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Merrill, Alan - 1985 Alan Merrill




ARTIST: Merrill, Alan
ALBUM: Alan Merrill
LABEL: Polydor
SERIAL: 823-577-1
YEAR: 1985

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

LINEUP: Alan Merrill - guitar, bass guitar, organ, synth, lead vocals * Benjy King - synth, keyboards, piano * Jimmy Wilcox, Eddie Tuduri, Trevor Spencer, Dallas Taylor, Mike Driscoll - drums, backing vocals * Donnie Kisselbach, Fiona Flanagan, Oliver Tobias - backing vocals * Rick Derringer, Alan Tarney Terry Taylor, Steve Gould, Mick Taylor - guitars * Tom Strohman - alto sax * Dave Still - tambourine, percussion * Steve Winwood - keyboards * Damalza - percussion

TRACK LISTING: 01 She Rocks Me * 02 Hard Hearted Woman * 03 Keep On Comin' * 04 Love Express * 05 Cold Cold September * 06 Rock Me In Rhythm * 07 N Y City * 08 Rain Chasing Dreams * 09 Freewheeler * 10 Always Another Train

WEBLINKS: www.alanmerrill.com


Background
If I was worth my salt, I would know exactly who Alan Merrill is, but I don't. Do you know why I brought it? Well because it was sealed, cheap, and had one of those green stickers with a big letter A on the sleeve, detailing an importation license, so the prospects were pretty good that it was a rock infused purchase. That was some time ago, but with age you gain knowledge and if I had brought this last week then I could bore you to tears with facts. You see big Al, to me, will be best remembered as part of Runner, this self-titled album was released on Acrobat in 1979. But we are considering here his solo debut release, although my memory is quite hazy I could have sworn that this album had already once appeared here on this site, possibly back in the Heart of the Rock days. Anyway as it is currently missing in action, I'll add my view on this release (actually Chris, it's not missing in action, it's under the 1979 section, article number 317)..Ed)

For others, Alan will also be remembered either as a member of the 70's UK outfit Arrows (not the Canadian ones, yes more relevant to me, but..), and being the writer of 'I Love Rock N Roll' which has kept Joan Jett in tight cat suits for years, even though I did see her (I was too far away and too young for Joan to return my dreamy stare) supporting Queen at Milton Keynes and while you are at it, add Heart who were also on that bill to my list of groups that failed to make a lasting impression on me. Look I was only 12, wearing my Flash!...a-ah (actual spelling of a-ah taken from the album sleeve..) T-shirt. After that goldmine I bet Merrill didn't need to write and record anything again. Well yes he did, this was released in 1985, although reports seem to stress this was a collection of tunes composed over a number of years, and looking back that's a good summary of the position.

Alan Merrill may not be at the top of your list to invite for family special occasions, but this guy has some friends and connections. Try Rick Derringer, Alan Tarney, Trevor Spencer, (although surprising and a tad disappointed, in that this duo do not have a chance to provide any writing contribution, although the album just reeks of them), Steve Winwood, Mick Taylor (Rolling Stones) even a young Fiona Flanagan and beat this, Oliver Tobias.. who? Infamous actor alongside (vertical or horizontal if I remember the film) Joan Collins in The Stud. Of course Al's old Runner mate, Steve Gould pops up too.

More importantly has this album got any relevance to the rock world? Yes it has, because we all love these types of albums; dodgy cover, lots of important people playing b-roles and a potential rock god look on the cover (is it me or does he have a slight aura of being Tom Keifer's brother?). Ok maybe he didn't live up to the messiah role, but little of our idols seldom do. So read on.. in the beginning, 'God always overpowered the evils, of all man's sins'. You seriously didn't think I would be quoting Genesis did you? Always been a Crue man!


The Songs
'She Rocks Me', well this just hits Eddie Money for six and as you will find later it's not just the first time. In the melodic phases it becomes Jimmy Barnes running partner.

