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Sunday, August 9, 2015

Dave Edmunds
"On Guitar...Dave Edmunds: Rags and Classics" (RPM)

The story of legendary guitar-slinger Dave Edmund's artistic arc is one of exaltation, enrichment, and grand evolution. It isn't every musician's journey. But it is Dave's, and a superb and admirable one it is.

In the 1970s and 1980s, he went through brash rocker, power pop, and new wave periods as refreshing as they were influential. With one boot in the pub rock scene and the other in a burgeoning rockabilly revival, the irrepressible Welshman with the leather-tooled drawl blazed his lightning-bolted way from Love Sculptre to solo acclaim, from Rockpile renown to still further solo scintillation and, most recently, revered pantheon status.

Classics from that period are now recommended study in rock'n'roll classrooms the world over: "Sabre Dance," his 1970 cover of Smiley Lewis's "I Hear You Knocking,"  "Queen of Hearts," "Girls Talk," "Bad Is Bad," "I Knew the Bride," "Knife and Fork," "Slippin' Away."

And over the decades, Dave Edmunds's instinctive bent for rock'n'roll perfect pitch earned him abundant production demand. In fact, many and sundry are the major names who benefitted from his production ear: Shakin' Stevens and the Sunsets, Brinsley Schwarz, Ducks Deluxe, the Flamin' Groovies, Paul McCartney. King Kurt, the Stray Cats, Fabulous Thunderbirds, and others. 

Those decades saw Edmunds winning in various stylistic modes, though his fine efforts all shared righteous rock'n'roll grounding. The all-instrumental "On Guitar...Dave Edmunds: Rags and Classics" is the culmination of a career quite well spent. The star not only engineered and produced, but played every instrument, as well.

Having long since proved himself as a stormy rocker, Edmunds today has let up on the accelerator to explore an impressive range of musical area populated by Merle Travis, the Beach Boys, Elton John, Booker T and the MGs, Kate Bush, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. 

And while I've long had a profound appreciation for Edmunds's trademark swaggering rock'n'roll output, and never for a single moment doubted his amazing fretwork abilities, I was stunned by the majesty and fulfilled ambitiousness, here. 

At each passage unfolding - some tenderly articulate, others imposingly declarative - the listener is reminded that true musical power lies not only in bombast or volume, but even more spectacularly and compellingly in wisely-measured, educated application.

Dave plays all instruments with appropriate regard for their places in the whole. And it is greatly to his credit that, as producer, he ensures a harmoniousness in which each part advances the triumph of the whole.

Gentle, melodic narrative and lush, placid backdrop can provoke emotions and imaginings not likely to bloom from ear-shattering gallop. Maturity lends a richness, a seriousness to endeavors. One knows when a master speaks.

And Dave Edmunds, once a careening rocker who knew exactly how to knock a house down, today can contrive palaces.

Recommended "I Believe I Can Fly,"Black Mountain Rag," "Classical Gas," "Symphony No. 40 In G Minor, Molto Allegro (Mozart)," "God Only Knows," "A Whiter Shade of Pale"

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