herald

Saturday 16 December 2017

Edwyn Collins still has the gift of great music

Edwyn Collins has been given an AIM award
Edwyn Collins has been given an AIM award

Between Thought and Expression is the title of the published selected lyrics of Lou Reed.

The phrase comes from his song for the Velvet Underground, Some Kinda Love, which also contains the phrase “And some kinds of love, the possibilities are endless.”

Nine years ago, Edwyn Collins, whose post-punk band Orange Juice brightened up the world in the early 1980s with a string of albums and the hit Rip It Up, came a cropper.

While in a BBC studio, he’d complained of feeling unwell. Two days later his wife found him on the floor. He’d suffered a burst blood vessel in his brain. It was a severe cerebral haemorrhage.

When he came out of a coma, Collins, paralysed on one side, had lost his memory. Conversation proved impossible.

Curiously, he could mouth a few words. “Yes” and “No.” His wife’s name, “Grace Maxwell.” And, from Lou Reed’s song, “the possibilities are endless”.

Recovery has been a long road. Getting a belt of the MRSA superbug didn’t help. But two years later, Collins was strong enough to sit in on the mixing of Home Again, an album he’d recorded before his illness. That evocative title track, with Collins’ warm baritone sounding richer than ever, seemed uncannily prescient.

“I’m home again, hardly certain of my role. And then I started searching for my soul again…I know I’ll be consoled again, in the past I’ve left behind..”

The song is revisited for this, the soundtrack album of the acclaimed documentary about Collins’ journey back to recovery and music by directors Edward Lovelace and James Hall.

Even without the accompanying visuals, this is a fine album. Collaborating with Edwyn are Carwyn Ellis and Sebastian Lawley, who co-write the glorious instrumental passages and help Collins achieve the sounds he imagines.

“They listened to me... and gave me time to develop my thoughts,” he says. “It was quiet and peaceful. I knew I could trust them.”

Closing Time at the Punk Rock Hotel has a gentle late night chill-out feel with grungy electric guitar underpinning delicate piano arpeggios and acoustic guitar picking. Jaunty and jaundiced, Down The Line, from last year’s Understated, the first album that had Edwyn playing guitar on since his stroke, is uplifting and resolute.

The ambient instrumentals that thread the songs together are atmospheric and engaging.

Collins sounds like a greasy stammering punk on Don’t Shilly Shally. Also included is I’ve Got It Bad from Gorgeous George, the album that contained the monster hit A Girl Like You.

The beguiling charm of Quite Like Silver confirms that Collins hasn’t lost his gift for melody and lyric writing.

The juxtaposition of old and new creates a potent blend that’s life-affirming and welcome.

“When I rise, I rise unsteadily...” A gifted artist, Edwyn Collins continues to make enjoyable music.

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