Buy it here > http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/alanmerrill16
Kicking off with the title track. It’s an autobiographical cheeky-chappie number with the obvious double-entendre right out there. It has a very comedic British feel, although the story it tells is one of an early failure to make a career breakthrough.
Hard Road, which follows it, is an amazing rock song, much less cheerful about the tough life in the music business, but absolutely a hard rocking anthem, one of Merrill’s best
Hang on Sloopy, a cover of the popular old McCoys/Rick Derringer hit. This version is fantastic. Alan was part of Rick Derringer’s band in the early 1980s. On top of being a world-class songwriter, Alan Merrill is blessed with one of the top five voices in rock music in my opinion. Everything he sings is immediately better for his voice being there and there are a number of songs on this album that he did not write, but in every case, the version he provides stands on a par with, or higher than the original
Lesson Learned is another cautionary tale about the lure of fame with a thumping great bass-line provided by the excellent ex Brian Connolly’s Sweet and latterday Slade bass player Dave Glover. Great rock song with some great creepy audio effects giving a slightly ominous gravitas
White Heat is a lovely thing, a little reminiscent of mid 80s Robert Palmer, it has a similar hard rocking but melodic, sophisticated sheen.
The late-era Arrows Merrill-Taylor song Love Express is up next, it pulls no punches, the double-entendres are even less subtle here. Backed by Rick Derringer and his band it is transformed into a relentless unstoppable groove.
Alan ‘s version of Two out of Three Ain’t Bad, a Jim Steinman number, and a big hit for Meatloaf, is so tender and touching, a quality I don’t feel the original hit has to the same degree. Merrill played guitar for Meatloaf in the mid/late 80s and this inclusion reflects that period of his career.
Alan’s solo version of the Larry Williams classic song “Slow Down” rocks as hard as any version of this I have heard. I’ve heard him do this live, and it’s fantastic
Walk Away Renée, Pretty Ballerina and Desireé were songs originally written and performed by the “baroque’n’roll” New York band The Left Banke which Merrill came close to joining in the late 1960s, before he went to Japan. Alan provides really excellent versions of all of these, I have not heard The Left Banke originals.
Alan follows these with a completely unexpected cover of the beautiful “You” a Radiohead song, originally from Pablo Honey and fully orchestrated with strings. It’s a refreshing delight and really shows the range and versatility of that great voice stepping right out of the usual full tilt boogie and into a much more ethereal space.
Long Shot is a huge but moving power ballad of a man taking a chance on love, going against the voice of his experience.
Miles Away is a much more gentle, spacious tune about love and separation
Always another Train, another late-era Arrows composition with a driving Stones-y feel features an amazing line-up of people including Mick Taylor, Steve Winwood and (astonishingly) the heart-throb actor Oliver Tobias on backing vocals
Breathe on Me is a Ron Wood song, and joining Alan is the vocal talent of Antonique Smith in a breathtakingly beautiful duet that I’ve had to repeat over and over. The blend of voices is just that good.
Everytime She Comes Around is simply a catchy cheerful tune that gets right in your head, it has massive potential as a song for other bands to cover.
Theo, Alan’s tribute to Theo Van Gogh is next. It’s a slow-jam straightforward 12 bar blues; simply, but perfectly constructed, and one of my favourite songs. The words are less important than the feel, and this has plenty of feel- with blues harmonica and lots of opportunity to sing along. Great fun!
Rock On You is an upbeat pop song again perfect for singing along, another I’d like to see other bands picking up on
Only 19 is a stand alone acoustic ballad written to highlight the tragedy of anorexia and other eating disorders in young girls under societal pressure to conform to an impossible ideal. It’s a subject I’m sure he knows a lot about, having been once married to a top model and also has had a modeling career himself. Such a sad song, it has moved me to tears more than once.
Overall, this large collection has enormous depth and variety. It’s great value, and leaves me once again a little stunned that this wonderful artist is not as well known as he should be. I notice I haven’t even got around to mentioning here that he wrote “I Love Rock n Roll” and recorded it with his band The Arrows, back in 1975. This guy is a national treasure, and an international one as well. Buy his albums. There is literally something for everyone’s taste here.
Snakes and Ladders – Alan Merrill (2012) < Buy it here
Snakes and Ladders is the third in the “Collections Series” by this versatile, extraordinary artist.
I feel the arrangement of the earlier tracks intentionally serves to tell Alan Merrill’s story. He has been in the music business since the mid 1960s and has lived quite an interesting and unusual life. His lyrics can sometimes reflect ideas and situations that some people might find themselves less than easy with, but this isn’t about making people feel comfortable, this is a candid view of a real life, honestly told.
The title track “Snakes and Ladders” speaks of Merrill’s rollercoaster career, sometimes up, sometimes down and sometimes switching back on itself; the easy going country style making it seem like he is dealing with all of life’s hard knocks with humour and good grace, but you can still feel the pain.
