a distinct whiff of nostalgia running through the first-ever solo album by
former Procul [sic] Harum lead guitarist Dave Ball.
Legend (or perhaps truth) has it that Ball has been serving with the army (not a very rock n roll thing to do…) on the tiny island of St. Kilda in the Atlantic, according to an article published in The Sunday Express, Oct. 1978. Ok, this was then, but now is now. And now Ball has released the aforementioned album, titled Don’t Forget Your Alligator.
Listening to it is a bit like taking a stroll in Kew Gardens looking at all the different plant species: a bit of this and a bit of that. There’s R&B, there’s pop ballad style, rock ballad style, folk, and even rockabilly. Take your pick.
A booklet containing drawings of whimsical yet slightly disturbing nature accompanies the CD.
As for the music – opener Code Blue is an R&B orientated number rich in layers and some great female backing vocals. Title track Don’t Forget Your Alligator boasts a peculiar mix of slow-paced dancehall tunes (think Foxtrot) that segues into a French-style accordion affair. It also has the great line “Dance first, think later”. Will print that one on a t-shirt I think!
MeltdownShuffle and Gonnadothis – Gonnadothat are both R&B orientated with plenty of excellent guitar solos.
The lyrics tend to be a musical commentary on the English, or border on the surreal in some songs. Old Aunties & Uncles is a reflection on one’s life gone wrong… not gone according to plan… “Moth balls and carbuncles / Old aunties and uncles / Sitting by the electric fire / Listening for the heavenly choir.”
Almost nonsensical in a Mervyn Peake kind of way are the lyrics to The Madness of George Pritchard while at the same time it is a cynical reflection on the ignorance and stupidity of the human race: “The universe is buggered / The heavens are all spent / Like the cosmos never mattered / We’re a parasitic species / On the brink of fiery doom / I only hope the aliens get here soon.” Musically, both numbers are in the vein of The Kinks folk-pop style.
Particularly touching is Stardust Maginty – slower in tone but bursting with emotion. It is a number dedicated to the memory of Ball’s mum and it will resonate with anyone who’s ever lost a parent.
Thankfully, things take a more cheerful turn with the rockabilly oozing Geriatric Slumbers – the title contrasting with the upbeat vibe of the song’s arrangement.
We’re entering Procul [sic] Harum-hued rock ballad territory with Who Really Cares while closing track The January Sales is, just like Geriatric Slumbers, another odd one out - for it smacks of Woody Guthrie hobo folk.
On the reverse of the booklet, Dave Ball asks himself why he made this album. Was it ‘a labour of love’ or an ‘act of desperation’? Or was it ‘an act of hubris’ or simply ‘a last ditch effort before I get too old’?
My guess is that it’s probably a bit of all the reasons listed but whatever drove Dave Ball to return to music, Don’t Forget Your Alligator is an impressive if somewhat eclectic solo effort.
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