White Room 2005 / Angel Air 2013
Committing a crime: a hitmaker lays it on the line and hides it from the public view.
It was a mark of quality, perhaps, for David Courtney, a creative force in the careers of Leo Sayer and Roger Daltrey, to follow up "First Day", his own debut as an artist, with these, equally strong works – only to consider them inferior and leave on the shelf for more than two decades. He might have sensed the value of some songs, though, as Daltrey used the dryly rocking “Dear John” for a B-side, Sayer re-modeled “Mind Radio” from THE BUGGLES’ template and DOLLAR took the reggae-geared “Shooting Star” to the Top 20, yet for their writer the self-criticism benchmark proved too high a threshold to cross – the gentle funk of “No Hero” says it all – but not from today’s perspective, and Courtney shouldn’t have had worried then.
“Then” was in 1976 when, accompanied by ARGENT members, he laid down the first of two concept albums that share the space of a single CD now, and in 1980, when the second, weaker one was recorded, with a clear stylistic shift between them. Thus, whereas “Madness In The City” from the former spreads its twangy tension, prefaced with a riffing intro charge, over Tim Rice’s lyrics, there’s no brass-brandishing disco groove for the mostly plastic sonics of the latter, where tracks like “Questions” tend to jar and the refrain “Pure Emotions” creeps dangerously close to Alice Cooper’s “Cold Ethyl”. Still, the chamber lull of “Easy Way Out” throws an arc to the lush Beatlesque pop of “Can’t Get It Back / A Reason”. And if “The Kremlin Won’t Like It” is a period piece, John Verity guitar acrobatics take it beyond the time, while “Goodbye Home” is as catchy as the hoarse-voiced “Keeper” which swings like, well, a keeper. It could have been much sweeter if David agreed to Mike Love’s proposition to turn all of the “Star” songs into a BEACH BOYS record, yet that might ruin its own good vibrations, and now it’s a memorial to the author’s integrity.
****1/2 / ***