Jim Capaldi: Electric Nights (1979)

After a series of increasingly impressive albums, Jim Capaldi apparently had some sort of falling out with Island and his primary benefactor to date, Chris Blackwell, resulting in label limbo for a few years until he resurfaced under contract to Polydor/RSO. If you thought love hurt, well, an entire album of disco-informed studio rock doesn’t feel any better. I’ve always seen the first two RSO records as weak links in a broken chain, but then I tend to be melodramatic where music is concerned, as if the globe spun on these things (which sets up this review from 2005 well enough). “Sometime around the mid Seventies occurred a great migration of psychedelic folkies from the fields and festivals into the dark, dank confines of the studio. There, without a window to judge east from west, they made directionless rock music that followed the tastes of the time. Rock, funk, country, disco, ballads and social criticism, filigree and filler all got mixed into this melting pot of mediocrity. It gained momentum under the boogaloo aesthetic of the ex-Beatles and found its highest expression in bands like The Eagles and Steely Dan. You could hear some of that creeping into Traffic’s music at the end, but Steve Winwood’s voice somehow elevated the end result. Jim Capaldi is no Winwood, not even a Don Henley. He’s not a flashy drummer, has an unremarkable voice and writes the sort of pedestrian rock songs that other folks (Ringo, Roger Daltrey) pay to have written for them. High in the wood-panelled bungalows of Nice or Los Angeles (or wherever the beautiful people go to be groped and gawked at), maybe “White Jungle Lady” or “Wild Dogs” achieved a certain resonance. An impressionable listener could hear these songs, Bob Dylan’s Street Legal still fresh in their mind, and mistake Jim Capaldi as a resolute, solitary songwriter. But there’s no heart in the performance, no soul left to lay claim to after piffle like “Shoe Shine” has passed your lips. I’d actually toyed with giving this a critical pass (under the protection of past services rendered), with listening to it until I liked it, with going outside and playing in the snow, but there’s mostly fire in my belly this morning. Forget about Electric Nights. Forget about 1979. Go play in the snow instead. That’s where I’m headed.”

Original LP Version
A1. Shoe Shine (Jim Capaldi/Peter Bonas) (4:52)
A2. Hotel Blues (Jim Capaldi) (3:30)
A3. White Jungle Lady (Jim Capaldi) (3:42)
A4. Tabitha (Jim Capaldi/Ray Otu) (4:11)
A5. Time (Jim Capaldi/Peter Bonas) (4:38)
B1. Electric NIghts (Jim Capaldi) (4:16)
B2. Wild Dogs (Jim Capaldi) (4:46)
B3. 1890 (Jim Capaldi/Peter Bonas) (4:11)
B4. Wild Geese (Jim Capaldi) (6:54)

The Players
Jim Capaldi (vocals, drums, backing vocals, percussion, timbalis), Ray (Otu) Allen (saxophones, percussion, congas), Peter Bonas (guitar), Phil Capaldi (backing vocals, percussion), Rosko Gee (bass), Chris Parren (keyboadrs) with Peter Cox (backing vocals on B2), Simon Kirke (drums), Trevor Morais (drums), Alan Spenner (bass), Super Bear Gang (carnival crowd on B3). Produced by Jim Capaldi or Jimmy MIller (A1, A4, B2); engineered & mixed by John Etchells.

The Pictures
Illustration by Adrian Day. Photography by Dick Polak. Sleeve design by Bloomfield/Travis.

The Plastic
Released on elpee, 8-track and cassette in May 1979 in the UK, Australia, Germany and Norway (Polydor, 2383 534) and the US (RSO, RS/8T/CT-1-3050). Released on elpee in 1980 in Mexico (Polydor, LPR 16325).

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