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'100% Pure Frankie Miller'
(Cargo Records)

Tony Conley

tony conley


Rock Ain't Near Dead... not even close, not as long as there's new records like this.

In which, Spike of The Quireboys goes solo with a set of never heard Frankie Miller compositions with guests such as Ronnie Wood, Bonnie Tyler, Ian Hunter, one of God's rhythm sections in Free's Simon Kirke and Andy Fraser, Luke Morley, and a list of other UK rock luminaries, which will most likely end up on a great many year's end top tens.

In the end it all comes down to the songs - there's no filler to be found, in fact, there's a glut of great musical moments to be found on every track of this magnificent bastard of an album. Spike is the MC, and as he wraps his edgy, soulful vocal cords around every note you've got every musician playing as if their very souls depended on honoring one of the greatest songwriters that rock has ever had the privilege of knowing. I wish I had a film of Frankie Miller hearing this album for the first time - no one was ever done more justice, nor done with more obvious love.

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I've been on about records that sound good lately, and 100% Frankie Miller sounds great. I'm sure Andy Fraser and Simon Kirke have long grown tired of hearing that there should be a Free reformation/reunion, but when you hear the opening track, 'The Brooklyn Bridge', that will be the first thing that crosses your mind, as it was mine.

Kirke lays down a very slow, very heavy beat in swinging way that could only be his, and Andy Fraser plays a stupendous groove that occasionally gets very, very melodic and brings it all back home as someone (sorry, no liner notes) lays down some thick, chunky, guitar while Spike does his magic over the top of it all. A stinging guitar solo moves things along until Spike and some sultry backing vocals takes it on home. Bad assery, folks - straight, pure, brilliant bad assery.

Spike sounds like he's pouring every ounce of his soul into this record, because when you're singing Frankie Miller's songs, and you're thinking of the beauty of Frankie's voice, what else could you do, right? 'Cocaine' features Tyla, the rhythm section of Kirke and Fraser, and the guitar of Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood, and it's great track number two. There's nothing better than a great piece of songwriting performed by inspired players, and this one may be an instant classic. Repeated playing is called for.

'I'm Losing You' is a love ballad that does precisely what these things are meant to do. Ronnie's back on board, along with Stuart Emerson on some lovely piano, and a vocal from Spike that drips with passion. To think that these songs have been sitting on a shelf for over twenty years, it dawns upon me that this is a perfect record at a perfect time. It's tough times for the rock world, but this is surely proof that while things are in transition, they are far from lost, and there is no end in sight. Life affirming, joy giving, this is beautiful music.

Luke Morley brings some brawny guitar to 'Intensive Care', and the rock side of Frankie Miller's writing pokes its head out. Great swagger on this one, and it's a classic R&B lyric that will have you moving for certain. Most acts and writers work their whole lives trying to make a track rock like this, and make it sound natural - Frankie popped them out with frightening regularity, and we're blessed that these have come of the shelf.

'Fortune' features Bonnie Tyler duetting with Spike, and they sound like the male/female mirror images of one another, and it's quite brilliant. This whole thing sounds like a long lost greatest hits album, and all I hope is that these songs get a chance to be played on the stage at some point. Paul Guerin lays down layer upon layer of tasty guitars, and Peter Weir's keyboards are sublime on this one.

Spike wraps his voice around these tunes and he owns them - it's a tremendous job of interpretation, the likes of which I can't recall in the recent past. It's rare these days to hear a singer singing the works of a single outside writer, and this might be the finest case of such since Roger Daltrey came out with a first solo album comprised of Leo Sayer tunes over forty years ago - yeah, it's that good. 'Amsterdam Woman' is another that just grabs you and doesn't let go.

'The Other Side Of Time' reminds me of an old unnamed Elton John classic with its melodic piano flourishes, and a soulful song that winds its way around it. It's stunning just how musical this entire album has turned out to be. Words like fate and destiny come to mind.

Barrel house boogie jumps out on 'Cheap Hotel', a tune that might not be a epic and lovely as most on display, but it's a great bit of rock 'n' roll.

'Cold, Cold Nights' highlights the soulful C&W side of Frankie's pen, as does the song that follows, 'Did You Ever Want To Go Home'. Classier example of the genre really don't exist. Played perfectly, sang righteously, you wonder just how many more chestnuts may remain - is their more in this vein to be mined? The timeless beauty of these songs is truly astounding. Maybe the best record I've heard this year, and there have been some great ones. I keep hearing people compare this record to Rod, but I'll have this, thanks.

Ronnie Wood shows up again on 'Keepin' It All For You', and it's another slice of country heaven - it'll bring a tear to your eye, and this should do the job of getting people to go back and look closely at the Frankie Miller catalogue, whig is filled with brilliant writing and singing.

'Bottle Of Whisky' rather appropriately wraps things up, and the chiming mandolin frames it all so well. Tyla, and Pat McManus (Momma's Boys) guest here, and once again, the bottle of whisky wins. What a great way to wrap up what just might be my favorite album of 2014. A glorious revisiting of the past we didn't know existed, like reminiscing with a stranger.

Spike - goddamn, you nailed this so righteously that I must think it was on your soul's bucket list of things to accomplish during your visit to this orb.

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