ALAN PRICE: RISING SUN (1980)
1) The House Of The Rising Sun; 2) I'm Coming Back; 3) Mr. Sunbeam; 4) Love You True; 5) Perfect Lady; 6) Wake Up; 7) The Love That I Needed; 8) I Have Tried; 9) Don't Make Me Suffer; 10) Music In The City.
Well, you knew it would happen some day, and that day would be the beginning of the end — the day that Alan Price finally resorts to re-recording ʽHouse Of The Rising Sunʼ. Looking at how he trimmed the song title for the album title, and at all the stereotypical Japanese paraphernalia on the album sleeve, I sort of hoped that he'd at least go for a pseudo-Japanese arrangement, for amusement's sake — but no, the arrangement is fairly uninventive, with a slightly funkified beat and a wailing saxophone part replacing the original guitar melody (the organ solo is, of course, preserved, though it's nowhere near as tense as it used to be). Surprisingly, Alan sings the thing really well, almost on Burdon's level, which just goes to show how much confidence he had gained as a singer over the past decade — but still, was that really necessary?..
Because the rest of the record is just completely incompatible with the re-recording: it's almost as if the latter was forced on the man by his record label or something, as they were worrying about the impending lack of sales and all. (People are stupid, see, and they have this uncontrollable urge to buy everything that has ʽHouse Of The Rising Sunʼ stamped on it — 100% success if it is also accompanied by a picture of a bikini-clad geisha). All the songs are very lightweight, unpretentious, lyrically simplistic (but with a few fun Newman-style twists woven in here and there) and reflecting Alan's by now traditional integration of old school vaudeville and new school dance-pop. No social observations or philosophical undercurrents whatsoever.
Actually, that's nothing to be ashamed of, because the record is fun — harmless, fluffy fun. Even when he takes a merry country jig (ʽPerfect Ladyʼ), replaces the banjo part with bubbly-funky, synthetically treated guitar and the fiddle part with a really stupid-sounding synth, it still works, because the whole thing is a musical joke, and this time the joke's on the instrumentation. It's maddeningly catchy, too, even if (like so many other songs of his) the man probably pilfered it from some country record that I've never heard. The same applies to the majority of the material: these songs sound more like lighthearted parodies of various musical genres than sincere exercises in any of them, which is probably what makes the album ultimately enjoyable rather than embarrassing.
Anyway, here is a quick run through the «highlights»: ʽI'm Coming Backʼ sounds like a send-up of Cheap Trick-ish power pop, everything very ecstatic, but with an ironic smile behind all the hystrionic guitar soloing and vocal roaring; ʽWake Upʼ borrows the opening piano line of ʽMess Aroundʼ for its own purposes — a comedic send-up of the "get up and work" idea; ʽThe Love That I Neededʼ and ʽDon't Make Me Sufferʼ are old school pop rock, with female vocal harmonies, pleasant chorus resolutions and no ambition whatsoever; and ʽMusic In The Cityʼ caps things off with the album's only straightforward disco number that, once again, sounds pretty tongue-in-cheek to me, although — I admit — this might simply be due to the overall strangeness of the idea of the Animals' keyboardist and Malcolm McDowell's soul mate doing disco.
I really really like one song here — the straightforward cabaret number ʽMr. Sunbeamʼ. Of all the tunes here, this one seems to be the only one to capture some of Alan's patented Englishness, including some awesomely quirky lyrical lines ("It's tough at the top, but rougher at the bottom / And positively boring in between") and a properly sunny attitude for those of us who feel down and out. Simple as it is, this is the one that could have easily fit in on any of his mid-Seventies masterpieces. But one song, of course, is not enough to salvage the record from the misdemeanor of «fluffiness», and the re-recording of ʽHouse Of The Rising Sunʼ (which, by the way, on this record is directly credited to Alan Price, not even listed as «traditional, arr. by Alan Price» as it used to be — did they think nobody would notice?), decent or not, is still an unforgivable artistic gaffe, so no thumbs up here.