Soundchecks Music Reviews

Oh How We Danced and Whale Meat Again by Jim Capaldi

Esoteric Recordings ECLEC 2317 and ECLEC 2318

Jim Capaldi

review by Andrew Darlington

Those who recall him largely from his #4 hit version of the Everly brothers' Love Hurts, in October 1975, are missing out. In Jim Capaldi's creative partnership as lyricist with Steve Winwood, this big bearded guy was co-pilot of Traffic throughout its long and wonderful weirdness, even though that leaves his prolific solo career as something of a sidebar to the main event. These albums - from April 1972 and June 1974, are expanded first-time-on-CD re-issues of the first two of his 14 solo albums. Promoted then, as now, as much through their guest list as through his own mighty strengths - with Winwood, Dave Mason, Chris Wood and The Move's Trevor Burton in attendance; but that's the way real musicians work best, through creative interaction with other musicians, and that's where Jim excelled.

The first album is more reflective, opening with easy-on-the-ear American hit single Eve (and its bonus-track B-side Going Down Slow All The Way based on House Of The Rising Sun with Chris Wood's dancing flute), although the sixth track, Open Your Heart is pretty much a session out-take from Traffic's then-current The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys, and Last Day Of Dawn has a Traffic feel ignited by Free guitarist Paul Kossoff. The album's closing novelty title-track, a jumpy take on the 1946 Al Jolson-penned Anniversary Waltz, is matched to the sleepy string-laden 1:26-minute Vera Lynn cover on the second album, presumably a spoof-farewell taking the song's Byrds' Dr Strangelove legacy into account.

But the punningly-titled eco-aware title-variant Whale Meat Again has Trafficer Remi Kabaka and Rebop Kwaku Baah adding percussive momentum, alongside Winwood, Rabbit and the fat honking Muscle Shoals horns upping the funk content. Low Rider is jittery bad-ass funk with Curtis Mayfield strings and stinging guitar solo, while Barry Beckett contributes high keening synth to the blaring horns on My Brother. The Watergate-themed bonus 1973 A-side single Tricky Dicky Rides Again is a Stonesy stomper which must have seemed bleeding-edge politico back then, but may need contextualising these days. There's much to commend on these albums, with the kind of long involved instrumental noodling favoured by TV's Old Grey Whistle Test, some dazzling interactions and fine playing with Jim always providing powerful focus. But at a shrewd guess, you're gonna buy these albums once your Traffic collection is complete.

Edited by Tony Lee
for PIGASUS Press