3 out of 5 stars
Ex-Small Faces/Faces keyboardist Ian McLagan has straddled the roles of frontman and backing musician since his first solo album appeared in 1979. Now on his eighth release, Mac has settled into a more reflective, rootsy groove removed from, yet still informed by, his more rollicking work both on his own and more notably with his formative bands.
As befits his sideman status, McLagan is neither a particularly riveting vocalist nor songwriter — some of his lyrics are rudimentary bordering on simplistic — but he makes the most of his limitations by sheer heartfelt resolve. He so obviously believes in and is inspired by what he’s singing, it’s impossible not to get caught up in the rootsy vibe on this emotive set. His journeyman Bump Band captures the loose limbed, restrained yet sweaty spirit and production by the legendary Glyn Johns (The Who) along with mastering by maestro Bob Ludwig (The Rolling Stones) provides the soulful rocking groove. Vocally, McLagan’s weathered rasp, somewhat similar to Keith Richards’, helps these tunes connect. There is never any doubt that everyone involved is having a blast, especially on the jumpy boogie woogie piano pounding “How Blue” or the easy skanking reggae of “Who Says it Ain’t Love.”
The roller-rink organ that pushes the mid tempo “Pure Gold” rocker is guaranteed to also press your smile buttons and when Mac sings about not having much, but just enough to make him happy, the autobiographical nature of the lyrics aligns with this album’s low key, endearing and engaging approach. “The struggle may not be over but I’m here today,” he sings in the pop swamp “Shalalala” and everything about this modest but enjoyable release shows that to be true.