Tuesday, December 2, 2014
Paul Raymond - Rewind 50 - A Loving Look Back
Paul Raymond has been supplying rock with style, class, and sophistication for nigh on fifty years, and with Rewind 50 he takes a loving look back on what he's delivered. It's a tasty take on a lot of great music that is a great joy to hear.
There are a few classics on tap that you'll know, but there's also a lot of chestnuts that will fill in some blanks, and some that will even further enlighten you to his great career with such rock stalwarts as UFO, MSG, Waysted, Savoy Brown, Chicken Shack, and even a never before heard Terry Reid song which is worth the price of admission alone for any true lover of rock.
The best parts of this record are the quality of the songwriting, and Raymond's gruff but soulfully sweet vocals. You can hear remnants of forty years next to Phil Mogg, and there's a large dose of classic British soul lurking in his smokey smooth voice. He's joined by some of the same mates that helped him record 2012's excellent Terms & Conditions album (See review here), and they provide more than competent support. This is one of 2014's more pleasant surprises.
One of the things I like best about Raymond's solo work is the fact that within it you can hear a lot of the musicianship that has made UFO and the Michael Schenker Group such classic bands over the last four decades in the twists and turns of the tunes.
'Unfinished Business' will be familiar to UFO fans, as it appeared on their last studio outing Seven Deadly under the title 'The Fear'. This is a bluesier take on the number, and Raymond's vocal is the highlight here. A throbbing bass line and fat backbeat keep it moving, and the tremolo guitars give the blues a slight David Lynch feel of darkness. A nice guitar solo by Andy Simmons, and some sweet uncredited harp blowing as well.
Another recent UFO track, 'Sympathy' is a great example of the sheen of class that Paul brings to the venerated institution he's been with since 1976. Raymond's keyboards and vocals move this one down the highway, and especially noteworthy is his skill as a lyricist - you'd never know that this wasn't a Phil Mogg penned song, and that says a lot, given that Mr. Mogg has long been one of hard rock's most underrated writers.
Next up is 'Scream Blue Murder', a tune that first turned up on the Paul Raymond Project's Man On A Mission album from 1998. A vampire's tale, you can hear the traces of where he's been musically, and it's another well written rocker. Pop metal of the highest order, this is sophisticated and strutting. A nice stinging solo from guitarist Dave Burn, and some great stick work from drummer Tony Steel.
When the piano kicks of 'Welcome To The Real World', you'll have no question as to who's playing, but this is a tune which is only now seeing daylight, and we could only hope there's more lying in a notebook somewhere in Raymond's closet. This could be a long lost UFO/MSG classic without question. If this doesn't make you ache for the classic UFO lineup, you're out of your damned mind. A very, very good tune, and Raymond sings it brilliantly.
Raymond revisits his stay in Waysted with the power pop-ish 'All Belongs To You', a tune that wouldn't sound out of place on a Cheap Trick album. Chunky chord guitar rock with gobs of melody, this is a nostalgic look at a time that is chock full of great musical memories. Simmons plays loads of great lead guitar on this one.
Terry Reid. 'The Sky And You' is the first unheard Reid tune since I don't know when, but it's a great one. This actually brings tears of joy to my eyes, and if you know Terry Reid you'll know exactly why, and if you don't then I can't help you. This one is from a project that never grew legs, and that's a shame, as the combination of Raymond and Reid could only have been magic. Raymond's vocals are worthy, and that says a tremendous amount, especially given that Mr. Reid was originally pegged by Page for Zeppelin, and then pegged by Blackmore for Deep Purple. One of rock's greatest singers and writers, new Reid music should be huge news.
'Never Trust A Stranger' may be Paul Raymond's best known composition, coming from MSG's second album. It's given a bit of a Rod & Faces treatment here, and it suits the tune quite well. It's nice to finally hear Raymond sing his own words - he's a great singer and you can hear his heart in every line.
Going back to 1978 and UFO's Obsession album, 'Lookin' Out For No. 1' is another well known classic, and again Raymond recreates the song in a way that is familiar without aping his day job band's arrangement.
'Twice Nightly' busts out with a nicely jangling acoustic guitar and some sweet guitar harmonies before the rollicking piano rock kicks in, and this is right up The Faces' alley - some chunky rhythm guitar that would do Wood proud sets things up for the honky tonk piano, and swaggering vocals. This sounds like another lost closet classic, and Raymond's writing chops are on full display. Great barroom lyrics to boot, a dancer not ideally built for ballet.
The Lowell Fulson classic 'Reconsider Baby' gets the treatment in Brit blues manner, and it shows yet another side of Raymond's long career, this time via Stan Webb's Chicken Shack back in 1969. Those were the days my friends. A spirited revisitation, indeed.
Psychedelic pop? Sure - Raymond originally cut his teeth on jazz, then he moved on to the Beatles-esque Plastic Penny in 1968, and you'll hear clear echoes of McCartney, and some Jeff Lynne on 'Waiting', as well. I'd love a whole album of well crafted pop such as this - this sounds like what a young Andy Partridge may have cut his teeth on. This is glorious, beautiful, and a great trip into the distant past. Tasty, tasty, tasty.
'Bye Bye Baby' is the hardest rocking number to be found hear, and you'd never know it was a Motown tune if you didn't know it - originally written and recorded by Mary Wells, this is a great cover as originally crafted by Tony Jackson and the Vibrations, Raymond's first experience in the British top 20 back in 1964, giving a beginning to Paul's fifty years in rock. This is a rocking arrangement that could have been written yesterday. Another great vocal from a guy who has spent his life supporting great singers.
Paul Raymond has certainly done himself proud on Rewind 50 - it can't always be easy to sing songs that have been sung by such great singers, and to somewhat reclaim his compositions as he looks back over fifty years of writing, singing, and playing, but he's done an admirable job to say the least. My only hope is thatches' nowhere near done, and that we have much more to look forward to in the future.