The Face of 69-Alan Merrill : Album Review. Something for Every Taste…Posted: August 26, 2014
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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.