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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Billy Preston: It's My Pleasure


BILLY PRESTON: IT'S MY PLEASURE (1975)

1) Fancy Lady; 2) Found The Love; 3) That's Life; 4) Do It While You Can; 5) It's My Pleasure; 6) Song Of Joy; 7) I Can't Stand It; 8) All Of My Life.

The balance is a little upset here: compared to The Kids & Me, Billy's follow-up only has eight compositions on it, and you can guess why that is — either out of a general lack of ideas, or be­cause the dance attitude of the age prevailed so heavily, many of the songs are cruelly stretched out, usually way past the point at which they have anything to say to anything but your limbs.

No, actually, scrape that from the record: ʽI Can't Stand Itʼ, one of the album's longest numbers, is not about dancing at all — it is a slow, moody, pensive instrumental that could have been brilliant if not for the fact that all of its brilliance is immediately unveiled in the first twenty-five seconds; from then on, it is all either an infinite number of repetitions or a few sidetracking, distracting solo passages. That is Billy Preston in a nutshell for you: one good idea makes the man so happy that he smears it all over the plate until it ends up looking... well, kinda thin for an idea.

There is also a more pronounced emphasis on synthesizers throughout, although Billy strictly ad­heres to the Stevie Wonder formula, preferring a guitar-like sound to his electronics rather than using them to emulate strings and organs, like many (if not most) of his contemporaries. This makes the album somewhat dated, but not in an ugly way — the instruments sound live enough and sufficiently emotional, much like Billy himself, whose optimism and energy was still pulsa­ting — perhaps boosted somewhat by the success of ʽNothing From Nothingʼ.

Other than ʽI Can't Stand Itʼ (which should have been compressed to three minutes), the main highlights here are: ʽFancy Ladyʼ, a bouncy-catchy duet with Syreeta Wright (marking the begin­ning of a long-term partnership: apparently, a fancy for synthesizers was not everything that Billy inherited from Stevie Wonder — his ex-wife and partner, too, had made the grade); ʽThat's Lifeʼ, the album's disco-est number that is simply infectiously enthusiastic; and the almost surprisingly moving solo piano ballad ʽSong Of Joyʼ, elevated from fodder level to something higher by the unexpected bass twist at the end of chorus — just as you become assured that this is just one of those «thank-you-for-all-the-happiness» songs, the melody swerves and enters darker territory, with a big question mark that might make you want to revisit it some other day.

Still, there are serious disappointments, such as the drastically overlong ʽDo It While You Canʼ, a rather pointless soft-funk jam that is not particularly salvaged by Stevie Wonder's harmonica parts, as the song never really decides what sort of mood it is aiming for. The rest of the tracks, too, are somewhat non-descript, and given how few of them there are overall, It's My Pleasure shows the curve going down again — not a bad record by all means, what with the creative synth sound and the esteemed guest stars (and I haven't even mentioned a certain «Hari Georgeson» adding guitar ornaments to ʽFound A Loveʼ), but where The Kids & Me had Billy in full adequate control of his element, this here is yet another pretext to showcase his limitations. And so I'd like to give it a thumbs down, but «officially» I won't do that — there is so much worse to come.

4 comments:

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    1. Billy Preston - I Can't Stand It, Rainbow - Catch the Rainbow, Eagles - Doolin Dalton: three songs with very similar melodies, I have to say, so if these come to mind right away there are probably other sources for that melody. Anyone knows?

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    2. I'll second MNB's "Little Wing" suggestion. A lot of Robin Trower's bluesy ballads (pretty much 90% of his down tempo material) get their inspiration from this track as well.

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  2. The common source probably is Jimi Hendrix' Little Wing.

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