Album review: ROBERT PALMER – Heavy Nova,Don’t Explain,Ridin’ High,Honey – Reissues

Robert Palmer - Heavy Nova/Don't Explain

Edsel Deluxe Editions [Release date 14.01.13]

Edsel Records have done a neat job with these 2 in 1 packages, brigading together Palmer’s 1988 – 1994 output in slip case outers, extensive artwork and bonus tracks.  But never mind the packaging, what about the music?

It has to be said, Palmer never really built on his mid-eighties success around the world with the classic Addicted To Love – a single that boasted one of the most iconic music videos ever.  Instead, he continued to flit between rock, reggae, and rat pack crooning in a way that wasn’t entirely comfortable for those other than his most ardent of fans.

The first album here – 1988′s Heavy Nova – is a classic example, containing the Simply Irresistible single that aped Addicted To Love and the Power Station style of straight ahead rock, married with the bossa nova, South African township roots and even yodelling (a reference to his resettling from Nassau to Switzerland).

It’s packaged partner, Don’t Explain saw him diversify even further, over the generous 18 tracks (now supplemented by a further 3 bonus tracks) marrying some excellent rock (Light-Years), with gospel blues, jazz, a cleverly segued cover of Marvin Gaye’s Mercy Mercy Me and I Want You, and recruiting UB40 for the reggae reworking of Dylan’s I’ll be Your Baby Tonight, both of which made the UK top 10.  ***1/2

1990 saw him release Ridin’ High – his ‘lounge’ album and voted Best Dressed male.  It predates Buble and Robbie’s dalliance with the swing / Tin Pan Alley sound and is really only going to appeal to fans of the genre.

It was album that, perhaps not unsurprisingly, marginalised his rock fans and signalled a general downturn in his popularity.

In contrast, 1994′s Honey saw him back exploring an eclectic mix of World music, funk, jazz, rock / pop and dance.  It spawned several singles that tickled the lower reaches of the charts, but Palmer’s wider popularity was, by then, well on the wane.  But once again the constant switching of styles is somewhat unsettling.  ***

So, nice packages, and if you’re looking to replace old vinyl, then what are you waiting for?  But those unfamiliar with the man’s works would do better to be well advised to listen before they leap.

Review by Pete Whalley

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