Lovely starlight keyboards open 'Hard Hearted Women' but it seems similar to another song but I just can't place it, anyway as the title indicates it provides what you are expecting, an authentic rock chorus before closing the envelope and more AOR verses. Something that Joe Bonamassa would cover, rip apart and improve on the specialness.

Again Merrill seems to be trampling on the toes of Eddie Money especially while just tickling the soles of Billy Squier's feet. This situation is so paramount on 'Keep On Comin'.

It is so evident on the first 3 tracks the guitar is the weapon of choice, many the time you just get Merrill striking the strings in a downward swoop rather than a constant chord ridden monopoly. But subtle incorporation of the secret arsenal of keyboards and for me it just shades it in the important layer and enjoyment to me personally speaking at least.

You can take the next track being 'Love Express' two ways, Alan seems to be seeking some variety, and seems to have a map of America in front of him and is falling down the map to arrive at the borders of the southernmost counties. With a rhythm not heard since the old stream trains, it's an old dusty Southern country station he has reached. But I dunno it's a bit too cheesy, variety is not always the spice of life, spicy food never seems to sit with that comfortably, and nor do this. If he continued on this road, well the whole album would reach a dead end or the remains of a road to a village that has been sacrifice for a new water reservoir.

For the next track, this one has a weird Abba intro, something like the awful 'Chiquitita' all sitting in the cold with thick coats, but this is nothing like a piece of faceless IKEA Swedish furniture. This is controlled, with conviction on display, more characters than Stephen Fry can be found playing scanning the TV listings, it's all here on 'Cold Cold September', and I was hoping for an Indian summer. Again like a melodic Icelandic geyser, Jimmy Barnes is spilling out and shooting this song ahead of any on the album. He even seems to have a Scottish growl (more menacing than Joe Jordan without his dentures), yes a little touch of greatness.

'Rock Me In Rhythm 'is a happy song, like the great Peter Frampton, do you remember the cover of 'Frampton Comes Alive', well of course you do, you see while Frampton has had more sales, Merrill wins hands down on the amount of chest hair, look at Merrill's picture closely and compare against Frampton. Well it's not every day that we discuss that kind of thing here but it is a fine song. A quick fire Andy Gibb or maybe Leif Garrett, or any rocker with sun bleach hair, this being an essential for a song like this, I'll forgive Merrill for not having that attribute.

This easy going US feel is also prevalent again on 'N.Y City', but with a much more westcoast feel. Real 70's rock music, so seems strange on an album from the mid 80's, but a like a bit of nostalgia crossed with Robbie Patton. Even contains some slick sax, hey even gets funky, open the door and let the members of Earth Wind & Fire in for some hot beverage.

'Rain Chasing Dreams', sounds like the title for an old Now & Then Records compilation or the name of next AOR wonder group on Avenue of Allies. This time we have the acoustic guitar strumming but at quite a pace to a solid foundation to build a base to support Reo Speedwagon, or I would bet good enough for the twins of Nelson to get their hair straighteners out.

The cool evening sounds continue with 'Freewheeler' and what about this lyric of 'apricot brandy wine'. Yes this kind of thing really dates it, but that's not a problem. But then the song comes into its own with the section based on a simple line being, 'don't you drift your life away' is pure honey, this part is classic, the backing chorus just takes the song from run of the mill to somewhere named brilliant. This makes the song 'Freewheeler' as catchy as that 'Wheelie' game on the old ZX Spectrum. If you were told that Tarney and Spencer was on this album and not told where, you would have thought this one, but incredibly it isn't.

'Always Another Train', but you will have to wait for a couple of hours if this was based on the British Rail, again a lively harmless tune, jogging by not standing in the way of anything at all nasty, and here we come to a stop, so breath and relax.


