by Kevin Burton
The hit sniffers at United Artists wanted the title track from Gerry Rafferty’s 1978 smash album “City To City” to be the first song released as a single.
Rafferty knew better, successfully spoke up for the sonic masterpiece “Baker Street” as the first single and the rest is history.
I can’t say enough about Baker Street, but there is discernable magic and energy that jumps out of the title track.
On City To City we hear distilled the height of the powers of the great Gerry Rafferty. It was the joy of the music on that “good night train” with the refuge of home just an hour away.
So let’s not be too hard on the suits at UA. What they heard was a moment.
And now, incredibly, another savory moment is here, with the Sept. 3 release of “Rest in Blue” a set of songs Rafferty was working on just before his death in January of 2011.
And we have Gerry’s daughter Martha to thank for it. She pieced together the unfinished songs with the help of some of her father’s friends.
As I play “Rest in Blue” I feel great delight and relief. Delight because we have another Rafferty album, which I never expected. Relief because the songs far, far exceed my low-ish expectations for the project.
There is some really good stuff here. It’s much better than I dared to hope for. Given what I have learned about Martha, I shouldn’t have worried.
“It’s an absolute cracker,” was a comment typical of Rafferty fans on one of his Facebook pages. “She has done her dad proud.”
And now I can get to know the songs the way you do with a new album, enjoying the moment, knowing that this was not Martha scraping the bottom of the musical barrel just to get a product out to make money, something Gerry would have hated.
Loudersound.com called it “a suitable memorial to a much-missed talent.” That sounds about right. Not the best of Rafferty, but reminiscent of his best.
My first time through Rest In Blue made me mourn the man. I knew he had been dead for ten years. Also, some songs, especially “Precious Memories” sound like hymns.
From there I went back in time, to appreciate the old stuff, some tunes that made the radio, some that did not – “Baker Street,” “New Street Blues,” “Days Gone Down, (Still Got That Light In Your Eyes),” “Stealing Time.”
On the new set I listen to “Slow Down” and understand why Martha released it first, months ahead of the full album. This is Good Gerry, encouraging and upbeat without any alcohol-soaked lyrics. “It’s Just The Motion,” which is next on the song list, is along the same lines.
Those two are my early faves, along with “You Are All I Want,” which grabs your attention from the intro (favorite lyric: “when I met you it was my birthday”) and paints a picture of love and home. I also like “Full Moon.” His delivery on that one reminds me of Bonnie Raitt.
“Look At Me Now” is soothing and is really growing on me.
Once in a while I find myself wanting more tempo on some of the tracks. Then I remember that Gerry is done rushing around.
The song “Still In Denial” is labelled “explicit” because of one adjectival F bomb that could have easily been changed to “messed-up” had Gerry still been alive.
The final song on Rest In Blue is a version of “Stuck In The Middle With You,” a top ten hit for Rafferty with Stealers Wheel. I listened to this the first time as I listened to the album as a whole, just hoping Gerry pulled it off OK.
Usually I don’t want those later efforts. Ever buy a greatest hits CD only to find out it wasn’t the original recordings? Just awful.
But this version was one I welcomed as from a friend.
Early Rafferty is a guy who mentioned sleeping on the floor at lot in his songs. The man singing this later version does not sound like someone who just got off the floor. He does sound like someone who could spin a few tales though, for sure.
The star-maker machinery that Joni Mitchell referred to in “Free Man In Paris,” that Rafferty hated so viscerally, does that even exist anymore?
If it does, it will be interesting to see how it functions with Rest in Blue. At this writing it is number 14 on Amazon’s best seller list.
For my own purposes Rest in Blue is a comfort, like a letter from an old friend.
Like that “good night train” from City to City, Rest in Blue keeps on rolling and just rocks me to sleep.