ALBUM REVIEWS

PAUL CARRACK
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ALBUM RATING SYSTEM

*****

An excellent album. Strong effort from beginning to end! A must own!

****

A very good album. A few low points but, overall, a decent effort. Recommended. 

***

A good album. Several weak points detract from the album, but it's still worth owning.

**

A mediocre album. Unless you're a real fan, you might not like this album very much.

*

A poor album. Stay away from this one unless you are a hardcore fan!

 

Paul Carrack - Suburban Voodoo (1982)

WOG RATING: ****

In what many people would call the quintessential "pub rock" album, Suburban Voodoo launched Carrack into the spotlight as a successful solo artist in the early 1980s. That genre, which was made popular during this period by the likes of Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds, and others, was taken to another level with this release. The massive pop appeal of hits like "Lesson In Love", "I Need You" and other radio-friendly cuts soared up the charts in America with several music publications, including Rolling Stone, sighting it as among the best albums of that year. The raw, soulful quality of Paul Carrack's voice combined with the pub rock sound of the day was so unique that he became the poster boy for the term "Blue Eyed Soul." Voodoo is an exceptionally strong album with a great deal of gutsy, powerful tracks. To this day, it remains one of my favorites from his solo catalog. After hearing this album, it was clear that Carrack would not be backing Nick Lowe for much longer. His own star was very much on the rise!

 

Paul Carrack - One Good Reason (1987)

WOG RATING: ***

In what appears to be strongly influenced by the massive pop commercial success of the debut, self-titled, Mike and the Mechanics album, Paul Carrack's third solo offering was a radical departure from the "pub rock" sound of his Suburban Voodoo record. Fueled by hit singles by the title song, "Don't Shed a Tear" and his cover of "When You Walk In the Room," Reason demonstrated that Carrack could achieve commercial success equal to or greater than that of his side project with Mike Rutherford and Paul Young. Other memorable tracks included "Fire with Fire" and the incredible "(Do I Figure) In Your Life."
   
Ultimately, while One Good Reason is not a bad album, the overly commercial pop sound on the majority of the set does make it feel slightly less genuine (for lack of a better word) in comparison to some of his other solo projects which tended to have a stronger, more organic, soulful quality. I still enjoy this album today, but at times it seems that the songs are essentially Paul's own interpretation of doing a solo Mechanics album rather than the soul-pop foundation that most of his albums are based upon. 

 

Paul Carrack - Groove Approved (1989)

WOG RATING: ***

Released on the heels of The Mechanics' Living Years, Carrack's fourth solo album once again followed the path of a more trendy pop sound much like it's predecessor. While dance-flavored pop singles like "I Live By The Groove" and the Nick Lowe co-written "Battlefield" gained most of the attention on this release, the strengths of Groove Approved were "Dedicated" (my personal favorite), "Bad News At The Best of Times" and the Chris Difford (of Squeeze) co-written "After The Love Is Gone", which showcased a little more of Paul's "blue-eyed soul" prowess and made it a far more diverse record than One Good Reason. Also of note, fellow Mechanic Paul Young made an appearance on backing vocals on the catchy "On The Tip of My Tongue."  

Groove Approved
is an underrated album that was sadly foreshadowed by a select few songs, which despite being decent dancey-pop songs, lacked the strength of the rest of this project. For those Carrack fans who have not explored this album, I would recommend it. Over all, its a fairly good offering worth of your time.

 

Paul Carrack - 21 Good Reasons (1994)

WOG RATING: *****

Before parting ways with Chrysalis Records in the early '90s, Paul Carrack released 21 Good Reasons, a single disc anthology spanning Paul's work from 1974's Five-A-Side album with Ace through 1991's Word of Mouth with Mike and The Mechanics. A myriad of hits from Ace's "How Long", Squeeze's "Tempted", Mike and the Mechanics "Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground)" and many of Paul's solo hits are peppered by his work with Spin 1ne 2wo, and others. All tracks included in this amazing collection are the original studio versions that dominated the radio and suitably showcase some of the highlights of Carrack's incredible career in music.
Although no single disc set is going to be totally comprehensive - especially as a true Carrack aficionado - I can find little fault with this impressive set. In fact, it's essentially a perfect starting point for someone looking to explore some of Paul Carrack's musical history for the first time. This collection gets my highest recommendation. It's an exceptional treasure trove of Carrack gold!

 

Paul Carrack - Blue Views (1995)

WOG RATING: *****

Paul Carrack's fifth solo album was once again a radical departure. With Blue Views, Carrack abandoned the more trendy, mainstream '80s style dance orientated pop songs highlighted one One Good Reason and Groove Approved for a more genuine sounding soulful, slightly more adult contemporary, pop feel. The end result was a nearly flawless piece of soul-pop perfection. Although the album gained most acclaim for hits like "Eyes of Blue", "Love Will Keep Us Alive" (co-written with Jim Capaldi and Don Felder of The Eagles), and "For Once In Our Lives," there is not a weak track on this album. Blue Views gets my highest recommendation. It's not only one of Carrack's best albums, but one of my favorite albums - period.   