In Summary
I have really enjoyed playing this album, the only thing that troubles me is how come that I blow of the dust of the needle before I play it and by the end, more dust has collected on the needle, where does it come from. While I leave that thought in your head, let me add that this provides a quality rock selective, offering one or two variations, sometimes they fail to spark, but most of the time there is enough warmth to supply heat to a 3 bed family home. So this should meet the expectations of even the most rigid AOR follower without the need of changing suppliers, or feeling you have to religiously continue to buy every Frontiers CD that get released in three's each week, remember those releases can't not be deducted as a taxable expense, they just add to your debt. Who cares what market this was being aimed at, because it probably had a worse marketing strategy than UK Leyland Cars (don't remember then, not even the square steering wheel on the Allegro (available in any colour as long as it's brown), no!, that's my point), it's an album for AOR anoraks to discuss and enjoy. Never really tied to one particular genre but its spread across many, yes pretty thinly, but at least thicker than George Osborne's plan for economic recovery.

Even though it is not an album that screams CD release, as it's my stuffy view that albums like this should stay as vinyl, sometimes you lose the character. However, no one listens to me as this album did see the light of day on CD, and can be found under the title of 'Never Pet A Burning Dog', as advertised on CD Baby, so whether it is an official, CDR or something Merrill has put together I am not too sure. Although it does have 2 extra tracks, but one of these can be measured in seconds rather than minutes, i.e. it's short. Alan never seemed to gain the limelight again, in fact we next saw him in the shadow of Meat Loaf (well most would be.. stop sniggering at the back), maybe I should substitute limelight with sunlight (stop the stout jokes here and now!) in 1986 as part of the backing band for the 'Blind Before I Stop' tour. Big Al did release some more music, I would be interested to know if they followed the same sort of recipe, but for some reason I doubt it, oh dear never mind, not a case of 'it's all the same', thank you Miss Jett.


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Comments

#1 | Eric on April 22 2013 12:49:04
Alan's an FB friend- I sent him the link.
#2 | gdazegod on April 22 2013 12:53:32
I was in contact with Alan a few years ago, thanks to the article we did on Runner, Alan sent me an Arrows Compilation CD, which I have stacked away under 'A'.. lol!
#3 | gdazegod on April 22 2013 12:54:18
I believe this was recorded in 1983, but released 2 years later. Just referred to some notes I had in my Access database.
#4 | gdazegod on April 22 2013 13:06:18
YouTube Video:
#5 | englandashes on April 22 2013 21:13:51
Thanks Eric, been interested to see what he thinks.

Sorry George, as usual my mutterings can be confusing, what I meant to say was that I thought that this album had already been reviewed and possibly missing, rather than the Runner in 79, which I was aware of in the 79 articles.

Great to see the video, totally unaware of that! Thanks
#6 | gdazegod on April 22 2013 22:40:02
Oh ok Chris, got the wrong end of the stick there.. lol! No, we've never reviewed Alan's LP previously, but we're glad that you did, so too as Alan I think.. Thumbs Up
#7 | englandashes on April 24 2013 20:05:12
Many thanks for Eric, for passing on a message he received from Alan Merrill recently, thought it gives some really useful information on the history of this album and what Alan is getting up to at the moment,

Thanks Eric, much appreciated, Chris


'Hi Eric,

Thanks for sharing the review of my 1985 solo album. It was actually started before the band Runner, with demos recorded in 1977 at Decibel studios in London and later more tracks recorded with the Derringer band in 1980-'82 in New York City. All the musicians played for free for me, all my close friends. They were all publishing demos. All the tracks.
The full and peculiar story of the making of this album will be detailed in my autobiography which is near completion.

Although I have never really been embraced by the mainstream media, I have had one of the most bizarre careers in rock music.
This will all come to light in my book.
Cheers,
Alan M.'
#8 | super80boy on November 25 2017 17:00:44
Side A is the better with more consistent & stronger paced songs - except for the side ending mild mannered ‘Cold Cold September’, which wraps things up nicely. You can hear that Eddie Money sound on ‘Hard Hearted Woman’ for sure…great video too! Side B takes on a more Westcoast vibe – ‘Freewheeler’ is a cool track. ‘Always Another Train’ employs light blues rock influences.

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