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Labour of Lust

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  • Posted March 26, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    More Like Labour Of Fun

    With The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame coming up, it's great to see performers like Tom Waits and Darlene Love, who didn't sell a lot of records but still proved to be top-notch artists, get in. Yet, as good as they are, I've been wondering, "Where is Nick Lowe?" He was one of the founding members of Brinsley Schwarz, one of first genuine English pub-rock bands that made country music sound more like what would be called New Wave. He also helped originate Stiff Records, one of the most exciting and influential record labels ever. He produced some of Elvis Costello's earliest and finest albums, not to mention some choice cuts from The Damned, Wreckless Eric and The Pretenders. He also formed a group called Rockpile that played 50's rockabilly with playful abandon. That group featured another great talent named Dave Edmunds, whom in 1979, recorded "Repeat When Necessary", possibly his finest record. That same year, Rockpile recorded "Labour Of Lust" for Nick Lowe.

    When Nick Lowe released this album, he was arguably at the peak of his talent. It's not hard to see why. "Labour of Lust" remains a straight-ahead, joyful classic which has been criminally out of print for almost two decades. This re-issue from YepRoc Records, whose creative output has been on a tear lately, features all of the songs from both the American version and UK version of the album. This means in addition to getting Nick and guest vocalist Elvis Costello singing about making an "American Squirm", you also get Nick's moody, Hank Williams-inspired tune "Endless Grey Ribbon". This is the record that gave Nick his most popular song ever, "Cruel To Be Kind", which he wrote with former Brinsley Schwarz-guitarist Ian Gomm. However, the highlights of this album are the two acoustic songs he does---"You Make Me" (which sounds like a tender remake of "Love Me Tender") and "Basing Street" (another song which was not available on the American version).

    Over the years, it seemed as if Nick Lowe was destined for cult status. Yet, a few things have happened to change that. One of them was a string of quieter, mature-sounding albums that were part cocktail-jazz and part rockabilly-throwback, such as "The Impossible Bird" and "The Convincer". Another was the use of his song "What's So Funny 'bout Peace, Love and Understanding?" in the Whitney Houston film "The Bodyguard". This gave the fifty-something Lowe his very first million-dollar royalty check. Personally, he deserves the money. More importantly, he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. Maybe the re-issue of this brilliant record will finally make that possible.

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