I’ve always thought of Dwight Twilley as being on the same side of Nick Lowe and Todd Rundgren if they were in a fight with the label weasels, the three of them back to back to back and fighting the suits to the death. Both Lowe and Rundgren have been in the industry long enough to know that labels come and go, but if you stay true to your art you’ll persevere at worst and at best succeed. Twilley has a new label and released a Christmas album, of all things, this past yuletide season. And now with 47 Moons he has produced yet another album that is far removed from his days with The Dwight Twilley Band chronologically, but the classic ‘60s Beatles-cum-Byrds pop is still readily audible over these pretty Petty-ish tunes, including the lovely little jewel “Better Watch Out”. Crisp and well-polished, the number features a strong rhythm section and with hand claps and horns coloring the infectious little track. There’s no reinventing the wheel with this baby, just maybe giving the hubcaps a spit shine.
Twilley extends several of these songs into a time and territory that brings to Alex Chilton and his Big Star playmates, especially on the dreamy and fragile title track. Winding and at times melancholic, the track becomes layered with not a thick sound but one which seems to diminish the original feeling. It still excels but take a few moments to get into. The nearly seven-minute effort is obviously in no hurry to end and thus a few refrains are given. Twilley and guitar Bill Pitcock IV weaves a lovely, anthem-like series of riffs over the lush arrangement. “It’s a mystery, so just let it be,” Twilley sings in the bridge as its daydream aura takes hold. A tune that is quite rich but one that makes this album work splendidly. He ups this light, airy ante with “Runaway With You”, a quirky bit of musicianship that throws in curveballs left and right to keep you more than interested. Although sounding like it’s been dusted off from a 1986 time capsule, Twilley stays true to the tightest song on the album.
All of these songs tend to follow the same blueprint, but the singer pulls it off so easily and so well that it’s forgivable listening to “King of the Mountain”, a sugary bit of pop in line with Velvet Crush and Roger McGuinn. However he pushes the envelope way over the desk with the Bowie-ish or Ziggy Stardust-like “Ice Captain”, which starts strong but fades with each passing verse. “Walkin’ on Water” stays out of harm’s way with another strong if rather ordinary pop arrangement that Twilley could probably do in his sleep. Here the guitar shines again and again, growing on you while separating itself from a bland and utterly horrid Beach Boys tune from recent memory (take your pick!). He digs this virtual pop barrel down to the bottom throughout, although “Chandra” takes a great melody and builds on it in a way Jeff Lynne would be extremely jealous of.
As Twilley reaches the three-quarters pole in this rock album journey, he finally lets up from the tight pop and rocks out a little bit during “Jackie Naked in the Window”, which would be perfect music at your run-of-the-mill introvert stag party. “She’s so damn hot,” Twilley sings as the guitars complement each other in a sort of Chris Isaak manner. “To Wait Is to Waste” is, well, a waste, unfortunately. Too busy and with too much layering trying to compensate for what little is there, Twilley resembles Roger Waters during the final arduous tracks off Pink Floyd’s The Final Cut, bombastic and over-the-top for its own sake. The singer shortens things for “Chance Of A Lifetime”, which has Twilley sounding like famed (in Canada anyway) classic rock band Trooper (“Raise a Little Hell”, anyone?) Twilley ends with a mid-tempo Austin-tinged rock “Flippin’” that is part blues, part big band and overall fun. This is not his strongest work, but is still perhaps one of his more consistent releases in recent memory.
// Notes from the Road
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