Turn That Noise Down - Gerry Rafferty

So many well-known albums turn 30 this year and Steve Taylor-Bryant and Susan Omand travel back to 1992 to revisit some of the sounds of their youth that made parents shout "Turn that noise down!" This week, Susan rounds off her year On a Wing & a Prayer ...

My final TTND choice of 1992 is an album that I’ve never listened to by the god that was Gerry Rafferty. Now, when I think of him, I think of The Humblebums (with the much-missed Tam Harvey and a certain Billy Connolly), being Stuck in the Middle with Stealer’s Wheel, his incredible album Night Owl and, of course, the iconic Baker Street. Then it struck me, ALL of these things happened before 1980 never mind 1992. Would the intervening years have been kind?

Well… and it pains me to say this… no. Don’t get me wrong, On a Wing & a Prayer is still okay, just, mostly, in a meh way. The opening track, Time’s Caught Up On You, is very Gerry in the lyrics, vocals and harmonies but highly forgettable musically. It sounds like so many other albums of the type around at the time, think Mark Knopfler or Travelling Wilburys, but not as good [CONTROVERSIAL! – Ed]. I See Red is the next track and it really hasn’t stood the test of time; to be fair, though, I think it may have sounded dated as soon as it came out. Overly synthed, with electronic drums, bad sax and unnecessary guitar widdling being very distracting. And whoever told him that the woohoo noise and the voice echo was a good plan needs to be stood in a corner to think about what they did. It’s Easy to Talk is a ballad that would actually have benefitted from lower production values, as it’s lost the folky edge that I would expect from Rafferty. It’s all so smooth and, well, generic. I Could Be Wrong is pleasant enough but not different enough, even with the vaguely latin beat and again with the ooooooooo’s – seriously, get back in the corner, production guy. Don’t Speak of My Heart is a lot more like the Gerry Rafferty that I remember of old; even with the organ chords, which add much needed texture to the backing, it showcases his voice so much more and it feels a lot less … I dunno, “commercial,” I suppose. Half-way through the album sees Get Out of My Life Woman and a complete change of pace and style – we’ve gone thumpy blues/rock rather than synthy folk/pop and it’s discombobulated me. I like it but it’s somewhat incongruous with the rest of the album so far. And where did the trumpet come from?

Don’t Give Up on Me goes almost gospel but with a Hawaiian feel [What?! – Ed]. No, seriously, the upbeat plinky plonky mandolin/ukulele thing and the clippy cloppy coconut percussion pull the attention away from what is, lyrically, quite a dark and religious song. Hang On is back to the overly produced rock-bop chart fair of the late 80s, again with the obligatory sax solo but it’s not a patch on Baker Street. It’s danceable but not listenable (I know what I mean [good, cos we don't - Ed]). Love and Affection is just as you would expect from the title, saccharine, synthy, sob-fest stuff that you’d expect them to use on Strictly [ooh, ouch! – Ed]. Does He Know What He’s Taken On is a lot more buoyant, getting the foot tapping again and has some good twangy guitar in it. Oh, and the sax is back again. The Light of Love is, by contrast, almost interesting with full on orchestral at the start but it soon settles down to meh-ness with an undercurrent of violins. Life Goes On is the final track and that’s probably the best thing I can say about it, so we’ll leave it at that.

Okay, okay, maybe I’m doing this album a great disservice by remembering Gerry Rafferty's previous work with the aural equivalent of rose-tinted spectacles, but I can totally see why this album passed me by first time around. It’s nice enough, I didn’t hate it, and is probably something I’d have on in the background if I did listen to it again. But it really does pain me that I’m so disappointed in an album that I was so looking forward to and I can’t honestly recommend it.

To make up for it, I’ll look further back for my article-ending track. Back to 1973 in fact, for a song made re-famous by a certain scene in a 1992 film, and one that speaks still of the world today… clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am...

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