(5 / 5)
One of the best blue-eyed soul singers to emerge from the UK in my lifetime, and I’m knocking on a bit now!
Paul Carrack. Bit of a national treasure. A darling of BBC Radio 2 listeners. He’s had a heck of a career so far, and it shows no sign of slowing down just yet. Thankfully, if his brand new album “These Days” is anything to go by.
An utter delight for all 11 tracks. Some of the best song writing of his career for me, and his vocals are faultless. So relaxed. So natural. So damn good.
There are a few music snobs out there who will not listen to a Paul Carrack record, even though they claim to be soul fans. Same goes for certain music publications. They think he is too middle of the road, far too “easy listening” and doesn’t represent the soul genre.
To them I say: Bollocks. All you need to be is a music fan and an admirer of TALENT with a capital T. Not a blinkered twit!
The songs on this new CD really are exceptional and I bet you a tenner that some will be snapped up by other artists as covers in the future. He penned five with ex-Squeeze band mate Chris Difford, and the other six by himself.
Paul was lead singer with Squeeze for a while and sang on the hit single, “Tempted”. He wrote and sang the hit “How Long” with Ace before that, back in 1974.
He also sang lead vocals on Mike and the Mechanics hits “The Living Years” and “Over My Shoulder”, the latter he wrote with Mike Rutherford. Another co-write, “Love Will Keep Us Alive” was covered by US superstars The Eagles.
Diana Ross covered Paul’s song “Battlefield,” which he wrote with Nick Lowe. He is also an in-demand session musician, having worked with The Smiths, Roxy Music, B.B.King, and many more. He’s a current member of Eric Clapton’s touring band, aside from his own solo career.
“These Days” is Paul’s 17th album, from a solo recording career that started in 1980. He formed his own record label in 2000, releasing the highly acclaimed and commercially successful, “Satisfy My Soul”.
I was a guest in 2012 at the private screening in Soho, London of the fascinating documentary, Paul Carrack: The Man With The Golden Voice, which BBC Four eventually screened on TV in October that year. A who’s who of music and media people present at that screening.
Paul sat on the back row with his family and friends, won a deserved standing ovation at the end of the film and he was genuinely humbled. Anyone who knows him, will tell you he’s a genuinely “nice bloke” and there’s no showbiz BS. (I was really late for that screening, and they held the start for me to get there….kind but embarrassing!)
He lives, eats and breathes the music and that is what drives him on. Making a few bob from it is a bonus of course. And he deserves to with the quality of his output.
This record has a very strong line-up. Regular band mate bassist Jeremy Meek, mega drummer Steve Gadd (a member of Clapton’s band too), Robbie McIntosh on guitar (Paul McCartney, The Pretenders, Norah Jones, John Mayer etc) who is sensational across the record.
Paul on lead vocals, keyboards and guitar. James Brown sax man Pee Wee Ellis hand picked the horn section and oversaw the arrangements.
Steve Gadd was on his way back to the USA from playing with jazz legend Chick Corea in Europe, and agreed to drop in to London’s Air Studios to play on Paul’s album for three days, with the full band line-up. Now that is a coup. Then Paul took the tracks back to his studio at home to finish off.
Produced by Paul and Peter Van Hooke, the album opens with the lovely “Amazing” sat on a Motown beat and almost an Al Green vibe too. Sparkling horns, silky smooth soulful vocal. An infectious hook – got Radio 2 playlist all over it. Written by Paul. Just heard, in fact, this is to be the second single from the album; out on 12th October.
Second cut in, “Life In A Bubble” is a 100% fit for Eric Clapton, if he needs a cover for his next project. Really cool song too, again penned by Mr Carrack. Some very nice slide guitar moments.
The first of the five co-written with Chris Difford, “In The Cold Light Of Day”, has that classy British rockabilly vibe to it; kind of Dave Edmunds’ Rockpile territory; and another horn-soaked goodie.
My absolute favourite song here, is track four, “Dig Deep”, another Carrack-Difford co-write. I love this song. It slows down the pace and has a ‘tears in your beers’ country vibe. Exemplary song writing writ large.
Title track, “These Days”, another one created with that Diffford chap, could be early UB40, sat on a gentle chugging reggae vibe. Not one of the strongest cuts here, for my tastes. It was the first single from the CD. Bonnie Raitt would eat the next one up, “You Make Me Feel So Good”, which has a slinky groove to it.
A bit of a Ry Cooder / Calypso feel to “Tell Someone Who Cares”, and a very fine lead vocal from Paul. Another Difford co-write with the gentle “Where Does The Time Go?”, before the chilled out “Talk To Me”.
The penultimate track, “Perfect Storm” is a winner, a mid-tempo affair, with subtle horns and another honey-soaked soulful vocal from PC.
The closer “The Best I Could” sums up how a parent feels when the kids grow up and fly the nest, and the house is empty, “the games are packed into a drawer” and he or she or they are looking back and thinking that they did the best they could. Nice job on the final track, the last of the bunch that Paul and Chris wrote together.
A bit of a dream team those two crafting the songs they created here. That should be repeated on the next album. Paul is a song writer’s song writer and a singer’s singer. Truly gifted.
Most of the songs here seem to be showing Paul in reflective mood, grateful for the career he has had in the past and the one he has right now.
Looking back at times gone by, both happy and sad, and not dwelling on loss or darker times; but a message of, be thankful and appreciate what you have and what you have had. Amen to that.
I am thankful, and grateful. For this album and for one of our own; this down to earth Sheffield lad sticking to his chosen path of delivering great music, in whatever style he wants to.
But for me; the Sam and Dave lyrics: “I’m A Soul Man”, sum up exactly what cool cat Carrack is all about on anything he touches. Innate, not learned. One spin of “These Days” more than confirms it.
By Simon Redley
- Paul Carrack tours Europe this month (October) and a full UK tour in Jan, Feb and March 2019.
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’