio album “Ain’t Living Long Like This” – released September 1978 in the USA on Warner Brothers BSK 3228 and in the UK on Warner Brothers K 56564

Disc 2 (74:16 minutes):
1. Here Comes The 80’s
2. Ain’t No Money
3. Oh, What A Feeling
4. It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll
5. On A Real Good Night
6. Ashes By Now
7. Heartbroke
8. Queen Of Hearts
9. Blues In The Daytime
10. The One About England
Tracks 1 to 10 are the studio album “But What Will The Neighbors Think” – April 1980 in the USA on Warner Brothers BSK 3407 and in Europe on Warner Brothers WB 56 778

11. Stars On The Water
12. Just Wanta Dance
13. She Ain’t Going Nowhere
14. Don’t Need No Other Now
15. Shame On The Moon
16. Only Tow Hearts
17. Victim Of A Fool
18. All You’ve Got To Do
19. ‘Til I Gain Control Again
20. Old Pipeliner
Tracks 11 to 20 are the studio album “Rodney Crowell” – released September 1981 in the USA on Warner Brothers BSK 3587 and in Europe on Warner Brothers WB 56 934

There’s a card slipcase, a chunky 22-page booklet with full musician and recording credits, lyrics to all three records and superb new liner notes by noted writer JOHN O’REGAN. The 2015 remasters have been newly done by ANDREW THOMPSON at Sound Mastering in London and are beautifully transferred – fully showing up the quality Production values that each album received. Even the 2nd record that admittedly sounds the most 80s of the three (and unfortunately not in a good way) – has benefitted from the sonic upgrades (even if the tunes aren’t as good as albums 1 and 3). It’s another exemplary job done by BGO...

The 1978 album “Ain’t Living Long Like This” has a very impressive line-up of backing musicians and big names – Dr. John plays Keyboards on “Elvira”, “Viola, An American Dream” and “California Earthquake”, Willie Nelson sings on “Song For The Life”, Ry Cooder plays his trademark Slide on “Elvira” while Emmylou Harris adds great Country backing vocals to “Leaving Louisiana In The Broad Daylight”, “Viola, An American Dream” and “I Ain’t Living Long Like This”. Other notables include Vocals by Nicolette Larson, Guitars by James Burton, Fiddle and Vocals by Ricky Scaggs, Guitars, Keyboards and Vocals by Albert Lee, Guitars by Amos Garrett and Michael Raphael on Harmonica.

It opens with the slinky “Elvira” – a lurching Bluesy tale where our hero wants to find the preacher man to join him and his heavenly “Elvira” together in steamy matrimony (great fun). Crowell then does a languid cover of Dallas Frazier’s “(Now And Then, There’s) A Fool Such As I” which of course was a huge Elvis Presley hit. Crowell’s version is less Pop and more pure C&W feel (Burton contributes a sweet acoustic solo). But Crowell’s first great song comes in the shape of the shuffling “Leaving Louisiana In The Broad Daylight” – a tale about Mary who took to running with a travelling man – joining the highway – gone mama forever. I first heard “Viola, An American Dream” on Guy Clark’s self-titled 3rd album “Guy Clark” that came out in May 1978 also on Warner Brothers (they’ve been lifelong friends). Clark took the Jamaican rhythms out of it – but Crowell’s version keeps them – and even though that might sound like some awful mind-meld of Calypso meets Country – it works so well – in fact it’s the kind of album song that you keep coming back to when you know you shouldn’t. The funky keyboards of “Baby, Better Start Turnin’ Em Down” open Side 2 – but far better is the lovely ballad “Song For The Life” (lyrics from it title this review) – as sweet a tune as he’s ever penned. We then gets a pure Country cover of Lee Emerson’s “I Thought I Heard You Callin’ My Name” with Ricky Scaggs and James Burton giving it some Fiddle and Guitar while Emory Gordy, Albert Lee and Larry Willoughby provided those aching backing vocals where someone sounds like they’re going to die of heartbreak any second (“...by now you were many miles away...”). Albert Lee’s Mandolin makes “California Earthquake”.

After the tunes-fest of the first LP – you have to say that the Craig Leon Produced second LP “But What Will The Neighbors Think” comes (mostly) as a disappointment. First it goes more Bright Pop than Soulful Country (“Ain’t No Money” and “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll”) and much of Side 1 feels cheesy but not in a good way. Things improve a lot with the single “Ashes By Now” and his version of Guy Clark’s “Heartbroke”. I loved Dave Edmunds cover of Hank Devito’s “Queen Of Hearts” on his 1979 album “Repeat When Necessary” – here we hear it in pretty much the same vein. The Bluesy boogie and echoed-vocals of “Blues In The Daytime” gives the album a bot of long-needed mojo and swagger but the day is saved by the finishing ballad “The One About England” about Mary and Caroline in Notting Hill near Ladbroke Gate. Crowell gives it some clever Simon & Garfunkel vocals towards the end of the song that gives the tune an American longing for the colourful streets of London.

The 3rd and final album for Warner Brothers almost broke the top 100 in September 1981 but stalled at 105. As if knowing the previous album wasn’t quite up to muster – “Stars On the Water” opens “Rodney Crowell” with a real chugging presence - Vince Gill does a great Guitar solo while Roseanna Cash and Albert Lee provide the sweet backing vocals. Crowell rocks it out big time with “Just Wanta Dance” where the combo of Hank DeVito and Richard Bennett on zippy-lick Guitars join forces with Booker T. Jones on Organ and the Memphis Horns. We’re in Lyle Lovett territory on the lovely “She Ain’t Going Nowhere” where his vocals are a force to be reckoned with (lovely guitar solo from Albert Lee). “Shame On The Moon” is another winner – cleverly arranged and beautifully produced – the kind of tune you could listen to again and again and not tire of it. The old heartstrings get tugged again on “'Til I Gain Control Again” where he pines for a woman he knows he can’t have (none of us have ever done this so we won’t understand what Rodders is on about). It ends on a bopper “Old Pipeliner”.

The 3rd album is very, very good as is the 1st and makes up volumes for the slight slip up inbetween. A quality reissue from Beats Goes On and fans will love the gorgeous audio...

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