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Monday, May 16, 2016

Alan Price: Shouts Across The Street


1) Glass Mountain; 2) The Waste Land; 3) Leave It All To Me; 4) Hungry For Love; 5) I Know When I've Had Enough; 6) Shouts Across The Street; 7) I Just Got Love; 8) Don't Stop; 9) The World's Going Down On Me; 10) Cherie; 11) Don't Try; 12) Farewell Goodbye.

This next record from Alan seems almost deliberately «low key» and even plain regressive, com­pared to the vivid panoramas of provincial British life that he set up on his last three. I mean, being serious about your native country is fine and dandy, right? But you can't do it forever; a man needs a break every now and then, and so Shouts Across The Street is a much lighter and a much less inventive affair. Here, we see Mr. Price falling back on some good old blues-rock and R&B grooves, as well as retaining his passion for vaudeville, but throwing out most of the social realism and replacing it with simpler tales of love, lust, misery, and happiness.

Not that it's bad or anything — «low key» is fine by me if the grooves are strong and the front­man is attractive, and as long as Alan is not impersonating Billy Joel or Barry White, he's doing okay. Unfortunately, he does impersonate Billy (ʽLeave It All To Meʼ) and Barry (ʽDon't Stopʼ) at least a couple of times, and these songs just sound like uncomfortable attempts at sounding «modern» for 1976; ʽDon't Stopʼ is a particularly corny flop, with embarrassing falsetto "baby, baby, baby"s and a soft-romantic piano-embellished funk groove that would at least require the presence of a uniquely sexy vocalist (like Al Greene) before it could even begin fulfilling its pragmatic purpose (bedding hot chicks). All that's missing here is a gold medallion on a hairy chest, but we don't even know if Alan had enough hair for the purpose — and in any case, he always had it better with a bowtie on.

On the other hand, all of the tunes here that have a more «retro» sound to them work better: even silly-named tracks like ʽHungry For Loveʼ, with a fun blues-based pop-rock melody and a memo­rable guitar line (played on something that sounds very close to 10cc's "Gizmo" guitar), are ac­ceptable, not to mention happy barroom shuffles like ʽI Know When I've Had Enoughʼ or lusty romps like ʽThe Waste Landʼ. On most of these tracks, Alan plays a careless clown, but his vocal and musical charisma have sure grown since his mid-Sixties singles, and he is now much less shy and reserved when getting into character, which makes him fairly convincing when imper­sonating either the chauvinist gigolo on ʽI Knowʼ or the midnight stalker on ʽWaste Landʼ (okay, so neither of these set positive social examples, but it's tough to stay clean all the time).

For something more serious, keep your eyes and ears on ʽThe World's Going Down On Meʼ, starting out with a chord sequence not unlike Harrison's ʽIsn't It A Pityʼ (so you can slap the «epic» label on it without reservation), but never really diving into the depths of misery: instead, it tries for an optimistic-sounding chorus that contrasts lyrical lamentation ("I think the world's going down on me / You can't imagine what I've seen") with beautiful falsetto resolutions of the chorus melody and a wall of sound with soaring organs and guitars — works beautifully when you want to aggrandize your misery and raise it to the status of Universal Tragedy, thus offering yourself some consolation in the process.

Still, by the time you get to the end, those final lines of "Farewell, goodbye / I hope I didn't make you cry" might seem self-ironic — to fans eager for more musical tales of Geordie life and social allegories, Shouts Across The Street may well have been a solid disappointment, and, of course, it did absolutely nothing to revive the man's briefly successful commercial career. Granted, it may well have been a conscious move away from being stereotyped as a new «working class hero», but in any case, the deed was done: the album ended his flirt with fame and fortune once and for all, and from then on, nothing would help — not even the brief reunion with his former band a year later, which took place right in the middle of the «punk revolution» and was doomed from the start anyway. And yet, now that we've left those times far behind and feel ourselves free to judge musical records based just on their feel-good quotient rather than their throbbing relevance at the time, Shouts Across The Street does come across as a fun listening experience on the whole (ʽDon't Stopʼ and an occasional «cock-rock» misfire like ʽI Just Got Loveʼ aside), and I could hardly deny it a thumbs up — after all, it's only rock'n'roll and all that.

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