Gary Steel is slowly compiling all his album reviews in one place. This is a work in progress, or what we call a “live document”. Today is the letter ‘N’.
Leon Russell and Willie Nelson both have distinguished reputations, and One For The Road, a double album, sees a pairing of their talents.
Multi-instrumentalist Russell’s career spans session work for Jerry Lee Lewis in the 1950s, work with Joe Cocker in the early 1970s and the subsequent launching of a successful solo country music-flavoured career.
Nelson, born in 1933, is an “outlaw” country singer, popular with both country purists and the rock audience.
One For The Road is an album chock-full of standards. The first platter contains vocal duets in a group setting on such as ‘Detour’, ‘Heartbreak Hotel’, ‘Trouble In Mind’ and Cole Porter’s ‘Don’t Fence Me In’. A pleasantly rollicking affair: sweet but gritty. The second disc sees Nelson’s scratchy voice straining to mawkish orchestral backing on ‘Danny Boy’, ‘Stormy Weather’ and others of that ilk.
If only these albums were available separately! A gripe also at the playing time, which nudges in at less than 15 minutes per side. 6/10
Night features two New Zealanders, vocalist Chris Thompson of Manfred Mann’s Earth Band and bassist Billy Kristian (ex Max Merritt and the Meteors), plus drummer Rick Marotta, vocalist Stevie Lange, guitarist Robbie McIntosh and on keyboards, Nicky Hopkins.
They play soul-based material, though the phrasing owes more to rock and the sound tends towards orthodox California cruise music. The first side is devoted to covers, which aside from the catchy single ‘Hot Summer Nights’ and the eerie ballad ‘Cold Wind Across My Heart’ is a largely redundant exercise as they in no way upstage the originals.
Side 2 is primarily original material, but revealingly the only cover, ‘Shocked’, is the standout track, along with Thompson’s own raunchy ‘Come Around (If You Want Me)’.
Nothing to write home about, but a welcome change from the standard session musician MOR stillborn ‘product’. 5/5