Tuesday, 28 July 2015

"Subtle As A Flying Mallet" by DAVE EDMUNDS (2013 RPM Records Expanded CD – Simon Murphy Remasters) - A Review By Mark Barry...

"...Get Into Trouble..."

In the early Seventies Dave Edmunds seemed to be late for everything. After departing LOVE SCULPTURE with two great albums under his belt - "Blues Helping" from October 1968 and "Forms And Feelings" from January 1970  – he recorded a cover version of the Smiley Lewis classic "I Hear You Knocking" and released it 30 October 1970 on the then tiny UK independent label Mam Records not thinking it would do much business (it was their first single on MAM 1). "I Hear You Knocking" promptly took the UK charts by storm (reaching number 1) and going Top 5 Stateside (as well as many other territories). Our Dave wasn’t ready and his debut solo album didn’t arrive until June 1972 on Regal Zonophone by which time two further singles - "I'm Comin' Home" in March 1971 and "Blue Monday" in June 1971 sank without a trace as did "Down Down Down" from July 1972. Two years after the momentum of the Number 1 single his 1972 "Rockpile" album was barely noticed and sold jack (its very hard to find on original vinyl).

The scatterbrain guitarist and Rock 'n' Roll revivalist did the same for his 2nd solo album – the long forgotten Phil Spector-ish sounding "Subtle As A Flying Mallet" from 1975. "Subtle..." was also preceded by two singles in May 1973 "Born To Be With You" and September 1974 "Need A Shot Of Rhythm And Blues" before the album belatedly showed up in the spring of 1975. But by that time – the same thing had happened again – no one noticed and "Subtle" has been a bit of a dark corner in Edmunds' long and illustrious career. Personally I’ve always loved both records (I reviewed the "Rockpile" CD elsewhere) and I'd argue "Subtle..." deserves a second-go-round on your deck. And you have to say that RPM Records have done a bang up job on this CD (it's an absolute must-own for fans). Here are the Rock 'n' Roll hammerhead details...

UK released February 2013 – "Subtle As A Flying Mallet" by DAVE EDMUNDS on RPM Records RPM 520 (Barcode 5013929552029) breaks down as follows (60:34 minutes):

1. Baby I Love You
2. Leave My Woman Alone
3. Maybe
4. Da Doo Ron Ron
5. Let It Be Me
6. No Money Down
7. Shot Of Rhythm And Blues [Side 2]
8. Billy The Kid
9. Born To Be With You
10. She’s My Baby
11. I Ain't Never
12. Let It Rock
Tracks 1 to 12 are his 2nd studio album "Subtle As A Flying Mallet" – released April 1975 in the UK on Rockfield RRL 101 (reissued April 1978 on RCA PL 25129) and in the USA on RCA LPL1-5003

13. Some Other Guy – non-album B-side (see 4 below)
14. When Will I Be Loved
15. Make Me Good
16. You Kept Me Waiting
17. C'mon Little Dixie
18. Need A Shot Of Rhythm & Blues (Alternate Version)
19. Da Doo Ron Ron (by Dave Edmunds & The Electricians)
20. Pick Axe Rag (by Dave Edmunds & Mickey Gee) – non-album B-side (see 2 below)
Tracks 14 to 19 are from the November 1974 UK 2LP set "Stardust – 44 Original Hits From The Sound Track Of The Film" on Ronco Records RG 2009 and are exclusive to that double-album.

The 12-track album consisted of 11 cover versions and one original by NICK LOWE then with BRINSLEY SCHWARZ ("She's My Baby"). Two of the tracks were recorded live in front of a Welsh audience at the Top Rank Club in Cardiff with Brinsley Schwarz as the backing band – covers of Chuck Berry's "No Money Down" and "Let It Rock". "I Ain’t Never" has Nick Lowe on Bass and Pick Withers on Drums (later the drummer with Dire Straits). "She's My Baby" features Nick Lowe and Bob Andrews of Brinsley Schwarz on Bass and Piano respectively. Edmunds produced the LP at Rockfield Studios in Monmouth, Wales and all other tracks feature him playing every instrument. The album famously featured productions that deliberately aped the dense Phil Spector Wall-Of-Sound recordings of the Sixties on his Philles label. 

"Subtle..." also saw four singles issued around it and this Expanded CD Remaster on RPM will allow fans to sequence them all as follows ([1] = Track 1 on the CD etc)...

1. Baby I Love You [1] b/w Maybe [3]
Released December 1972 in the UK on Rockfield ROC 1
Released 1973 in the USA On RCA Victor 74-0882
Notes: the A-side is a cover of the 1963 Ronettes hit on Philles, the B-side is a cover of the 1957 Chantels hit on End Records.

