Vodka Collins-“Pink Soup” CD Review- The Genius of Alan MerrillPosted: February 5, 2016
Vodka Collins- Pink Soup
Pink Soup was written and recorded in 1996, and in just three days straight by one of the most enigmatic names in the history of rock music, Alan Merrill, lead singer and guitarist with the Tokyo based Vodka Collins, here in their second great incarnation of the 1990s.
This much sought-after album was released only in Japan and it has taken 20 years to make it available worldwide for the first time.
There are no *good* reasons why Alan Merrill’s name might be unfamiliar to you. He wrote, and was the original artist, with his UK band Arrows, of one of the best loved, most iconic, and most frequently covered rock songs in history, “I Love Rock N Roll”, but that is just one of hundreds of catchy, commercial songs he has written over 50 years in the cut-throat world of the music business.
Merrill, a true creative, has been fighting uphill for most of his career against the tide of unscrupulous and greedy elements only too ready and willing to make a fast buck off someone else’s talent. By rights, his name should be as familiar as that of any Rock N Roll Hall-of-Famer, or of Rick Derringer or Meat Loaf, both of whom Merrill has served as sideman, but people and circumstances have caused his name to be unfairly overlooked, so that his catalog of songs is still relatively undiscovered and would serve as a rich vein of material for many up and coming artists or established big name acts.
Pink Soup is a very personal, no holds barred document of an intense episode in Alan Merrill’s life, encompassing something of a mid-life crisis, an existential melt down, intense highs and lows and an emerging sense of the cynical and worldly humor he needs to survive life’s battles.
The scene is set in the demi-monde, an amalgam of the clubs and bars of three continents, and it develops like a modern Rake’s Progress, beginning and ending between the thighs of a porn star, via the driving punch of the title track and its ending reprise, repeat to fade- where physical passion becomes mechanical, a loop to be broken out of.
“Theo” is a simple and straight blues, fun to sing. It celebrates Theo Van Gogh, the supportive and loving brother who held the artist Vincent together for as long as he could. “Every artist needs a brother…” seems like a wistful statement from Merrill, himself the only child of two successful musicians
“Les Animaux de Partay” is a kicking lively number observing the types of people that are around in The Scene. It is not a flattering observation of the self-destructive hedonists and the cold opportunism that surrounds him, but it is a great song.
“It Hurts” is a beautiful slow song, one I am sure we can all relate to some period in our lives “It hurts to be in love with you” We can feel his pain. This is a sensitive man, a poet suffering great emotional injury, struggling to survive in an uncaring world.
“Motive Confusion” is an odd short jazzy breakdown that follows that developing theme of the sensitive man having to toughen himself up to deal with the onslaught of hard things happening to him.
“Is This Chuck Berry?” This is a perfect slice of pure traditional Rock N Roll. A happy and a welcome reminder of Merrill’s love and mastery of the genre.
“Church on Devil’s Ground” An angry, searing rock ballad with a kick-ass chorus on the subject of a heart betrayed and discarded. You get a real sense that this betrayal is the root of how this album came to be made and how the slightly sad and cynical theme developed.
“Feet (All Around the World)” a wonderful song that works well with the band, and acoustically as Alan Merrill now performs it in his live set. Movement and the joy of travel and change is emphasized.
“Tumbleweed” A very short and simple story of freeing a tumbleweed develops huge significance within the rootless and adrift theme of the album.
“Boys in the Band” Rowdy riffs, the love of music and the carnality of raunchy rockers fill this with life and energy.
“W.O.W” “In a world of whores, Love is just a vice” A vision of hell for the idealist draws forth its own code of ethics and morality.
“Roppongi Roppongi” A love song for a place, the playground where every vice can be satisfied. So catchy!.
“Skying” A loose jazz inspired love song about a kiss, bringing back the humanity and innocence of a moment between two people that is not some cynical transaction, and here we know that the spirit is undimmed and although our hero has been through so much he is still essentially himself.
This album is a literal masterpiece of tone and feel and the music irresistible. The most unpretentious concept album you will ever hear. There is nothing contrived here; it is just three days of some crazy inspiration that came out as great, listenable rock music.
Easily in my top five albums of all time by anybody, this was well worth waiting the twenty years since it was released solely in Japan.
It is released here in the West with the original artwork as intended.
Alan Merrill lost his life early in the COVID-19 pandemic in the small hours of Sunday 29 March 2020 in New York.
He will be loved and missed forever by everyone who cared about him.