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Monday, May 30, 2016

Alan Price: England My England

ALAN PRICE: ENGLAND MY ENGLAND (1978)

1) England My England; 2) This Ain't Your Lucky Day; 3) Mama Don't Go Home; 4) Groovy Times; 5) Baby Of Mine; 6) I Love You Too; 7) Those Tender Lips; 8) Citizens Of The World Unite; 9) Help From You; 10) Pity The Poor Boy.

Odd how, when you listen to these records by «second rate» artists peaking in the early-to-mid Seventies, you get this sharp feeling of «gradually winding down» — each next album being ever so slightly inferior compared to its predecessor, but slightly, slightly, so that the contrast is felt particularly between extremes rather than neighbors. Compared to Alan Price, England My Eng­land is merely suffering from a tiny extra touch of disco and a tiny extra touch of Billy Joel-itis (Joel-light-is, I mean), but then if you play it next to Lucky Man!, well...

Again, hardly a single song here sounds really embarrassing, but this is only because the author relies too much on the tried and true: vaudeville, R&B clichés, soft funky grooves, conventional ballad structures — and his usual humble charisma, which is by far the only thing that has not deteriorated, because, well, that's just a fact of nature. Again, the songs are divided between love ballads, love-sex grooves, and a few sociopolitical declarations thrown in for old times' sake — such as the title track, which starts out sounding more like a Russian folk song than a patriotic English anthem, somehow redeems itself in the chorus ("we are your children, oh England, don't cry!"), and still leaves behind a confused impression, particularly when Alan begins to scat-sing to these Russian cossack dance moves. There's also ʽCitizens Of The World Uniteʼ, which only lacks a proper Barry Gibb falsetto to have been a big hit at Studio 54, which — no doubt about it — was the place for citizens of the world to unite at the time.

I struggle to single out any highlights, but arguably ʽGroovy Timesʼ is Price's finest moment here, starting out as one of those unremarkable soft funk grooves only to have him launch into an extended, warm, gentle, and classy jazz piano solo that sounds absolutely fabulous even on top of the most generic and glossy arrangement imaginable. Another track that stands out after a few listens is ʽHelp From Youʼ, a slow piece of soul with an impressive vocal buildup — and it is quite strategically placed near the end of the album, so that after a series of quiet, unassuming, humble grooves you get this one particular spiritual statement where the man gives it his all, suddenly becoming a vocal powerhouse for six minutes and not losing an ounce of his usual sincerity at that.

Overall, this is by no means a bad record; it merely confirms the man's complete resignation from any truly «creative» angle, let alone the more demanding «experimental», but the mix of ancient and modern stylistic influences is still intelligent (it is not often, after all, that you find Phil Spector-style vocal harmonies, Ray Charles-style keyboards and disco basslines on the same album), the man's aura is still pleasant, and as far as generic entertainment from 1978 is concer­ned, this is a far better proposition than a great percentage of chart-hitting disco burners.

1 comment:

  1. "sounding more like a Russian folk song than a patriotic English anthem"
    More like in the 70's a West-European thought a Russian folk song had to sound like. It isn't exactly like Mussorgsky's Gopak but much more like Drs. P.'s Dodenrit from 1974.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rAaL1pO3qAw

    Drs. P was Swiss-Dutch, known for his peculiar irony. Alan Price may have had a similar intention.

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