 

Paul Carrack - Beautiful World (1998)

WOG RATING: ***

Paul Carrack's sixth solo album's sound was along the same vein as the adult contemporary soul-laced Blue Views. Although not nearly as exceptional as Blue Views, Beautiful World is still a very good album with songs like the title track, "Perfect World", "The Way I am Feeling Tonight", and "Some Kinda Love" among just a few of the release's 10-core tracks (later issues had added bonus tracks). Sadly, I think the album is probably slightly eclipsed by the epic pop masterpiece that proceeded it, so the album was largely overlooked. I definitely recommend trying this album out if you enjoyed Carrack solo projects like Blue Views or Satisfy My Soul

 

Paul Carrack - Satisfy My Soul (2000)

 

WOG RATING: ****

Aside from maybe his Blue Views record, Paul Carrack's seventh solo album, Satisfy My Soul, is one of his best, crowning achievements as a solo artist. The album continued to follow Carrack's more recent inclination toward more soulful pop orientated songs, rather than the more commercial pop sound heard on projects like One Good Reason and Groove Approved. The album is near-flawless in its countless selections of lush, well-crafted songwriting and catchy tunes. Ballads like "My Kind" and the title track (the latter of which has almost a Sam Cooke vibe to it) are just a couple of examples of how solid this release is. Much like Blue Views, it is one of the essential albums from his body of work that simply must be owned.     

 

Paul Carrack - Groovin (a.k.a. Still Groovin) (2001/2002)

WOG RATING: ***

There is absolutely no doubt that Paul Carrack is influenced by '60s and '70s soul and pop music. Anyone who has ever heard a Carrack-related album released in the past 30 years or so can attest to that. Here for the first time Carrack offers a collection of songs that have influenced him ranging from Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine" to The Young Rascals' "Groovin" to James Taylor's "You've Got A Friend" to name but a few. Perhaps not surprisingly, these covers work very well. Carrack's soulful voice lends itself very traditionally to most of these classics while still allowing enough space in the musical spectrum to allow for his own flavor.
 

 

The album was initially released under the name Groovin with 13-tracks, but it was later re-packaged as Still Groovin with five bonus tracks ("Into The Mystic", "People Get Ready", "Warm and Tender Love", "It's Growing", and "I Wish It would Rain"), a variation of the album cover, and a DVD EP featuring four live selections and two promo videos from his Paul Carrack: In Concert DVD recorded on his Satisfy My Soul Tour. Unfortunately, the DVD single is in PAL video format, which won't help you all that much if you live outside select parts of Europe (although it should work on DVD-ROMs on PCs everywhere). While the album never saw its way to being released in North America, Groovin, in whichever format you choose, is an interesting take on some old favorites a la Carrack!

 

Paul Carrack - It Ain't Over (2003)

WOG RATING: ****

Paul Carrack has consistently created great soul influenced pop records as a solo artist for some twenty years, and his 2003 album, It Ain't Over, is certainly no exception. The eleven tracks that make up the album are well-crafted, classic Carrack in its finest form. From the opening track, the catchy straight ahead pop tune "She Lived Down The Street," and heavily R&B saturated numbers like "Where Did I Go Wrong?" and "Just A Little Lie," to the hybrid pop-soul on "Nothin' To Lose," Carrack delivers time and time again. Perhaps even more impressive is that, with the exception of some horn and string arrangements, Carrack recorded the album virtually by himself (including drums, bass, organ, guitars, vocals -  and even producing)! Carrack also penned most of the material on the album with the exception of three cuts co-written by ex-Squeeze bandmate Chris Difford.  Clearly a labor of love, It Ain't Over demonstrates Carrack's prowess as a studio musician and his continuing evolution as a songwriter. 
 


Collectors may also want to note that a later "Limited Edition" pressing of the It Ain't Over 11-track album was released exclusively in Europe (pictured to the left) and featured a slight variation to the album artwork, plus three bonus live tracks recorded at Royal Albert Hall in 2002 ("Georgia [on My Mind]","Love Will Keep Us Alive" and "Anyday Now"), and a fourth bonus cut, "The Living Years," recorded live from Abbey Road Studios in 2002 with the London Community Gospel Choir. Personally, I felt that Carrack's cover of "Georgia" made it worth the price of admission alone, but that's just my opinion! 

