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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Billy Preston: Pressin' On


1) Pressin' On; 2) I'd Like To Go Back Home Again; 3) Loving You Is So Easy; 4) Turn It Out; 5) I'm Never Gonna Say Goodbye; 6) Thanks But No Thanks; 7) Don't Try To Fight It; 8) I Love You So; 9) I Come To Rest In You.

Recorded unusually quickly after its predecessor, particularly given Billy's serious problems with alcohol, not to mention general re-adaptation into the hostile climate of early Eighties' main­st­re­am entertainment — quite predictably, this is a carbon copy of The Way I Am: listenable if se­rious need be, but ultimately forgettable under any imaginable circumstances.

The two new ballads are predictably rotten on the level of the Syreeta-duet album (a third bal­lad, ʽI Come To Rest In Youʼ, for some strange reason has been copied from Late At Night — not even a re-recording, which is why it is the best of the three, what with the pleasant harpsichord and all, but we already know what it sounds like). The dance numbers, however, continue to cut back on electronics, restore Billy some access to his piano, and slap on some genuinely funky bass and guitar lines — only the drumming is still marred by epoch-defining electronic effects.

The «highlight» is arguably ʽI'd Like To Go Back Home Againʼ, with its typically Stevie Won­der-ish rhythmics and harmonica (I am not sure if Stevie himself is actually involved, but that may well be the case) — a homely, catchy shuffle, even if it does sound totally like «post-genius era» Stevie, short on ideas, long on their repetition. On a sheer gut level, I am more pleased by ʽTurn It Outʼ, with a fine instrumental balance (heavy on the cowbell, too!) — with some real drumming and a slightly more loosened vibe, it could be up there with Billy's best dance numbers of the pre­ceding decade — and by ʽThanks But No Thanksʼ, a passable example of «silly Billy» in the ʽNothing From Nothingʼ vein.

Of course, when it came to selecting a song for a single release, none of the good choices made the grade — the only single from the album was ʽI'm Never Gonna Say Goodbyeʼ, a song whose quality is already made apparent by the title. For some reason, Motown kept stupidly promoting Billy as a balladeer-troubadour, neglecting the obvious — to stand out in the balladry line, you need to at least have the vocal skills of a Ray Charles, whereas in the dance-pop entertainment line, Billy had his own little lawn of charm, which even the sterile Eighties' production could not quite pave in asphalt.

So forget about the single, but if you ever get a chance to rescue an old vi­nyl copy from a used bin for fifteen cents... well, provided you also have shelf space to spare... then again, no, not really — keeping records with front sleeves like that is bad for one's karma. It might be enough to simply remember this: Billy Preston did not lose much of his reputation in 1982 — partly because there was not that much to lose in the first place, and partly because he was not willing to comple­tely give himself up without a fight. The only reason to like Billy Preston has always been because, well, he's a generally likable guy, and in 1982, he was still likable against all odds.

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