Dave Edmunds

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***1/2Rockpile (MAM, 1972)
***Subtle as a Flying Mallet (RCA, 1975)
***1/2Get It (Swan Song, 1977)
***1/2Dave Edmunds, Rocker: Early Works 1968-72 (EMI/Parlophone, 1977)
****Tracks on Wax 4 (Swan Song, 1978)
****Repeat When Necessary (Swan Song, 1979)
***Twangin' (Swan Song, 1981)
***The Best of Dave Edmunds (Swan Song, 1981)
***1/2D.E. 7th (Columbia, 1982)
**1/2Information (Columbia, 1983)
**1/2Riff Raff (Columbia, 1984)
***I Hear You Rockin' -- Live (Columbia, 1988)
**1/2Closer to the Flame (Capitol, 1990)

Dave Edmunds helped bring back some of the roll to rock, long after it had fallen out of fashion. He didn't revive rockabilly, he reasserted its rhythmic pulse -- revealing his suprisingly twisted roots in country, the blues, Chuck Berry and the Beatles. "I Hear You Knockin'," from Rockpile, entered the U.S. Top Ten in early '71, sounding nothing at all like the competition. Drenching Smiley Lewis's New Orleans R&B oldie in quavering slide guitar, Edmunds turns his British accent into a naturally affecting twang. Rather than just imitiating a Yank, he captures some of American music's spirit and applies it to his own experience.

Rockpile establishes Edmunds as low-key, but effective interpreter with a canny eye for material; he successfully covers James Burton ("Down, Down, Down''), Neil Young ("Dance, Dance, Dance") and the semi-ubiquitous "It Ain't Easy." The 1977 double album, Dave Edmunds, Rocker, available as an import only, pairs the Rockpile sessions with material by Love Sculpture, Edmunds' late-'60s band. Subtle as a Flying Mallet, long out of print, suffers from more predictable song selection.

Dave Edmunds found a kindred soul in former Brinsley Schwarz bassist Nick Lowe, whose composing skills and pop touch complemented Edmunds's instrumental verve and tunefulness. Their collaboration is kick-started on Get It ("I Knew the Bride," "Here Comes the Weekend"), then settles into a comfortable groove with Tracks On Wax 4 and Repeat When Necessary. Those two albums feature the band Rockpile: Edmunds, Lowe, second guitarist Billy Bremner and drummer Terry Williams earned a solid reputation as a volatile, no-bullshit rock & roll band. They could play rings around the punks even on a bad night, yet Rockpile is powered by the same energy source.

The Best of Dave Edmunds presents an adequate summary of these years, though Tracks and Repeat are both succint, well-balanced albums just begging for a reissue. Instead, only Get It and the disappointing 1981 effort Twangin' remain. After a nasty split with Lowe, Edmunds bounds back with the solid D.E. 7th. It doesn't quite provide the slap-in-the-face urgency of prime Rockpile, though Edmunds puts his indelible stamp on Bruce Springsteen with "From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come)" and wheels out some winning originals. Riff Raff and Information mark a strained collaboration with ELO-meister Jeff Lynne; presumably, this is where Lynne ironed the wrinkles out of the Wilburys' traveling suits. The live I Hear You Rockin' finds Edmunds running though a '70s-vintage hit list with a young, audibly enthused backing band. For a rent gig, not bad.

Shockingly, Closer to the Flame never catches fire; it's the first time in 20 years that Edmunds has sounded tired. But he turned around and produced his old mate's sterling Party of One comeback right after that. -- M.C.