Dave Edmunds – The Best of Dave Edmunds

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

Dave Edmunds is a Welsh musician with an unshakeable fixation on American rock from the 1950s. The multi-talented artist (sometimes playing all the instruments on his own albums) came to fame as a producer in the late 1970s before really flourishing as a solo artist (though he did have a hit in 1970 with a cover of “I Hear You Knocking”). He eventually formed Rockpile with Nick Lowe (the name coming from Edmunds’ first solo album, which oddly enough, did not feature any members of Rockpile), recording one album under that name but relying on the musicians for his solo work (as did Lowe). Edmunds also produced a Dion album, an Everly Brothers album (a pairing that makes perfect sense), and worked with Jeff Lynne (ELO) and Del Shannon. He retired from music in 2017 or so.

What I Think of This Album

This is clearly a budget album, given the minimal effort the record company put into the packaging. And you might forgive them, reasoning that a cult artist stubbornly beholden to an increasingly less relevant past, with a forgettable voice, playing mostly cover songs, doesn’t merit a greater investment. And you may be right, but be that as it may, this is a fucking great collection.

Edmunds benefits from having Rockpile back him on (I believe) almost all of these songs, as the musicians play with palpable enthusiasm and energy. Rockpile only released one studio album under their own name, but they recorded three albums that were marketed as Dave Edmunds releases and one that came out as a Nick Lowe album. So you can feel free to think of this as very close to a Rockpile Best of.

Rockpile guitarist Billy Bremmer wrote songs under the name Billy Murray (uh, probably not the best choice for an alias) and two of his tracks are here:  “Trouble Boys” and “Creature From the Black Lagoon.” The latter is great even though it is silly, and the former is fine but nothing more.

Appropriately, there are two Edmunds/Lowe collaborations present. “Deborah” is an infectious throwback to the days of soda jerks and sock hops, coming across like a minimally edgier Buddy Holly song (“Deborah / Heartbreaking, lovemaking connoisseur”). “Here Comes the Weekend” is similar, with more of Lowe’s influence coming through in the lyrics and more modern pop sound; the guitar solo is pure Edmunds, though, again referencing late ‘50s American rock n’ roll. Edmunds also covers Lowe’s “I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock & Roll)” but Lowe’s version of this Chuck Berry homage is better, honestly; I think this is actually one of the songs on the collection where the other Rockpile musicians do not play (not even Lowe).

The same could be said about Edmunds’s rendition of John Fogerty’s excellent “Almost Saturday Night,” which really needs Fogerty’s inimitable rasp, though Edmunds plays a better guitar solo than the one on the original. Perhaps I am biased because I hate Elvis Costello, but Edmunds’s version of “Girls Talk” is the only version I need, poppy and fresh, and actually pretty well suited to Edmunds’s pedestrian voice. Edmunds’s version came first, as Costello did not record the song for several years later. 

Another fine cover is Graham Parker’s “Crawling from the Wreckage,” an excellent allegorical tune. You can hear a live version of this song on Rockpile’s Live at Montreux. “Juju Man” (another cover) has a great guitar solo and a very cool piano part. The Stray Cats play on (you guessed it, a cover of) “The Race Is On,” but investigation suggests that this may not be the Stray Cats you are thinking of (even though Edmunds would eventually serve as producer for the Stray Cats you are thinking of).

If nothing else, Edmunds should go down in history as the first person to see (hear) the hit potential of Hank DeVito’s “Queen of Hearts” (which Juice Newton made a smash two years after Edmunds’s version). Hank DeVito was the pedal steel guitarist for Emmylou Harris, by the way. A live version of this is also available on Rockpile’s Live at Montreux.

The Best Thing About This Album

“Queen of Hearts,” just to reclaim it from Juice Newton. It should be said that Edmunds’s guitar work throughout the album is excellent, too. And I appreciate his steadfast commitment to a sound almost no one else cares about anymore.

Release Date

1981

The Cover Art

Actually, not that bad. The colors are awful and the text is a travesty, but the line style drawing? I like it.

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