Saturday, 12 January 2019

David Essex - Rock On (1973)


Released November 1973

This was teen pop sensation David Essex's first album, and it is anything but a throwaway pop offering. It is a quirky, oddball of an album and really quite credible, all things considered. Essex also wrote seven of the album's eleven songs himself, something that is often overlooked.


1. Lamplight
2. Turn Me Loose
3. On And On
4. Streetfight
5. Rock On
6. Ocean Girl
7. Bring In The Sun
8. For Emily, Wherever I May Find Her
9. We All Insane
10. Tell Him No
11. September 15th                                          

"Lamplight" was Essex's second hit single, and was a catchy, singalong number with an upbeat bluesy vocal and some Beatles-esque drums. "Turn Me Loose" was a fifties rock'n'roll doo-wop influenced slow rocker. "On And On" is a dignified slow rock ballad, with sweeping strings, haunting saxophone and a solid bass. "Streetfight" utilises the shuffling, rumbling, staccato rhythm and beat that Essex would use a lot in his compositions, such as on the following album's "America" and "Good Ol' Rock 'N' Roll". It really is quite an adventurous song, as indeed is the next track, "Rock On", which was his first hit single. It was a strange uncategorizable number, part slowed down rock'n'roll rhythm, part bluesy soul with hints of glam stylings in there somewhere. At the time it was seen as a unique, quite innovatory single. This was no ten-a-penny teen market single, that was for sure.

"Ocean Girl" is a cod-reggae number that doesn't quite work and Essex's Caribbean accent is pretty toe-curling. "Bring In The Sun" is a plaintive, stagey ballad that, after a quiet start goes all orchestrated in a big, cinematic way. It all calms down, however, and the song ends as it began, plaintively. It sounds like something from a musical. Maybe not surprisingly as Essex had previously starred in "Godspell".

Essex's big production cover of Paul Simon's "For Emily, Wherever I May Find Her" is interesting, but it never really done it for me. I find it too overwhelming. "We All Insane" is a synth and percussion-backed rocker, featuring, would you believe, a drum solo. It is an enjoyably upbeat number. Essex's voice is strong and commanding on this one. He had a great rock voice at times. "Tell Him No" is a sad, yearning ballad that features some excellent fuzzy guitar. "September 15th" is a short piano and vocal end to the album, like a mournful closer to a stage show. Essex, always a great nostalgic, is already looking back at old times, even on his first album.

The first side of the original album is the better of the two sides, but it was certainly an impressive debut and the next one would be even better.


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