Vertigo 1972 / Esoteric 2012
Country discomfort for a quiet singer-songwriter twists the sinews of the heart.
Described as a difficult by the artist himself, the follow-up to "If You Saw Thro' My Eyes", laid down in two session runs with an American tour in between, may have a darker hue, yet it defines Ian Matthews’ approach much better. Perhaps, the album’s original song order felt too moody to many, and some previous CDs switched the LP sides, but this reissue restores it, casting the title track, a highlight in the twilight, to the collection’s very heart, with a slow-burn start high on denial. Still, “Never Again” sets things in motion in lucid, country rock way, its bass-bobbing charge and piano poise nicely reflected in a bonus cover of the BURRITOS’ “Devil In Disguise”, even though the record’s most vigorous moment is, paradoxically, a handclaps-helped a cappella delivery of “Da Doo Ron Ron”.
This paradox lies in the contrast between the overall singer-songwritery air of the album, where Richard Farina’s bellicose “House Of Un-American Activity Dream” rubs padded shoulders with Eric Andersen’s lyrical “Close The Door Lightly When You Go”, infectiously delivered in Matthews’ soft tones and underpinned with Tim Renwick’s electric and Andy Roberts’ acoustic strum while the pain of Ian’s own “Midnight On The Water” comes a bit too strained to relate to. At the same time, “Hope You Know” and “The Only Dancer” are among his gentlest ballads in the folk vein – the latter twined with Richard Thompson’s accordion and the former with Ray Warleigh’s sax – and “Please Be My Friend” conveys a communal optimism to sign the album off in good spirits. Uneven but good.