 

Paul Carrack - Live At The Opera House (2004)

WOG RATING: ****

This two-disc set recorded in January 2004 at the Opera House in Buxton, England, serves as Carrack's first live album as a solo artist. Among its 24-tracks are a mix of solo tunes originally recorded by Carrack between 1987 to present with cover tunes and other gems thrown in for good measure. Of course, there is a heavy emphasis on songs from Carrack's more current projects like It Ain't Over, Groovin' and Satisfy My Soul which make up half of the collection. Sadly, missing are token songs from Carrack solo albums such as Suburban Voodoo, Nightbird, and Groove Approved which would have rounded off this live anthology quite nicely. Although very different from his newer solo material, a few of those early up-beat pop-orientated tunes would have given the album a little more diversity and would have been a welcomed addition. Despite this, Carrack's live set offers a fairly good representation of most of his career including songs from a few of his older solo projects and an assortment of hit songs originally recorded bands like Mike & The Mechanics, Squeeze and Ace. 

The live album itself is well recorded and the musicianship displayed on the project is excellent. Among the album's highlights are slightly more jazzy and soulful versions of songs like "My Kind" and "Eyes of Blue", the ultra-jazzy reworked version of the Mike & The Mechanics' hit single "Silent Running" and "Dance To The Music," a previously unreleased cover tune that has been a closing song on the past couple of Carrack solo tours. This set would make a great introduction to Carrack's solo material and probably the closest thing you'll get to a complete career greatest hits since his old "best of" 21 Good Reasons is out-of-print and Carrack's back catalog spans several different record labels. Live At The Opera House is strongly recommended and despite a few very minor shortcomings is a solid live album with plenty of great music!
     

 

Paul Carrack - Old, New, Borrowed and Blue (2007)

WOG RATING: ***

This is probably the first Paul carrack album I've heard that lacks the consistent flow of great music offered by his past projects.... It just isn't as seamless as you've come to expect from the king of Blue Eyed Soul. As I suppose the title aptly suggests, this album feels a bit more like an odds and sods collection of random cover tunes, left-over tracks, and alternate versions that have been thrown together and released as a new album. There are bits that sound like unused material from Groovin', Paul's 2001 covers/tribute album, with cover versions of songs ranging from The Beatles and Marvin Gaye to Kris Kristofferson and Nick Lowe. Other tunes feel like songs from the cutting room floor from various other recent solo endeavors over the past few years with the balance of the disc spiced up by a couple of better tracks that hold the album together, like "The Reason Was You" which comes off beautifully. 
 
I wouldn't call it a bad album, because most of the material on this project is well performed, but it just doesn't fit together well in many places and doesn't represent Paul's best material by any stretch - regardless of the fact that most of the tracks are not actually penned by Carrack himself. As a fan of Carrack's music, I'm pleased to own it, but I consider it more of a archive collection of sorts. You'll certainly know many of these songs from the original, more popular versions, but the album just never gels for me. If you are a passive fan, this probably isn't the album I would recommend you to try out; but, if you're an Carrack enthusiast, you'll find enough diamonds in the coal to make this a worth your while.
 

 

Paul Carrack - I Know That Name (2008)

WOG RATING: ****

Paul Carrack has got to be one of the most consistent musicians in pop music. He delivers time and time again (with the possible exception of his last project which did not seem like an actual 'new' album - see above). This time out, I Know That Name offers up a super-slick production that suits Paul's work beautifully. Aided by Eagles members Timothy B. Schmidt and Don Henley on a new take of "I Don't Want To Hear Anymore" (a Carrack penned tune The Eagles originally did on their most recent The Long Road To Eden that went on to sell more than seven million copies in the U.S. alone!) and legendary 'Soul Man' Sam Moore on "Love Is Thicker Than Water", the ex-Mechanic shines beyond belief.
 
Perhaps not surprisingly, despite the help of these famous guests, the true gold of the album lies within Paul's tracks like "Ain't No Love In The Heart of the City" and "I Don't Want Your Love (I Need Your Love)." In addition to Carrack's mega-star guests, members of Carrack's traditional touring band are back on this album as well, like Steve Beighton on saxophone and Lindsay Dracass on backing vocals. I would strongly recommend checking out this album. From the tracks mentioned above to the new version of his hit single "Eyes of Blue" this album is a true gem! While its not his best album (I'm still a bit partial to Blue Views as his best), I would consider it among his best works to date.
 

OTHER PROJECTS FEATURING PAUL CARRACK:

Ace featuring Paul Carrack - The Best Of (How Long) (2003)

WOG RATING: ***

For the first time, Paul Carrack fans can get there hands on a properly remastered anthology from one of his earliest bands, Ace. Newly reissued by Varese Sarabande Records, The Best of Ace features 16 tracks spanning the group's three albums originally released between 1974 and 1977. Among this set is the entire Five-A-Side album, which features the band's two hit singles "How Long" and "Rock & Roll Runaway," along with three tracks each from the Time For Another and No Strings albums. 

In addition to a first rate remaster, this collection features new liner notes and great period pictures in the packaging. While I would have loved to get the rest of the band's material in this quality, I suppose beggars can't be choosers. It is, after all, the first time any Ace albums were actually available on CD in the U.S. (unless you count European or Japanese imports). If you own those old European Ace CD collections, you'll be blown away by how great this disc sounds! If you like Paul Carrack, this anthology comes highly recommended! 
 


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