Paul Collins was the drummer for the Nerves when they had their one and only hit, the new wave anthem “Hanging on the Telephone” covered by Blondie. Later, in his own band, The Beat, he recorded one of the definitive power pop albums of the late 1970s , the band’s self-titled debut in 1979. Other albums, line-up changes, break-ups, solo recordings, reunions followed, but Flying High is the first album of new material from Collins in more than a decade. It is a rather low-key affair, recorded in about a day and a half, with friends and mostly acoustic instruments, and Collins’ son sings back-up on the opening song. The difference between this and a million other self-recorded albums is the careful construction of the songs, nearly all of which have something special to offer. “Rock ‘N Roll Shoes”, co-written with a since-deceased friend Neil Grossman, has the stinging guitars and soaring harmonies of British Invasion pop, while “Paco & Juan” channels a little of Mark Knopfler’s dark romanticism. “Bobby”, written about a childhood friend who died in a mental institution, is the darkest song on the album, an unsentimental reminiscence set to folk guitars. But there’s plenty of sunshine here, as well. “Afton Place” rings out with Kinks-like chords and sweeping choruses, and “Silly Love” is a countrified ode to no-strings hook-ups. (“Let’s not get too deep/Let’s not talk too much/Let’s have a cocktail/And then make love.”) This is not the kind of album that changes anyone’s life….it’s just good, relaxed fun, from a guy who’s forgotten more than you’ll ever know about chord changes.
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