Moving on to the song “Me You” which tells of the agony of an unrequited, almost obsessional passion for a woman, who is playing with his emotions. It’s so easy to relate, we have all been in a similar situation I’m sure and recognize the sickening heartbreak of it. This is one of my favourite Alan Merrill songs, because it is so honest and humble, but what an amazing rock song! It’s empowering to anyone who is disappointed in love
“Restless Soul” is a sophisticated ballad that represents a sense of mortality, and the acceptance of change and loss and how he has to keep on moving on.. . Its such a beautiful song and coming after a country song and a rock song it really provides a mellow zone before the insane rocked out frenzy of “TNTeenager”
“TNTeenager” is a tour-de-force of crazy sparkly rock’n’roll, watching a girl dancing, celebrating the sexual energy of youth with great humour and a recognition that it’s a look and dont touch situation. It is as powerful a song as Merrill’s much better known composition “I Love Rock’n’Roll” (that he wrote for his “British” band The Arrows, back in 1975 and which has become one of the top rock songs of all time via famous covers by Joan Jett, Britney Spears and others.)
“Monitor” is a song written when Alan was young and it was recorded by his Japanese band Vodka Collins on their Tokyo-New York album, a classic in Japan. Monitor is a chunky slice of 1970s Glam, and like the song that follows it, “Fire In A Wax Museum”it has a great tune. The second is a more recent composition but shares that same strutting Bolanesque feel.
“Lost In Lust” is a glorious great shout of a rock song. Basic premise. Alan likes girls. You may have worked that out already.
“Cat’s Eye Moon” which follows it is another pounding slab of neo-Glam. Then on to”Radio”, an upbeat simple slice of happy-go-lucky pop rock as is “No Speed Limit” Between these two is the beautiful “Illusion”
The haunting “Cold Cold September” is one of the greatest songs anyone has ever written. This one deserves to be world famous too.
“Rain Chasing Dreams” expands on the Snakes and Ladders theme of the illusory nature of perceived success, and contains the lyric “Love is lost and won by the heart, buy the gun” which appeals to me as an observation. Then comes “Freewheeler” a poetic reflection of the sinister side of city life. “Wait For It” is a wonderful song. I’d love to hear a few other acts take that on. This and the next two “Somebody Special” and “Dead End Zone” have a lot of cover potential
“Everyday All Night Stand” goes way back to Alan’s first album, Merrill 1 in 1971. A lovely jangly rock’n’roll road song; and another personal favourite (Buy Merrill 1, it’s amazing)
“Phoenix and The Renegade” is a class apart, a Spartan, Gene Clark inspired jewel of a song, acoustic, personal and heartbreaking.
The strength and depth of Merrill’s songwriting is so evident throughout this album (and his others) that you find yourself surprised that his name is as little known as it is. This is the man who wrote “I Love Rock’n’Roll”, so why isn’t his catalog being raided constantly by every singer out there?
All his very commercial mainstream style songs each have a unique feature that makes them memorable above the general background hum of popular music, and all his stand-out exceptional masterpieces represent so much potential for more chart-busting smash covers to happen. People really need to wake up to Alan Merrill and dig a little deeper. I hope they will be as blown-away as I was by this phenomenal talent.
On the subject of breastfeeding, as it seems to be in the news today (why?): Before I got on the internet in Y2K it had honestly never once occurred to me in my life that anyone might conceivably have a problem with anyone breastfeeding their baby.
I breastfed my baby for three years between 1994 and 1997 and I’d do it on demand, whenever, wherever, in the street, in the pub, in a restaurant, in a store, and also at home in front of my parents & friends and friends of friends.
You know NOT ONCE in all of that time did I EVER meet with a negative attitude about it from anyone, no weirdness, no staring, no averted gazes either. On the contrary, people would come up and chat, acting like I was an old friend and not a stranger. Old men, young men, old women, young women, children… all seemed to find me 100% more approachable. Some old boys would come up and say how awesome it was, and it reminded them of how their own mothers were openly breastfeeding way back in the 1920s and 30s and it wasn’t a big deal.. When there was no “Scientific Formula” alternative people just accepted breastfeeding as a normal part of life. This is what these older folks were telling me. Quite the opposite of what we are now being led to believe how women used to hide away. It blows my mind that young women now are worrying if it is ok to whip out a tit to feed their babies. It is OK… The sort of asshat who is going to give you a hard time about it is really not worth the least amount of consideration, I say again … ANY ONE WHO HAS A PROBLEM WITH IT IS THE ONE WITH A PROBLEM.
Like I said I never had a single problem from anyone. and I wonder how much of the modern day weirdness about breastfeeding has been whipped up by the media, funded by big business and…., it seems almost too obvious, the producers of these chemical alternatives. Kerching!!!
Oh, and I am NOT an exhibitionist,. I’ve never even owned a bikini or a sleeveless shirt, or a boob tube, or shorts. I prefer to keep covered up, but for this one exceptional circumstance that means you do have to show a bit more skin than usual