Thanks to some of my fellow music-geek colleagues bringing it to my attention, here’s a link to a seemingly impromptu (but not really – it’s a webcast!) jam between British songwriting giant Nick Lowe, world-renowned blue-eyed soul and late of Hall & Oates crooner Daryl Hall. Hot session guy T-Bone Wolk joins them for added licks and interplay. This is a part of Daryl Hall’s self-produced webcast series appropriately titled Live at Daryl’s House.
To see the whole show once you get to the site, the show in two parts, or selected clips, click on the images to the right of the viewing screen. If you’re going to cherry-pick, my recommendations are the group’s rendition of “Shelley My Love”, originally from Nick Lowe’s 1994 album The Impossible Bird, and their version of his 1979 radio hit “Cruel to Be Kind”. Actually, watch the whole show and tell me what you think, good people.
Nick Lowe has always been a songwriting classicist, letting the trends roll over him as the years went by like they were nothing, and much to his credit. Yet for a number of years, times were tough for him, plying his trade in Beatlesque power pop, country-rock, and 50s & 60s-styled rhythm & blues during a musical period that had pretty much left all that behind in favour of the DX7 synthesizer and Linn drum.
Some years before, he’d been house producer for the independent label Stiff records where he gained his nickname “Basher” for the bash-it-out-in-one-take production style for which he was known at the time. Lowe served as the sonic midwife for albums by Elvis Costello, The Damned, and the Pretenders, among many others. He was also a writer, singer, and bassist in his own right as a solo performer, and previously in the semi-legendary pub rock band Brinsley Swartz. While with the band in the mid-70s, he’d written a little number called “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love and Understanding”, which Elvis Costello had a hit with years later, recording it for his own Armed Forces album in 1979, which Lowe produced. But by the early 90s it would be the song that would keep on giving for Lowe by way of an unlikely source.
In the late 80s and early 90s while Lowe was floundering on the fringes of the pop universe, pop-soul singer Whitney Houston was at its center. At the height of her powers, she made a film with Kevin Costner called the Bodyguard, with a career-defining title track in Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” in the charts. The movie had an impressive box-office showing. But the soundtrack album was a worldwide smash, released at the end of 1992 in North America and spending fourteen weeks at the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100. It was certified at an incredible 17 x platinum, which means that it sold 17 million units. One of the album tracks on that record was a contribution by soul singer Curtis Stiegers. The song: “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love and Understanding” by Nick Lowe.
Nick Lowe was in again.
With the continuing proceeds from the Bodyguard Soundtrack (approximately $1 million, all told), Nick Lowe was free to make any sort of album he wanted to make. And the first record he made, the aforementioned The Impossible Bird, was arguably his strongest since his early career. And the money allowed both a tour of the States to support the album, and a follow-up album too.
He would go on to make several other records following a similar stylistic trajectory, all featuring his lustrous baritone, with excursions into the musical traditions of classic pop music; pop-soul, straight-up country, and even tin pan alley jazz. The albums Dig My Mood in 1998 and The Convincer in 2001, were looked upon as completing the trilogy that was started with The Impossible Bird, garnering similar praise from critics along with comfortable sales.
Nick Lowe’s newest album, At My Age, is out now, as is the re-issue of his 1978 debut LP Jesus of Cool, an album which was re-titled for the North American market as Pure Pop For Now People, possibly to avoid record burnings in the bible-belt.
You can read Lowe’s own thoughts on the Bodyguard soundtrack, among other things, in this great interview with Nick Lowe.
For more music, check out the Nick Lowe MySpace page.
For tour information and other fan goodies, hightail it to the official Nick Lowe website.