Last Echoes From The Brilliant Rafferty

by Kevin Burton

   Thanks to his daughter Martha, we have a new studio album from Gerry Rafferty, ten years after his death.

   Parlophone Records released “Rest In Blue” on Friday.  It’s a revamping of the songs he was working on at the time of his death.

   For dedicated Rafferty fans it’s a most welcomed unexpected treat, an 11th record.

   I plan to spend some time listening to the album in days to come and return soon with my reactions. 

   Today I will quote from an unflinching account of the man’s life and work by Paul Sexton in The Independent, under the headline: “Gerry Rafferty: Bipolar alcoholic, industry misfit – and one of Britain’s most treasured musicians.”

   Rafferty is one of my favorite artists and a main influence on my songwriting.

   “The ten solo albums made by Gerry Rafferty during his lifetime form a distinguished legacy, from 1971’s cult favorite Can I Have My Money Back, through the platinum-selling years of City to City and Night Owl, to less-celebrated gems such as North and South,” Sexton writes.

   “Rest In Blue” is a quintessential labor of love brought to fruition by the Scottish musician’s daughter Martha Rafferty.”

   Rafferty was “repeatedly endorsed over the years by the likes of John Peel, Paul McCartney and Paul Simon, who expressed the wish that he’d written “Stuck In The Middle With You,” Gerry’s first hit with the excellent Scottish band Stealers Wheel,” Sexton writes.

   He was kept from further greatness by alcohol and depression and had no illusions about that. He shrank from the limelight, to the distraction of band mates and record execs. But he worked at his craft, right up to his death.

   “I knew that at some point I would want to return to what he’d started and see if there was a way to bring it to fruition,” Martha said.

   “I really wanted this album to reflect what I’d grown up hearing, which was him with the guitar or the piano, singing, without any other accompaniment,” Martha said. “That’s the real test of a person’s talent, and it was just so beautiful. Everyone who’s heard him like that realizes how great he was, and I really wanted to try and capture that.”

   “Martha went into the studio with vocal recordings by her father in various stages of completion,” Sexton writes. She put the best parts together, calling on her father’s contemporaries, such as guitarist Hugh Burns, to help get the finished product.

   “The result is not only cohesive, but brings out sides of Rafferty’s musical personality that reach beyond the formidable charms of “Baker Street,” “Night Owl” and “Get It Right Next Time”. Rest In Blue offers the top-notch pop-rock of “Sign Of The Times,” “Slow Down” and others, but also shines new light on his skills as a folk traditionalist.

   Rafferty took great pride in being able to sing well, Martha said. “People don’t know that one of the influences in the pot, along with the folk music, the hymns from his Catholic upbringing and rock ‘n’ roll, was Frank Sinatra, and that era of performance and production. He really aimed for that kind of polished, professional sound – that really spoke to him.”

   “When you grow up on the west coast of Scotland, performing well vocally in front of your peers and your family is really important,” Martha said.  “You had to be able to sing in harmony and understand the structure of it and be able to sing together. He took all that very seriously. Some of the happiest memories of my life have been us all singing together, for sure. Beatles tracks, Everly Brothers, a lot of traditional stuff, the Bothy Band, the McGarrigles.”

   For Martha, her father’s success was a sword with sharp edges.   

    “I was eight years old when City To City went as big as it did, and it was just weird,” she says. “We lived in a street, we had neighbors, and the more famous you got, the more you’d retreat from other people.”

   “So the houses and the gardens got bigger, the distance to other people got further, and people’s attitude changes. You start to become aware that people who didn’t care suddenly care a lot. I was very wary of all of that as a child, and I probably still am,” Martha said.

   When stardom threatened the anonymous life he wanted, Rafferty walked out on a US tour at the height of his popularity, Martha says, as an act of self-preservation.

   “He was due to tour the US, and he’d gone out there to do a lot of press,” Martha said. “He was met with the full showbiz trappings, a big limo from the airport, a suite on Central Park, invited to all the parties. And he had a panic attack in the streets of New York, and thought he’d had a heart attack.”

   “It was so far removed from who he was that he decided at that point that that just wasn’t the right path for him,” Martha said.

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