Sunday, January 31, 2016

Album Reviews # 51 Dwight Twilley Band - Twilley Don't Mind

Released in 1977 through the Arista Record label, the band's second album, this achieved critical acclaim but little more commercial success than their first, peaking at Number 70 in the American album charts. It's a better record than that, a well-written and recorded set of songs, with occasional, but quite definite peaks.

It most obviously recalls the first two Big Star records, tightly constructed and punched out pop songs, with layers of yearning harmonies alternating between up tempo rockers and slower, more reflective numbers. Although they rarely reach the heights of that band, lacking the lyrical touch and depth and most obviously Chilton's genius, they don't suffer too much from the comparison. Big Star would not have sniffed at several of these numbers.

Lookin' For the Magic second track here is the record's obvious killer and it seems difficult to understand at this distance why it shouldn't have been a fairly big national hit because it contains all the required ingredients. Structured in classic Power Pop terms, but with such a true, immediate hook that it seems strange that it didn't seize hold of AOR radio as it must have sounded just great coming out of radios. It's a pretty good match for Petty's American Girl for example. Petty can actually be seen guesting with the band above and below on an American Saturday Morning TV show called Wacko.

The record winds on in the terms it's established already, oblivious to the fact that it's not destined to smash through the commercial ceiling it's clearly aiming at. Not particularly deep lyrically, it's main concern seems to be trying to come upon true love much again like # 1 Record and Radio City though unlike on those albums where you really get the sense that Chilton and Bell are really plumbing romantic emotional depths, (just one reason why their records have come to resonate so deeply for listeners over the succeeding decades), you can't help but feel that Twilley will probably be OK and is possibly playing to the camera at times. It's altogether better adjusted and closer to the mainstream. In the scheme of things more Petty than Chilton. It 's clear that Twilley has no Sister Lovers, (Big Star's tortured and quite remarkable third album), that he'll ever need to get out of his system.

That's not to diminish the album any. It's pretty flawless on its own terms as a radio friendly soundtrack to teenage heartache and longing. Side B's opening track Twilley Don't Mind might be their slightly pared down Oh My Soul augmented by slightly understated brass which would have benefited by being pushed further forward in the mix. Then comes Sleeping, the best slow tempo track on here, the album's Ballad of El Goodo, a thing of genuine beauty and the most emotionally affecting song on the record.

Perhaps the consistent Big Star comparisons I've made here are selling the record slightly short. After all there were countless American bands at the time plowing a similar furrow and Big Star are the band who have endured over the intervening decades to stand for the whole. This album is definitely well to the front of the chasing pack, lacking perhaps a few companions for Looking For The Magic and Sleeping to push it on its final journey to the stars.

It's nine tracks long when by rights it should be twelve, but only one of those nine, closer Invasion, doesn't quite hit home for me. Nevertheless, a very good album which touches occasionally on greatness and I imagine for many people who bought it and were affected by it at the right moment in their lives it's still among their very favourite albums of all, resonating endlessly with memories of youth and finding records of your own to love and construct your teenage identity around, the way Murmur, High Land, Hard Rain, New Gold Dream and Heaven Up Here, to list my own personal touchstones, still work for me. There's Beatles and Byrds here, Badfinger, Big Star and strangely on Trying to Find My Baby, the faintest echo of ABBA. That's hallowed company and Dwight Twilley deserve their place here, perhaps in the back row of the photo, but there nonetheless.

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