Ronnie Lane with Slim Chance

Anymore for Anymore (GM 1974)

I know I keep writing this…but I apologize for my absence and regular posting will resume shortly.

I only discovered this album a few years ago, but wish it had fallen into my lap much sooner. Slim Chance, Ronnie Laine’s post-Faces project, barely sounds like the work of a man responsible for the raunchy rock and roll of the Faces. In fact, it has that easygoing 70s stoner vibe that makes me love the Flaming Groovies and Holy Modal Rounders while nailing some slick Nilsson/Rundgren styled AM weepers. Hell,  their cover of Blind Willie Johnson’s “Bye and Bye(Gonna see the King)” makes the whole album worthwhile as Lane channels Bob Dylan circa Blonde on Blonde.  There is no weak link on Anymore for Anymore. Lane manages to synthesize the strands between psych, r&b, country, blues and folk into a thoroughly unified musical vision where it all doesn’t quite fit, but you wouldn’t change a damn thing. It’s all so well-written, played, performed and produced that a cotton-candy pop confection melds into barroom boogie into a damaged weeper without ever seeming like a well-intentioned, but uncohesive collage. Lane ain’t exactly reinventing the wheel with Slim Chance, it’s just a sloppy, passionate album where everyone sounds like they are having a fucking blast in the studio. Therefore, you get to hop on the coattails of their good mood.

If you isolated the country tunes from the rest of the album, you would have the makings of the best outlaw country recorded by a British citizen. The other half would make a far better soundtrack to Harold and Maude. Both haves capture a vibe of a man whose been burned a few too many times, but keeps hoping for brighter days ahead of him. “Don’t You Cry” is an especially moving tune where Lane is obviously crushed by a broken relationship, but he chokes back the tears to proclaim that he’s going to rise from the ashes like a phoenix. Yeah, the imagery is a bit hokey, but I feel him on the idea that moping around in your pajamas is for the birds. The more you listen to Anymore for Anymore, you kind of grow attached to Ronnie Lane. His songs are so full of hope, regret and conflicted emotions that his protagonist seem all too familiar. Therefore, I have found myself blaring this album at inopportune moments while commiserating with Lane’s cavalcade of lovable losers and determined souls. There’s something to be said for albums where you find solace, sympathy or empathy with each sentiment. Anymore for Anymore is really an unheralded album that may represent one of the best county-folk albums of the 70s.

Billy Nicholls

Would You Believe (Immediate 1968)

Folks tend to flock towards the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, The Zombies’ Odyssey and Oracle, Love’s Forever Changes and the Kinks’ Village Green Preservation Society due to history anointing them as the touchstones of late 60s psych-pop. However, this era was rife with albums that fell just short of the brilliance of these classics. This was such a fertile period for the genre and bands like the Hollies, Bee Gees, Sagittarius, Flaming Groovies recorded great works that are somewhat forgotten in the glow of these anointed favorites. One of my favorit also-rans from this period is Billy Nicholls’ Would You Believe as it borrows bits and pieces from the big three, but it buries its melancholy sentiments beneath uplifting harmonies, carefully orchestrated arrangement and the occassional bluster of a raucous riff.

Nicholls’ songs are great on their own, but much credit must be paid to the influence of Andrew Loog Oldham, producer of the Rolling Stones, manager of the Small Faces and head of the Immediate label. He is responsible for the lush backing of Would You Believe’s most memorable songs. In fact, his production works so well because the incessant positivity of these arrangements conflicts with some depressing sentiments. I’ve always been a sucker for sour notes dolled up in fancy clothing, so I tend to favor the tunes where Billy smiles to hide the tears.What is even more amazing is that much of the album was created while he was 16 years old and that the Small Faces provide backup on some of the tracks. Supposedly, Oldham viewed Nicholls’ as a potential cash cow that he could mold into a British Brian Wilson to serve as a bookend to Mick Jagger, but it didn’t quite work out that way.

Anyone who can pen such a slice of sunshine like “Life is Short” is ok with me. The entire song revolves around a innocent obsession where the “ba-ba-ba’s” mask the desperation of a young man obsessed with a woman who won’t give him the day. He gets so caught up in the fact that life is transient and get so worked up about the pursuit that I almost want to chase behind that waggish scamp. His romanticism constantly gets the better of him and the result is a song like “It Brings me Down” which documents his angst in sublime fashion as piano, guitar, harpsichord and drums collide in a fruity manner that celebrates the orchestral excess of the time period. Plus, the instrumental coda at the end of this song is a perfect way to go out as it backwards tracks its way to Beatledom.

Nicholls became disilluisioned with the album’s lack of success, broke with Oldham and recorded a couple solo albums that I’d love to hear. It is a shame because the optimistic moments hint at a bright future that was never fulfilled.