The Great Lost Album from Geordie Piano Player.
As a child I loved Alan Prices’ hit singles; primarily because he was a local lad; and in some small way he was eventually the link to my discovering Randy Newman; so when asked if I was interested in reviewing a ‘lost album’ from 1974; I showed mild interest; but as soon as I saw the album title I screamed YES, YES, YES!
Apparently Savaloy Dip was recorded in 1974 when Price was at something of a career high; but apart from a (quickly recalled) release on 8-Track; the album never made it the shops, until those nice people at Omnivore Records found it gathering dust in the Warner’s vaults and thought it a curiosity worthy of International release
So, let’s start at the beginning; a very good place to start.
Very much ‘of its time’ the album opens with a typical Alan Price ‘talking Blues’ set to a Mamba Beat – Smells Like Lemon, Tastes Like Wine is the type of song that doesn’t really make sense; but will leave you tapping your toes and smiling like an idiot.
Several songs are definitely stereotypical Alan Price from that era; with interchangeable tunes from his and Georgie Fame’s back catalogue; but that shouldn’t deter you from enjoying Willie The Queen and Keep on Doing It, which have actually aged quite well.
After repeated listening; there are a couple of songs here that have really grown on me; Passin’ Us By is an easy-listening Jazzy tune, worthy of Jamie Cullum or even Ben Folds, if you ask me; and You Won’t Get Me is a rollicking R&B/Jazz hybrid that really showcases the Geordie Lad’s piano skills.
It’s still unclear as to why the album never saw the light of day; but with hindsight; and me being picky, I wonder if halfway through Alan thought he could turn a few songs into an autobiographical Concept Album; but never got it together?
Although Price was living and working in the US of A at the time; three songs in particular hark back to his Northern roots and show signs of a little bit of homesickness.
Poor Jimmy sounds as fresh as a daisy today in 2016; but could have been written at any time in the last forty years. The band sound red hot as Price gives it his all on an electric piano; as he regales us with a story of collier lad who is the cock o’ the walk and about to face his nemesis one dark Friday night. In it’s own way; this really is a song that is sad to think has languished in a vault all that time.
If you run with my theory And So Goodbye could easily sit in my ‘concept album,’ as could Keep On Doin’ It; which is a New Orleans stomper; but about a Friday night in Newcastle (I think!).
Then, we come to the title track Savaloy Dip; and if this isn’t a local lad feeling homesick; I will bare my backside in Fenwick’s window!
Why would the title be a deal breaker for me? Everyone in the colonies (and South of Durham) may well ask. Well; a Savaloy dip is a local delicacy in NE England and a source of cheap lunchtime nutrition for many years when I worked in a furniture shop in the 1980’s.
Bashing out a cracking R&B beat like the best pub pianist in the world; Price recalls Savaloy Dips, pork pies, pease pudding, Sunday afternoon trips and a host of other local ‘things,’ in a way I’ve only heard Van Morrison do without making it sound twee.
Then; of course there is the only song to beat the cull – Between and Yesterday, which closes this record but became the title track of the album that replaced it.
For once it is only Price singing while playing the piano; and still sounds absolutely stunning and could easily have been the song that kyboshed my ‘Concept Album’ as it sounds a totally new direction compared to the rest; and went on to bring him even greater success.
So; was the wait worth it? Yes and no, in fairness. The bulk of the album is certainly a period piece; but Price’s impressive songwriting, distinctive voice and a tip-top R&B backing band make it well worth a listen; and if you or yours hail from NE England I urge you to download the track Savaloy Dip at the very least.
Released 15th January 2016