erry Rafferty’s music makes me smile. His lyrics make me smile. His voice is warm and soothing, making me believe, as the title of the last song on Ferguslie Park says, everything will turn out fine. I know Joe Egan is part of Stealers Wheel, but I can’t dredge up feelings about his contributions. Maybe it just needs more attention.
Stuck in the Middle with You, their one huge hit from their eponymous first album, seems to annoy some folks. Puzzling. Slide guitar doesn’t make it to pop music much, and this has it in spades. Slick, slippery, wiggly slide. From the opening chords on acoustic guitar, the no-nonsense bass, silly-serious hand-claps, through vocal harmonies, multiple electric guitars snapping, and some of the subtlest drumming in a pop song (cowbell! before cowbell was, well, whatever) it bounces perkily through really strange lyrics I still love, nearly 40 years later.
The slide guitars (plural; there are, briefly, two) shimmer over another electric guitar playing a noodley little lead, and two rhythm guitars, one electric, one acoustic. One benefit of an endless stream of top-notch studio musicians instead of a regular band is you get a wide variety of ace performances on every instrument.
Lyrically, I’ve always thought this was another guy at the party Randy Newman’s momma told him not to come to.
When I bought Feguslie Park long after its release, I rediscovered Star, which somehow sneaked onto San Diego radio while I still lived there. But the real killer here is Blind Faith; something about the earnest search for just the right memories of happier-but-harder times always felt like a journey I wanted to finish.
All three Stealers Wheel albums are available on CD these days. Joe Egan and Gerry Rafferty are master songwriters (their first album was produced by the illustrious team of Lieber and Stoller) and delicious performers. Even their wistful sad songs feel good.
The Salvador Dali-esque covers don’t disturb me as much as they should. Animalised faces, disemboweled lizards, faces in the ground; I suspect even Dali would find them strangely disconnected from the bright cheerful music within. Perhaps another case of production decisions made by someone other than the artist?