Dave Edmunds

***Rockpile (1972; Repertoire, 2001)
***Subtle as a Flying Mallet (1975; One Way, 1998)
****Get It (Swan Song, 1977)
****Tracks on Wax 4 (Swan Song, 1978)
****1/2Repeat When Necessary (Swan Song, 1979)
****The Best of Dave Edmunds (Swan Song, 1981)
***I Hear You Rockin' (1987, Columbia)
***1/2The Dave Edmunds Anthology (1968-90) (Rhino, 1993)
****A Pile of Rock: Live (Castle, 2001)
****1/2From Small Things: The Best of Dave Edmunds (Columbia/Legacy, 2004)
****Seconds of Pleasure (1980; Columbia/Legacy, 2004)

Dave Edmunds was one of the first people to look for the future of rock and roll in its past. As the '70s started to look like the decade of singer-songwriters, Edmunds wasn't much more than a guy who loved Chuck Berry and George Jones and played a guitar that owed more to Ike Turner than to Eric Clapton. Edmunds' only claim to fame back then was that he had taken a couple of pieces of classical music, Khatchaturian's "Sabre Dance" and Bizet's "Farandole," and turned them into high-speed guitar romps. But as the '70s unfolded, Edmunds caught two breaks. The first was that he cut a guitar-heavy cover of the Smiley Lewis hit, "I Hear You Knocking," which turned into a freak top ten single. The second was that he matured as a studio wiz, emerging as the producer of choice for English pub rock bands Brinsley Schwarz and Ducks Deluxe -- bands which played his kind of new-fangled old-time rock and roll, and gave him the collaborator he needed to re-launch his solo career. For while Edmunds could sing, play guitar, and produce a dense, slightly metalic rockabilly sound, Nick Lowe gave him new songs to go with the oldies that Edmunds expertly picked.

The Edmunds-Lowe collaboration starts with Get It and extends through their jointly led band, Rockpile. These are basically high-powered nouveau rockabilly albums: fast, hard, with a taste of country. Get It and Tracks on Wax 4 are about half originals/half covers, with Edmunds' own songs more firmly in a country vein ("Worn Out Suits, Brand New Pockets," "A. 1. on the Jukebox") while Lowe's songs tended to be hard rockers ("I Knew the Bride," "Heart of the City"). Repeat When Necessary differed in two respects: the album was played by a real band, Rockpile, and none of the songs were written by the band. But the songs were exceptionally strong ("Girls Talk," "Queen of Hearts") and it turned out to be Edmunds' best album.

Meanwhile, Rockpile recorded their own album, Seconds of Pleasure. For their brief moment together, Rockpile had the reputation of being the best live band in the world, but the album didn't quite live up to the band's reputation, probably because the new songs didn't quite live up to the repertoire that Edmunds and Lowe had accumulated. The latest reissue includes four Everly Brothers covers (originally a bonus EP) and closes out with three smoking live cuts. After an acrimonious split with Lowe, Edmunds continued to record albums in a similar vein, each weaker and less focused than the last. The Best of Dave Edmunds is a solid survey of period, with only two songs post-Repeat.

The 2-CD Rhino Anthology covers the major arc of Edmunds' career, with about half of its cuts from the prime period with Lowe. Edmunds' earliest work hasn't worn well: Anthology includes six cuts from his first band, Love Sculpture, including the instrumentals and a sludgy version of "Summertime." The first solo album, Rockpile, has reverb-heavy oldies, including a couple of Chuck Berry tunes and Fats Domino's "Blue Monday." Subtle as a Flying Mallet was a one-man band studio exercise, where Edmunds' falsetto does all the voices on "Da Doo Ron Ron": good practice, and more Chuck Berry tunes. Anthology does pick up some good songs from Edmunds' later records -- the bluegrassy "Warmed Over Kisses (Leftover Love)," the ballad "One More Night," and the Carlene Carter duet "Baby Ride Easy" -- but it runs out of ideas way before it ends. More to the point is Edmunds' A Pile of Rock Live, which reprises his songbook in flat-out mode. From Small Things is even more determined to represent Edmunds at his most feverish, which when all is said and done is the point.


Other albums:

***1/2Twangin' (Swan Song, 1981)
***D.E. 7th (Columbia, 1982)
D.E. 7th/Information (1982-83; Beat Goes On, 2002)
Riff Raff/I Hear You Rockin' (1984-87; Beat Goes On, 2002)
Closer to the Flame (Capitol, 1990)
***Plugged In (Pyramid, 1994)
King Biscuit Flower Hour (1983-90; King Biscuit, 1999)
Collection (Disky, 2000)
Sabre Dance (Go, 2003)
Dave Edmunds/Love Sculpture:
Premium Gold Collection (EMI International, 2000)