Cherry Red [Release date 23.02.18]
Back in the 1970s my GRTR! colleague and fellow journeyman Pete Whalley and I had veering (and maybe vying) musical tastes. This can happen when you are exploring a burgeoning musical scene, discovering new stuff, and in the early throes of building a record collection. Pete liked James Taylor: well produced, literate, acoustic fare that would fuel a lifetime of singer songwriter passion.
At the same time, I developed an interest in another singer songwriter, slightly more upbeat but no less well produced and lyrically interesting: Rupert Holmes. I even wore a similar jumper and the large specs and beard sported on the cover of ‘Adventure’. Well, that was 1980, and if Rupert had professed an interest in loafers and large cravats I probably would have completed the outfit.
Maybe there was something in the air because Rupert was born not a million miles away from my hometown, although he and his family emigrated from Blighty when he was 6. It will come as no surprise that Holmes eventually progressed to writing novels, music for TV shows, and musicals. His songs have an observational quality, a play with words and – in his glory days – an irresistible commerciality.
A schooled musician and arranger Holmes got his first foothold by playing on sessions in the early 1970s when the singer songwriter genre – the likes of Carole King, Joni Mitchell and, yes, James Taylor – started to hold sway in the record business and provided a possibility for a budding and talented tunesmith.
This three disc set in nice facsimile card sleeves is a collection of Holmes’ albums for Epic in the 1970s plus singles, demos and previously unreleased material including rare live recordings from 1978.
Charles Donovan’s liner notes are informative and emphasise the combination of great lyrics, composition and arrangements that were identified early on by Barbra Streisand who used Holmes as a producer and songwriter on her 1975 album ‘Lazy Afternoon’ (and subsequently the classic ‘A Star Is Born’ – demo versions of his songs are included here on Disc 2).
Donovan’s notes do linger perhaps too much on the debut album although in fairness Widescreen (1974) does set the template for future excursions with tracks like ‘Terminal’ and ‘Letters That Cross In The Mail’.
On Holmes’ self-titled follow up, he populated his songs with intriguing characters following the “mini-movie” concept although by 1976 he found himself under pressure to provide more straight-ahead singles. So Rupert duly obliged with an album – called Singles – that covered all bases in terms of Top 40 expectation. But it wasn’t until 1979′s ‘Partners In Crime’ that Homes had a major single hit with ‘Escape (The Pina Colada Song) which brought his tune-smithery to a much wider public.
And whilst this collection is a fine introduction to Holmes’ oeuvre (although sadly lacking the lyric sheets), anyone hooked in will really want to investigate those post-Epic albums and we can only hope these form the basis of a further Cherry Red release. Holmes might represent a bygone age but – in this age of immediacy, impatience and musical ineptitude – his craftsmanship still shines out like an undimmed and enduring beacon. ****
Review by David Randall
David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.
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Power Plays w/c 5 March 2018
BAD LLAMA Crooked Empire (indie)
EDENTHORN Mind Like A Mindfield (indie)
KATALINA KICKS Waterfall (indie)
THE ROCKET DOLLS None Of This Is Right (indie)
BONFIRE Crazy Over You (SPV)
THE AMORETTES Everything I Learned I Learned From Rock N Roll (SPV)
MY INDIGO Crash And Burn (MVKA)
Featured Albums w/c 5 March (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 FM Atomic Generation (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 BURN Ice Age (Melodic Rock Records)
14:00-16:00 BETH NIELSEN CHAPMAN Hearts Of Glass (Proper Music)
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