CD REVIEWS: Memos From the Underground
Album reviews by Tim Livingston
Some recent album releases that you may have missed but are well worth a listen:
PETER PERRETT: How the West Was Won (Domino)
Peter Perrett’s punk-era band the Only Ones weren’t really a punk band at all. They were a step above many of their contemporaries in both musicianship and songwriting. Known mostly for the seminal “Another Girl, Another Planet,” the band’s catalog ran much deeper with Perrett’s songwriting and melodies shining bright with several flashes of pure genius. Their career, though, was brief, and by the time the ’80s rolled around (with only three albums produced), Perrett was lost in a world of addiction and looked like just another casualty, a falling star to be remembered only for the promise of what could of been. A few brief comebacks, including one in the ’90s called The One, came and went with out much impact, but then…
Jump forward to 2017… At the age of 65, Perrett returns with a new album, How the West Was Won, and he returns in a glorious fashion. The album is smashing. A brilliant collection of romantic songs of love, addition and redemption. The melodies soar, the lyrics are both introspective and witty, and Perrett shows that his former genius was no flash-in-the-pan. The musicianship, provided by his sons, Jamie and Peter Jr. and their band, is top-notch in the fine tradition of the Only Ones reputation for excellence. Perrett’s South London drawl and sharp pen take you through a journey of undying love, and it is an amazing and fascinating trip.
Starting off with the humor-filled but spot-on title track the album slides nicely into “An Epic Story,” a love song to his wife of over 40 years… “together we can face this hard world and laugh about the cruelest of things…” he croons over a pulsing beat. And the journey continues with “Troika,” “Living in My Head,” “Man of Extremes,” “Sweet Endeavour,” “C Voyeurger,” “Something in My Brain”… each song as good, if not better than the last. Moody, emotional, melodic, at times psychedelic, at times dark and edgy, but always uplifting. The songwriting is the key to a great album, and this release has that.
But perhaps the secret weapon is the lead guitar playing of Jamie Perrett. Both powerful and subtle at the same time his flowing riffs propel his father’s songs to another plane and make an already superb album an epic release. One for the ages. The whole thing is simply beautiful.
The album concludes with the song ”Take Me Home,” a longing, heartfelt sentiment that sums up this chapter in the life of a man who has come to terms and has felt “…the rock and roll back inside…” of him.
If this is the next chapter in this man’s life, bravo! I can’t wait for more. If it turns out to be his final musical statement, there could be none better. Comeback of the year? ABSOLUTELY! Album of the Year? Unless someone surprises me with something really unbelievable.. YES!!! Welcome back, Mr. Perrett, we didn’t even realize how much we missed you!
MICHAEL RANK: Another Love (Michael Rank)
Michael Rank is never afraid to take musical chances – chances which always prove to be both interesting and artistically, if perhaps not commercially, successful. Starting out in the ’80s with his Chapel Hill-based band Snatches of Pink (which may be classified by some as an alternative rock/college radio band), Rank morphed that unit through many hard-hitting and edgy styles including some of the best Rolling Stones Exile-era influenced releases this side of the Stones themselves. His solo albums ranged from the dream-like hallucinations of 1993’s Coral to a string of more recent, critically acclaimed alt-country albums.
Now the always prolific Rank is back with a SOUL album that yields stunning results. Not just a soul album, but a three-disc (yes, THREE-disc) soul extravaganza. Another Love is a funk-filled affair of sweet, infectious, laid-back, ’70s influenced soul stylings. Sly Stone, Curtis Mayfield and even Prince come to mind. The title track hits the groove right off the bat as Rank channels the aforementioned Sly right into the next song “Sing” and the groove continues throughout. “Be Alright” is an organ-led chill-out. “Satellite” hits the soul mark again along with “Kings,” a couple of tunes exuding a heavy Prince feel.
This is one of those albums you put on just to relax, take a long drive to, or could serve as the perfect soundtrack to a night of slow-burning romance. Touching ballads abound like “Back to You,” “The Closer I Get,” the dreamy “All You Ever Wanted” and “Slower Than Sun” one of the beautiful duets with vocalist Raney Hayes. Danceable funk rules the likes of “I Love You” and “Something to Give.” Too many great songs to mention make for one really satisfying listen. Vintage instruments give it a distinctive feel, but the album never sounds dated. Neo-soul sounds made for today – if someone gave me this album blindly I may have never guessed it to be Rank, but I’m not surprised as he is a never-ending fountain of musical ideas and a diverse artist who deserves wider recognition.
THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN: Damage and Joy (EK OK)
The fuzzed-out Lords of the Darklands return with a killer new album and even sound a bit “happier” than before. Not as noise-based as their early releases, this in fact may be their most accessible album to date, but in their own trippy way. A cool batch of songs and a rocking affair, touching on damaged love, psychedelic drugs and hazy sentiments with a bit of humor thrown into the mix. Some of the finest moments happen when the Reid brothers employ a female co-vocalist on many of the tunes (“Always Sad,” “The Two of Us,” “Song for a Secret”) making for a nice juxtaposition to their moody edges. A new classic JAMC album and their best release