[Review] Dave Edmunds: Rockpile (1972)

Edmunds leaves Love Sculpture but continues to work in the medium of rock (and roll).

Kronomyth 1.0: The quarry man.

After Love Sculpture crumbled, Dave Edmunds went into the studio and recorded an album of mostly covers that twanged and rocked and rolled in all the right places. Rockpile felt like a rock and roll revival with country roots, but, more than that, it was a masterful studio album on which Edmunds multitracked the parts and constantly altered his voice. The most clever example of this was his version of I Hear You Knocking, on which Edmunds sang through a telephone.

Edmunds displays an uncanny knack for getting at the core appeal of these songs and either speeding them up or accentuating the groove. In doing so, he creates a template for the English pub rockers who followed him, from Nick Lowe to Ian Gomm. The album kicks off with a “new” tune from The Move’s Trevor Burton, Down Down Down, and goes up from there with the modernized “I Hear You Knocking,” Hell of a Pain (a catchy little number and the album’s lone Edmunds original), a rockin’ remake of It Ain’t Easy that prefigures David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust version and a juiced-up rendition of Chuck Berry’s The Promised Land.

The second side is just as eclectic if not quite as effective. Edmunds’ take on Bob Dylan’s Outlaw Blues is a winner and his wild version of Willie Dixon’s Egg or The Hen is nearly a match for Led Zeppelin, but the remaining tracks are merely average as covers go. I’m not sure what prompted him to dig up Neil Young’s Dance, Dance, Dance from the first Crazy Horse album, but it’s an odd choice. A cover of Lazy Lester’s (I Am a) Lover Not a Fighter fares better, while Sweet Little Rock & Roller should have been rolled tighter.

Rockpile isn’t a perfect record, but it’s a perfectly good one that showcases Dave Edmunds as a talented producer with a keen ear for music. It’s interesting how American rock and roll and country music filtered into England and somehow came out sounding both sweeter and more modern. Cochise (whose B.J. Cole appears on a few tracks) and Brinsley Schwarz were a part of this movement that morphed into pub rock and, eventually, new wave. I wouldn’t call Dave Edmunds a new wave artist at any point in his career, but he does make you hear rock & roll with new ears. Rockpile is definitely worth a listen, although you’ll make more or less the same discoveries on most of the early Edmunds albums.

Original elpee version

A1. Down Down Down (Trevor Burton) (2:51)
A2. I Hear You Knocking (Dave Bartholomew/Pearl King) (2:49)
A3. Hell of a Pain (John Williams/Dave Edmunds) (2:59)
A4. It Ain’t Easy (Ron Davies) (3:23)
A5. The Promised Land (Chuck Berry) (2:27)
B1. Dance, Dance, Dance (Neil Young) (3:01)
B2. (I Am A) Lover Not A Fighter (Ron Collier) (3:34)
B3. Egg or The Hen (Willie Dixon) (4:20)
B4. Sweet Little Rock & Roller (Chuck Berry) (2:39)
B5. Outlaw Blues (Bob Dylan) (5:13)

CD reissue bonus tracks
11. I Hear You Knocking (single mix) (Dave Bartholomew/Pearl King) (2:48)
12. Black Bill (Dave Edmunds) (3:09)
13. I’m Coming Home (traditional, arr. by Dave Edmunds) (3:02)
14. Country Roll (Dave Edmunds) (3:11)
15. Blue Monday (Dave Bartholomew/Fats Domino) (2:51)
16. I’ll Get Along (John Williams) (2:50)

The Players

Dave Edmunds (all other instruments), John Williams (bass & backing vocals) with B.J. Cole (pedal steel on A1/B1/B5), Andy Fairwater-Low (guitar & drums on B3), Terry Williams (drums on A1/B5). Produced by Dave Edmunds; engineered by Dave Edmunds, Ralph Downs.

The Pictures

Cover photo by Neil Jones.

The Plastic

Released on elpee in January 1972 in the UK (EMI, OSCD 7691).

  1. Re-issued on elpee in 1978 in the Netherlands (EMI Bovema-Holland, 5C 038-93282) and Europe (EMI, 1A 038-93282).
  2. Re-released on expanded compact disc in 2001 in Germany (Repertoire, REP 4966) with 6 bonus tracks.
  3. Re-released on remastered compact disc on January 15, 2014 in Japan (Parlophone, WPCR-15474).

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