Angel Air 2015
Surface-scraping survey of Brighton hit-maker’s first five decades in the business of melody. Stellar cameos abound.
David Courtney’s songs have long become part of British pop-rock DNA, although there’s more to him than just the hits that ruled the waves in the ’70s. Roping in the classics but also highlighting albums tracks recorded by Courtney’s protégés up to this day, this compilation outlines the consistency of David’s work as writer and producer.
Never content to paint by numbers, the veteran used to find different colors for all the artists he worked with and to come up with tunes which best reflected each personality. Such an approach is never more obvious than on “One Man Band” and “Giving It Away”: each delivered by both Leo Sayer and Roger Daltrey – two people whose careers Courtney helped shape and whose cuts are aplenty here – the first piece gets distilled from a fair fare to a vaudeville romp, whereas the second one turns from a piano-led musing to a lushly orchestrated power ballad in THE WHO vein. And when an arrangement called for some special input, David was never afraid to invite extraordinary musicians to provide exactly that, so his namesake Gilmour injects cosmic solemnity into “When Your Life Is Your Own” from the composer’s solo LP, "First Day", Eric Clapton pours his dewdrops on “You Put Something Better,” and Ritchie Blackmore soars over the symphonic wave of “I Survived” before Adam Faith brings it down to earth with a brisk hymn to a human existence.
Still, it’s all about the song, not the singers or players. And the song is about the mood, be it the majestic blues of “In My Life” which Maggie Bell settles on, the delicate ennui of Marina Kapuro’s take on “The Easy Way Out,” or joie de vivre of “The Dancer” that SMOKIE fill with velvet harmonies. While Courtney wrapped Steve Ellis’ voice in strings on “Rag And Bone,” he chopped the upbeat “Blackmail” with Brian Robertson’s axe for the same vocal cords to get high. Just as merry is Roger Chapman’s hysterical rocking in “Midnight Child” counterbalancing the gentle textures of “Say It Ain’t So Joe” which allowed David open a whole new lyricism in Daltrey, whereas Faith bares his soft underbelly in the Paul McCartney-assisted “Star Song,” and Sayer strikes a rock balladeer pose for “World Radio” where Steve Lukather and Jeff Porcaro shine. But, for all its disco appeal, DOLLAR’s “Shooting Star” hasn’t stood the test of time, unlike ODYSSEY’s “Magic Touch” with its less impressive chart action. All of this goes to show, David Courtney knows no limitations style-wise, because ultimately it’s the tune that reigns here. A unique talent.