2. Born To Be With You [9] b/w Pick Axe Rag [20]
Released May 1973 in the UK on Rockfield ROC 2
Released 1973 in the USA on RCA Victor LPBO-5000
Notes: the A-side is a Chordettes cover version that features a Harmonica solo 'probably' by Lee Brilleaux of Dr. Feelgood. The non-album B-side "Pick Axe Rag" is credited to Dave Edmunds & Mickey Gee - Gee was the second guitarist in Love Sculpture for the "Forms And Feelings" album and also played in Joe Cocker's Grease Band prior to that.

3. Need A Shot Of Rhythm And Blues [7] b/w Let It Be Me [5]
Released September 1974 in the UK on Rockfield ROC 4
Released 1974 in the USA on RCA Victor PB-10118 (A&B-sides reversed)
Notes: the A-side is an Arthur Alexander cover version. The album track is listed as "Shot Of Rhythm And Blues" but for some reason the words "Need A..." were added for the single (no one seems to know why). The mix of the song on the "Stardust" double-album soundtrack is an 'Alternate Version' and differs to and LP/45 cut. The B-side "Let It Be Me" is a cover of The Everly Brothers 1959 hit on Cadence.

4. I Ain't Never [11] b/w Some Other Guy [13]
Released February 1975 in the UK on Rockfield ROC 6 [no USA release]
Notes: the A-side is a cover of Webb Pierce’s 1959 hit on Decca while the non-album B-side "Some Other Guy" is a cover of a Jerry Lieber & Mike Stoller song done by Richie Barrett on Atlantic Records in 1962.

The 16-page booklet features liner notes by ROGER DOPSON with new Dave Edmunds interviews about the album crossing recording paths with the David Essex film soundtrack "Stardust" (as well as appearing in the movie himself - DE also got the band Brinsley Schwarz a part in it). There are photos of UK Rockfield labels, trade adverts and Euro picture sleeves of "Baby I Love You" and "Born To Be With You" as well as track-by-track credits. The remaster from original tapes has been done by SIMON MURPHY at Another Planet Music and given the density of the recordings – he’s done a stunning job. I love the way that this CD sounds – Murphy has lost none of that Retro Rock 'n' Roll feel that Edmunds so adores – it drips from every cleverly chosen song. In fact you could argue when you hear the live takes of "No Money Down" and "Let It Rock" – perhaps it would have been simpler and even more effective to simply record the lot live – and get that 'real' feel the music so needs.

As fans will know – Edmunds feels the whole Spector-in-the-studio sound he obsessed over only half works and even in some cases is a downright mistake (an experiment that didn’t work). Personally I like what he was trying to get in the echoed and dreamy "Let It Be Me" – a fabulous cover of a gorgeous Everly Brothers song. Even "Billy The Kid" (the odd-man-out here stylewise) rocks in its own weird way. It's a Traditional song Ry Cooder first threw at us in 1972 on his "Into The Purple Valley" LP on Reprise Records. Edmunds apes Cooder's Cajun Americana style of picking – but it also works because the song isn’t that familiar to anyone and breaks up the Fifties R'n'R feel of the rest of the record. I love it that Lee Brilleaux of Dr. Feelgood is 'probably' the Harmonica player on his cover of "Born To Be With You" (its his trademark warble) and you can 'so' hear Nick Lowe's languid vocal style in "She's My Baby". Another fave is the Arthur Alexander cover "Shot Of Rhythm And Blues" and a great stab at Webb Pierce's "I Ain't Never".

Amongst the Bonus Stuff both the non-LP B-sides are worthy inclusions – the fast-paced almost Country picking instrumental "Pick Axe Rag" is a curio for sure but it’s a cool one. I have the Richie Barrett original of "Some Other Guy" on Atlantic Records from my 2006 Ace CD "Lieber & Stoller Story Vol.2..." – but again – a smart choice by Edmunds that suits his love affair with Rock 'n' Roll leanings and is a criminally forgotten sing-a-long gem of the genre. The "Stardust" tracks are a brilliant inclusion what with the double-LP languishing in CD limbo. Edmunds was commissioned by film producer David Puttnam to do nine songs for the film - both "Let It Rock" and "Shot Of Rhythm And Blues" from the album are on their but the other six presented here make their CD debut to my knowledge. "When Will I Be Loved" has always been an Everly Brothers bopping winner and Edmunds wisely doesn't mess with that original dynamic. "Make Me Good" and "You Kept Me Waiting" (written by the trio of Peter Anders, Paul Naumann and Kenneth Laguna) sound like typical Edmunds layered-vocal fare. The Orleans R'n'B boogie of "C'mon Little Dixie" is a winner (penned by Gerry Goffin and Barry Goldberg) too...

A fab little reissue of "Subtle As A Flying Mallet" and a long overdue reassessment that I hope will make people sit up and take notice. Now if only someone would expand CDs of his Swan Song albums – I’d be hammering on about those too...

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