Life at 33⅓: A strong case for the future


Ronnie Lane, See Me (GEM)

*From the vaults of Carl Meyer, an original album review written in June 1980.*

What a long, strange trip it’s been.  All the way from Small Faces through Rod Stewart & Faces to Slim Chance and beyond.  Ronnie Lane chose the gypsy life and left the rock’n’roll circus behind.  He transformed into a  wandering minstrel, taking his music, musicians, barkers, tents and family with him on a raggle-taggle convoy of painted wagons and rickety old vehicles through Britain, delivering roots music of a very special kind.  Bob Dylan copied his carnival-concept a year later with the Rolling Thunder Revue, but Ronnie Lane did it first and almost went bankrupt on the way.

“See Me” is his first LP since 1976 (not counting “Rough Mix”, which he made with Pete Townshend in 1977).  It is not a Slim Chance-album, but he has kept some of the musicians from that loose concept of a band.  There are big shots here as well, like Eric Clapton, Ian Stewart, Henry McCullough and Mel Collins.

The music is gorgeous as always.  An acoustic vanguard of guitars, mandolin and fiddle – with the support of organ, piano, accordion and saxophone.  Lane’s voice makes everything shine.  It’s nasal and croaky, but also wonderfully sensitive, like a rusty heartache with a warm, melancholy smile on its face.  The voice soars over fields and meadows, through tiny villages and urban alleys.  Tin Pan Alley in the 1920’s, blues from the gutter and rural British folk.  Wistful, soothing.

“See Me” is definitely not the sound of the 80’s, it’s something so much greater than that as Ronnie Lanes has a rare gift of making the past relevant, and turning it into a strong case for the future.  Timeless music, that’s what it is, and it’s good for you.  Trust me.

2015 update: I didn’t know Ronnie was ill (by multiple scleroses) when I originally wrote this review and that this would be the last album he ever released.  I always loved the man and had the privilege of meeting him, both in Norway in 1975 and in his London apartment in 1983.  Please check out “The Passing Show – The Life And Music Of Ronnie Lane”, a wonderful BBC-documentary from 2006.  It’s available on DVD and can also be viewed in several parts on You Tube.

Released: June 1980
Produced by: Fishpool Productions
Contents: “One Step” (Ronnie Lane, Alun Davies) /”Good Ol’ Boys Boogie” (Lane)/”Lad’s Got Money” (Lane) /”She’s Leaving” (Lane, Davies) /”Barcelona” (Lane, Eric Clapton) /”Kuschty Rye” (Lane, Kate Lambert) /”Don’t Tell Me Now” (Lane) /”You’re So Right” (Lane) /”Only You” (Lane) /”Winning With Women” (Lane) /”Way Up Yonder” (traditional, arr. Lane)