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WALTER EGAN The Collection Retro World FLOATD6056 (2010)

Walter Egan

Best known for his 1978 hit single 'Magnet and Steel' (included here on 'Not Shy') and also as being the first post Fleetwood Mac artist to be produced by Lindsey Buckingham, Walter Egan's intial career break came in the shadow of Mac's 'Rumours' album. It was a musical connection he never really shook off until his third and more direct 1979 album 'Hi Fi' by which time the fickle world of contemporary music had moved on.

But as in art so in music, context and timing are everything. After all what better an exemplar could there be than Fleetwoood Mac? For a developing singer-songwriter like Walter Egan - an artist who was often short of self confidence - it almost seemed to be a case of losing sight of the bigger picture while working on the album at hand.

With the benefit of three decades hindsight, this excellently presented retrospective is a diary of a singer-song writer discovering his craft and style - if not his voice - against a back drop of personal schisms a nd ultimately a vastly changing music scene.

Yet at the outset Walter did move with the times. As he says himself; 'I was a West Coast kid, the only trouble was I grew up in NYC'. And once happily esconced on the West Coast he fell under the wing of the emerging talents of Lynsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks (who both contribute fully as producer/musican and vocalist respectively on 'Fundamental Roll'). Buckingham stayed to produce and play on the the following 'Not Shy' by which time Annie McLoone had all but taken over the Nicks duet and backing vocals, a role she extended on 'Hi Fi'.

'Fundamental Roll' finds Walter honing his preferred style of 'lyrical, melodic yet rocky music'. His talent effortlessly found a place on the newly emerging West Coast soft rock scene alongside Fleetwood Mac and artists like Dave Mason, Bob Welch and Warren Zevon. From the smooth opener 'Only The Lucky' to the ultra West Coast feel of 'Yes I Guess I Am', much of 'Fundamental Roll' is influenc ed by the strong melodies, harmony singing and female vocal presence to be found on 'Rumours'.

And while vocals were not Walter's strong point, he seemed to gain in confidence while singing a duet with Stevie Nicks on 'Feel So Good'. Somewhere in between the easy on the ear melodies and catchy chorusses Walter's songs probe other unlikely influences. There's Gary Rowles's slide evoking Quicksliver's John Cipollina's sound on the Grateful Dead nuanced 'Waitin' and the lust filled 'Tunnel of Love' on which Walter's nasal vocals sound like Alvin Lee, before Stevie Nicks dominates the outro with what Walter rightly calls 'a banshee wail'. And Walter's West Coast feel is also nicely contextualised by Dean Torrance (from Jan and Dean) who helps out on the melodic rocker 'She's So Tough'.

Egan also leans back on his love of rock & roll on 'I'd Rather Have Fun', a song made for the likes of Steve Gibbons. 1978's 'Not Shy', suggests Walter had learnt his craft well, receiving a gold disc for 'Magnet & Steel'(listen also to the excellent acappela verison bonus track). It was a career turning point giving him industry kudos but effectively steering him away from the more frisky outings such as 'Star in The Dust', on which he is joined by Mick Fleetwood on a belated sparkling outro.

The dreamy 'Just The Wanting' is another slow burner with an imposing guitar figure while the closing understated 'Hot Summer Nights' enjoyed greater commercial success once liberated from its Californaina slumber by Stevie Lange & Chris Thompson's Night. 1979's self produced 'Hi Fi' marks a noticeble shift away from the fastidiuous Buckingham production values. Also as Walter says in his excellent liner notes, in the context of changing msucial fashions, 'We also saw it as a strong career move to step away from the shadows of Fleetwood Mac and be seen and accepted on our own merits like a band'. But that didn't stop Annie McLoone from contributing convincing Stevie Nicks style vocals on the very Mac-influenced 'That's That' and 'Hi Fi Love'. The latter much like 'Man B. Goode' also came with new jangling guitars, a distant echo perhaps of the band's tour work with Tom Petty at the time.

The shift to a less constrained live sound made for succinct, snappily arranged catchy rockers on such relationship songs as 'Hurt Again' and 'Drive Away' And as if influenced by the times, there was a significant growing (cheesy sounding) keyboard presence on the New Wave influenced 'Like You Do', while Elvis Costello is palpably an influence on 'Baby Let's Run Away'. There's still rock & roll or 'power pop' as Walter perfers to call 'Tuesday Meld', but while the song is an 'in the pocket' rocker it's hardly the cutting edge stuff of 1979 when the likes of Graham Parker and Costello made waves.

While all four albums have been available until recently as double packs, it's good to have the complete Egan Columbia retrospective. It's also good to have 'The Last Stroll' back on the catalogue with its marked rawer feel and the presence of Deke Leonard's trademark steely riffs on 'Bad Attitude', Fall For You' and on the curiously whammy bar ending to edgy rocker 'Chaminade'. Motel Broken Hearts' is also a well crafted ballad with a stirring solo while 'Waiting for The Rain' with is strong bv's is a nice synthesis of Egan's rock and melodic sensibilities.

Walter Egan's The Collection' reconfirms a song writer of real craft and with an ear for catchy melodies, who having found his promised land of the West Coast then narrowly avoided being subsumed by its claustrophobic transformation into 'corporate arena rock' Walter's ultimate shift towards rediscovering his musical roots maps out an enjoyable journey but one tinged with a slight disappointment to learn that his mid 90's relocation to Nashville wasn't predicated on his innate song writing ability that makes 'The Collection' so enjoyable.


Review by Pete Feenstra


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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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