by Jeff Fiedler
Albums from the Lost & Found is a regular feature on thegreatalbums.com in which contributor Jeff Fiedler reviews and helps us rediscover great pop albums that seem to have been lost to time.
Paul Carrack has never exactly been a household name in the U.S., but his remarkable musical resume is one that most aspiring musicians could only dream of ever having. Carrack got his first taste of chart success as the lead singer of the short-lived pub-rock band Ace, who managed to crack the Top Three in the U.S. on their very first try with the enduring lite-disco-meets-blue-eyed-soul of “How Long.” [The song was assumed by most listeners to be about adultery – “How long has this been going on?” the chorus asks – but, in fact, it was written about the band’s discovery that their bassist Terry Comer had secretly been playing in a second band.] After Ace folded, Carrack worked briefly with Frankie Miller and then did a stint as keyboardist in the legendary art-rock outfit Roxy Music, appearing on the albums Manifesto, Flesh + Blood, and Avalon, before joining the band Squeeze just in time for their album East Side Story and even being asked by the band to take lead vocals on the song “Tempted,” which would miss the U.S. Top 40 yet somehow remain the band’s most enduring radio hit, the song still being spun regularly on American airwaves decades later.
His initial stint with Squeeze would only last for that one album (though he’d later do a second disc with the band, 1993’s Some Fantastic Place), and Carrack soon departed to work with Nick Lowe, playing in the legendary producer’s backing bands Noise to Go and His Cowboy Outfit for the next several years, Lowe returning the favor by producing Carrack’s 1982 solo disc Suburban Voodoo, which yielded a minor Top 40 hit in the U.S. in the form of “I Need You.” During this time, Carrack would also be in high-demand as a session musician, playing on albums by the likes of the Pretenders (it’s Carrack who provides the piano on their hit remake of the Persuaders’ “Thin Line Between Love and Hate”), John Hiatt, Carlene Carter, and even the legendary alternative-rock band The Smiths.
If all that that isn’t enough to make many a musician jealous, Carrack would then be asked by Genesis’ Mike Rutherford to serve as one of two lead singers in his new band, Mike + the Mechanics, Carrack singing lead on the band’s major hits “Silent Running (on Dangerous Ground)” (the title of which is not used in the song but can be most easily identified by its chorus “Can you hear me? / Can you hear me running?”) and the Grammy-Award-winning Number One smash “The Living Years.”
But it’s been largely forgotten – on American shores, at least – that, while Carrack was with Mike + the Mechanics in the late ‘80s, he was simultaneously making records – and reaching the Top 40 repeatedly – as a solo artist, and his 1987 disc One Good Reason (helmed by Mike + the Mechanics producer/co-writer Christopher Neil, formerly best known for producing Sheena Easton’s earliest hit singles) is a real treat for pop-music buffs.
Not that the multi-talented Carrack really needed a hand in the songwriting department, but he benefits from the contributions of a great cast of contributors. In addition to Neil (who co-writes “Fire with Fire” and “Collrane”), Carrack’s old boss Nick Lowe co-writes the fun “Double It Up,” while Huey Lewis, former Wet Willie member Mike Duke (who penned several of Huey’s hits, including “Doing It All for My Baby” and “Hope You Love Me Like You Say You Do”), and Andre Pessis (co-writer of Huey’s “Walking on a Thin Line”) team up to contribute “Here I Am.” Carrack’s old Squeeze bandmate Chris Difford (one-half of the new-wave-era equivalent of Lennon and McCartney, Glenn Tilbrook being the other), lends Carrack a hand in writing the winning soul-pop of the album-opening title cut, a Top 40 hit.
Several equally strong cuts come from the outside: “Button Off My Shirt,” co-penned by Graham Lyle (formerly one-half of the duo Gallagher & Lyle and the co-writer behind an extensive list of Tina Turner hits), is a surprisingly strong cover of a tune originally done by country music legend Ronnie Milsap, while “When You Walk in the Room” was written and originally recorded by Jackie DeShannon (best known for the hits “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” and “What the World Needs Now Is Love”; she’d later co-write the massive Kim Carnes hit “Bette Davis Eyes”) and made a minor Top 40 hit in the ‘60s by British Invasion band The Searchers. The gripping album closer “(Do I Figure) In Your Life” was first done by the obscure 1960s band Honeybus but is perhaps best known to American audiences via Joe Cocker’s cover on With a Little Help from My Friends.
The greatest and most famous tune here, though, is the Top Ten hit “Don’t Shed a Tear,” featuring an even more impassioned vocal performance than normal from Carrack and a clever intro that might trick you more than once into thinking your record is skipping. Like most late-‘80s pop tunes, the production is quite glossy, but it works to the single’s advantage and there’s plenty of ear candy going on in the arrangement to make this an intoxicating listen through headphones. The single also has the interesting distinction of being penned by former one-hit-wonder Eddie Schwartz (“All Our Tomorrows”), better known for writing the hits “The Doctor” and “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” for the Doobie Brothers and Pat Benatar, respectively.
Though Carrack would return to Mike + the Mechanics shortly after to work on The Living Years, he’d continue to make solo discs in his down time, returning to the Top 40 with “I Live by the Groove” from 1989’s Groove Approved. He’d even continue to do session work for the likes of Elton John, Simply Red, B.B. King, and Roger Waters! He’d also quietly score a major Adult Contemporary hit behind the scenes as one of the songwriters – along with Peter Vale and former Traffic member Jim Capaldi – of the Eagles’ “Love Will Keep Us Alive,” a song originally intended for an ultimately-aborted supergroup formed by Carrack and Capaldi with Eagles members Timothy B. Schmit and Don Felder and .38 Special’s Max Carl. The Eagles would later record a second Carrack-penned tune in “I Don’t Want to Hear Anymore” from the 2007 reunion disc Long Road Out of Eden.