One of my favorite experiences with music as a young lad was getting my first stereo unit. I had long admired my brother’s but, after he moved out, he took the stereo with him and as my parents didn’t really listen to music by itself for enjoyment or entertainment, there was no stereo in the house for a while.
My birthday eventually rolled around and when I woke up that morning I was surprised to find a brand new stereo system in the living room complete with turntable, cassette feature and eight track plug-in. You couldn’t wipe the smile off of my face the whole week, though I had nothing to play on it at the time. That weekend, I remember going to a department store with my mom. The store was going out of business and had all of its’ music selections on sale. I had heard a song on the radio I really liked called “Cruel To Be Kind” by someone called Nick Lowe. His album, Labour of Lust, became my first musical purchase and the first album played on my new stereo.
That experience started the love affair I’ve had with Nick Lowe’s music ever since. Poppy, catchy, and witty are three adjectives perfectly describing Lowe’s music right up until the mid-90’s when he decided to accentuate the country elements of his sound and eschew the manic pop he had been playing for many years. While many of his fans probably thought he was just growing older and slowing down, he was just revisiting the music of his early days when he was the singer, bassist, and chief songwriter for a British band called Brinsley Schwartz. Though the band was named after its’ lead guitar player, it is obvious Lowe was not only the leader, but also the most talented member of the five-man group.
Musically, I would compare the band to The Band though they started shrugging off their country sounds when pub rock (a scene they pretty much originated) started taking off, before that scene spawned punk rock. So, not only did Lowe begat pub and punk rock, he was also a killer musician, songwriter, and in-demand producer whose clients included Elvis Costello (his first five albums or so plus Blood and Chocolates), The Pretenders, Paul Carrack, Carlene Carter (who he was married to for a while), Graham Parker, and many others.
As a solo artist, Lowe has released roughly eleven solo CDs as well as albums with uber-rockers Rockpile (their lone CD Seconds of Pleasure is one of the best albums ever, in any genre, in my opinion)and Little Village (not the best but not bad by any means) who also featured John Hiatt, Jim Keltner and Ry Cooder in addition to Lowe. While the first two Lowe solos, Jesus Of Cool and Labour of Lust may be his best and his best-known releases, all of his albums contain some gems and his last three country-soul themed albums are sublime and well-worth your time if you’re into great songwriting and music befitting someone who has great stories to tell and the talent to tell them.
Sadly, only these last three albums and a greatest hits set remain in print at the moment and I believe the Rockpile one has been recently reissued. The Rockpile is a must-own whatever you do, as its blazing, blistering retro rock has few peers, but any album you can find by Lowe will lend many rewards to an interested ear. It’s all great stuff and I am eagerly awaiting whatever kind of album he puts out next.
The real question is, How Lowe can you go?
The Music Nerd knows……