Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Lighthouse - 1972 - Sunny Days

Sunny Days

01. Silver Bird (3:02)
02. Sunny Days (4:13)
03. You Girl (3:56)
04. Beneath my woman (6:57)
05. Merlin (4:15)
06. Broken Guitar Blues (4:25)
07. Letter home (4:07)
08. You give to me (7:16)
09. Lonely places (3:21)

- Dick Armin / Electric Cello
- Ralph Cole / Guitar, Vocals
- Don Dinovo / Electric Violina
- Paul Hoffert / Keyboards, vibes, congas, canary
- Bob McBride / Acoustic Guitar, Percussion, Vocals
- John Naslen / Trumpet
- Skip Prokop / Acoustic Guitar, Percussion, Drums, Vocals
- Howard Shore / Flute, Sax (Alto), Sax (Tenor), Vocals
- Larry Smith / Trombone, Mellophonium, Vocals
- Alan Wilmot / Bass
- Louis Yacknin / Bass

After a well earned layoff to recharge the batteries, during which the superb "Lighthouse live" album was released, the band returned in late 1972 with "Sunny days". The reunion however proved in some ways to be a false dawn. After a promotional tour for the album keyboard Paul Hoffert would leave the band due to burn out, and singer Bob McBride would also leave by mutual agreement. McBride's problems with substance abuse were having an adverse impact on his contribution to the band. He went on to record solo albums, but sadly he was unable to shake himself of his addiction and died in 1998.

As the title suggests though, "Sunny days" is a positive, optimistic album. Side one has two hit singles, the title track and "You girl", plus the highly commercial "Silver bird". "Silver bird" is an upbeat toe-tapper with strong harmonies and good guitar work, while "Sunny days" has a strong laid-back-summer feel, and distinctly retro atmosphere. The song is written by band leader Skip Prokop, who dominates the writing on the first side. By the time we get to "You girl", which opens with "Well I don't care if it's a cloudy day..", it starts to feel like just a little too much effort is being made to convey overtly positive messages.

The mood changes suddenly for the blues based "Beneath my woman", although the lyrics are still positive. The track features an inspired sax solo with a sympathetic arrangement. The side closes with another reflective song "Merlin", the only song on the album where Bob McBride is involved in the writing.

"Broken guitar blues" which opens side two is Ralph Cole's satirical tale of how his guitar got damaged on a flight when the crew insisted on putting it in the hold. Clealry it was not damage too badly, as the guitar work on the track is exemplary! Howard Shore's "Letter home", which appears to sing himself, has the sound of a Neil Young "Harvest" type song.

"You give me" is the strongest piece on the album, starting as a slow power rock song of the type which dominated the second side of "Thoughts of moving on" before developing into a fast paced sequence of lead guitar followed by brass then keyboards. Larry Smith's arrangement of his own composition here is bold and compelling. The album closes with Paul Hoffert's "Lonely places", a song which attempts to explain why he needs to leave the band at this point. Ironically, the song is not a depressive ballad, but a strong up-tempo bras driven rocker.

"Sunny days" was to all intents and purposes the last great album by Lighthouse. While many of the songs err towards simplicity in structure, there is plenty in the way of strong arrangements and inspired performances.

In the UK, the album was only the second to be released on the newly formed Mooncrest record label, the first being Nazareth's "Razamanaz".

1 comment:

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