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Salient. Victoria University Students' Newspaper. Volume 39, Number 25. October 4, 1976

Leon Redbone: on the Track — Andy Pratt: Resolution

Leon Redbone: on the Track

Andy Pratt: Resolution

A nice pair of albums essentially different both from the point of view of content and musical approach, but linked by the idiosyncrasies of their respective artists.

Andy Pratt, some might remember, is noted for Avenging Annie, a peculiarly-compacted 45 of some summers past, so stunningly jammed with good things that it needed two years to unravel.

Resolution, his third album, represents an elaboration and consolidation upon the high points of its predecessors. Unlike those, however, not one cut stands out as a single. What we are given instead is the most perfectly thematically united album so far this year, with its core the depiction of the artist coming to terms with himself expressed confidently and joyously. When one has at least five alter egos that's not the easiest things in the world to achieve. The raison d'etre behind Pratt's new found peace - cliched as it may sound in 1976 - is love, and love in the sense of celebration that marked it off as something extremely special in the Californian vernacular of a decade ago. That he can handle topics that would redden the face of your average rugby player so explicitly and with such candour is some small sign of his greatness:

"But when she strips me naked and oo how she can/

You see a fuzzy-brained little intellectual/

Who just became a real man".

Young girl smiling and pointing

The musical framework, considering the number of musicians used, can only be described as luxuriant, providing the bed for Pratt's, um, distinctive vocals, tracked and multi-tracked as he ranges across the various facets of interpersonal relationships. In fact, the whole album could possibly point up inadequacies in the classicist's rationale that most rock is rubbish, showing a fullness and a smoothness of sound comparable with that of the latter period Beatles. Pratt also utilises the apotheosis of that Californian sound from the Rolling Stones to the Beachboys - drawing upon them for inspiration and, surprisingly, despite the wealth and diversity of musical styles thus amalgamated the end result is neither a pastiche or a travesty. Pratt, quite simply, moved it all on to a far higher plane:

"It seems there comes a pair of hands to guide us /

In our own special way make us stay in love /

That's when miracles occur /

Suddenly doors open that you never thought were even there".

Leon Redbone is something of an enigma, a mystery man in the mainstream of American contemporary music, but one whose repertoire stretches as far back as Irving Berlin, Fats Waller and Hoagy Carmichael, and about whom word first filtered through the grapevine courtesy of Bob Dylan. His musical setting for some delightful ditties successfully evokes nostalgia for a bygone era: just the thing to confound Psychology students, even those at an advanced level. I'm not sure just how valid his tracery of the 20's great classics is, but it is an enjoyable and worthwhile listening experience all the same after the time necessary for assimilation. That's an important point, actually. Neither of these records is immediately accessible, they both demand time and concentration, Redbone more so than Pratt. What attracts me to Redbone so much, however, is an airy insouciance he sounds like nothing quite so much as a wobbly Randy Newman, crossed with a severely stoned J J Cale, sitting on a back porch somewhere in the Okeefeenokees warbling to the mangroves and the magnolias. The instrumentation is sparse and mainly acoustic, recorded beautifully and wrapped in a colourful cover, on the the back of which Redbone - posing as a brakeman - is wreathed in cigar smoke. Consider it a clue to the unpredictability of the programme.

— Patrick O'Dea