[Review] Paul Carrack: Nightbird (1980)

Late the face of Ace, Carrack steps back into the spotlight with this tuneful collection of blue-eyed soul songs.

Kronomyth 1.0: Pingu and his owl-star band.

If you were wondering how long it would take Paul Carrack to step out on his own after Ace, the answer is apparently two-and-a-half years. In the interim, Carrack was building an impressive resume as a session player for Frankie Miller and Roxy Music. Some of the recent Roxy coterie (Neil Hubbard, Alan Spenner, Mel Collins, Dyan Birch, Martin Drover) follow him into the studio for his first album, which features mostly originals plus songs from Andy Fraser and ex-Ace guitarist Bam King.

Although Nightbird fell between the cracks, it’s a solid start that showcases Carrack’s vocals and displays a good ear for melody. The sum effect is very reminiscent of other pub-rock figures such as Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds and Ian Gomm. Standout tracks include a nice cover of The Temptations’ Beauty’s Only Skin Deep, Foregone Conclusion (a foretaste of his work with Squeeze) and the funky Bet You Never Been In Love. Like Lowe, Carrack’s melodies are sometimes guilty of being a bit too familiar (e.g., You Belong With Me), but his voice wins you over, even on the weaker tracks.

This sort of music, as I understand it, is called blue-eyed soul. I’ve always heard it as a mishmash of pop music, traditional rock & roll and Motown with English sensibilities. Nightbird is an album of ballads and midtempo pop/rock songs about matters of the heart. It’s not likely to change your world, although it did deserve more recognition than it got. That recognition would come soon enough with Squeeze, Mike + The Mechanics and a moderately successful solo career. Nothing on here is quite as clever as Argybargy or Labour of Lust, but I can think of plenty of worse things to do than listen to Paul Carrack sing for forty minutes with good musicians behind him.

Original elpee version

A1. Beauty’s Only Skin Deep (Norman Whitfield/Eddie Holland) (2:54)
A2. There’s a Good Chance (4:14)
A3. In Love With Me (Bam King/K. White) (4:35)
A4. Foregone Conclusion (4:20)
A5. Love Is All It Takes (Andy Fraser) (4:20)
B1. Bet You Never Been in Love (3:56)
B2. Where You Going Babe (4:14)
B3. You Belong With Me (4:45)
B4. The Rumour (4:12)
B5. Nightbird (4:27)

All titles written by Paul Carrack unless noted.

The Players

Paul Carrack (vocals, keyboards, backing vocals, guitars) with Richard Bailey (drums), Guy Barker (horns), Dyan Birch (backing vocals), Mel Collins (horns), Winston Delandro (guitars), Martin Drover (horns), Malcolm Griffiths (horns), Kuma Harada (bass), Neil Hubbard (guitars), Bam King (backing vocals), Noel McCalla (backing vocals), Neville Murray (percussion), Andy Newmark (drums), Tim Renwick (guitars), Jeff Seopardie (drums), Alan Spenner (bass). Produced by Phill Brown & Paul Carrack except A1/B1/B2 by Alan Callan & Phill Brown & Paul Carrack; engineered by Phill Brown.

The Pictures

Front cover black and white photography by Iain McKell. Front cover colour photography by Brendan Walsh. Back cover portrait photography by Mike Prior.

The Plastic

Released on elpee in 1980 in the UK (Vertigo, 6359 016).

  1. Re-issued on compact disc in W. Germany (Vertigo, 848 676-2).

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