CHILDREN OF PARADISE
River House Records/Virtual Label.
Passion, Politics and Raw Power From New York’s Finest.
I’m not sure what’s left to say about New Yorker Willie Nile……he was a stalwart of CBGB’s back in the 70’s, releasing two critically acclaimed albums, then in 1981 got involved with ‘legal problems’ with a record label; but kept playing bigger and bigger shows, then he made another couple of albums in the 90’s …… then he finally found his rightful place in the Rock mainstream with a series of albums that proved he still had fire in his belly and a hundred songs in his heart …..a ready made Rock & Roll music machine for a new century.
Those who’ve had the honour of seeing Nile and band play live won’t be too surprised by the first few acapella verses on Seeds Of a Revolution; as this guy can actually sing…..but I can’t remember him doing this on record before. The song itself is a ‘signature’ Willie Nile modern neo-political rock song for the internet generation; a gut wrenching tale of the images that he has seen on the TV News effecting his sensibilities; and alongside a couple of other songs here couldn’t be more timely.
The much gentler sounding Folk Song, Getting Ugly Out There is in a very similar vein; and is the exact type of ‘protest song’ the experts try to tell us isn’t being written any more; but they are and Willie Nile is one of the finest exponents of this lost art.
For a man ‘of his age’ Willie Nile can R.O.C.K better than most youngsters these days; and on Earth Blues; alongside his trusted band he spits and snarls as he lists all of the things that are going wrong with the world around us. In many other hands this ‘message’ could be quite twee; but with Willie you can’t help but listen, nod and agree with every single word as he assaults all of our senses in every groove.
Fear not though dear reader; this isn’t all doom and gloom; All Dressed Up and No Place To Go, Rock n Roll Sister and the amazing Don’t must surely have all had their roots in our guy’s sweaty CBGB’s days; surely? Rock? Punk? Power Pop? Who cares; as these are all just 4/4 head bangin’ boogie songs of the finest pedigree.
Then there is the inclusion of a couple of rather beautiful love songs, that show Willie’s mellower side; with his storytelling as sharp and intelligent as ever on Looking For , Have I Ever Told You and the poetic All God’s Children, which finds Nile at the piano and sounding ever more like Randy Newman each time I play the song.
Then we must select a ‘favourite song’, which is never easy with Willie Nile albums as each and every song has it’s own special narrative that makes it very special indeed; but I’m going for Secret Weapon, a delightful love song that’s a little bit different from what I’ve come to expect from Willie Nile and band. It’s a sensitive Rocker with a razor sharp Punky edge to it and could be perfect for AM Radio; especially Matt Hogan’s glorious guitar playing and solos throughout.
I’m not sure if this is Willie Nile’s ‘best album’; but it’s certainly in the Top 3 and there are more than a few songs here that would easily make it onto any career retrospective should such a curio ever be released.
Willie Nile? He’s got some very famous friends who have sung his praises over the years; but he’s far from being a musicians’ musician or a songwriters songwriter; his music is for absolutely everyone who likes quality Rock and Roll; and he’s one of the few acts who are just as exciting on record as they are on stage; and if you ever get to see him and the band play; you will know what a mean feat that is.
PS The cover artwork is outstanding too; made up of some stunning black & white portraits of people who live in Nile’s neighbourhood in Greenwich Village and taken by Cristina Arrigoni.