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Denny Laine - Ahh ... Laine ! (LP)

Denny Laine - Ahh ... Laine ! (LP)

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Genre: pop
Rating: **** (4 stars)
Title:  Ah ... Laine!
Company: Wizard
Catalog: SWZ 2001
Year: 1973
Grade (cover/record): VG+ / VG+
Comments: UK pressing
Available: 2
Catalog ID: 6111
Price: $17.00

Denny Laine is one of rock's stranger stories. As one of the founders of The Moody Blues he provided the lead vocal for their first big hit, 1965's 'Go Now'. He was also the first member to quit in pursuit of a what appeared to be a promising solo career. Ironically, in spite of a series of intriguing singles with The Denny Laine String Band, that solo career never materialized; Laine instead becoming one of rock's more talented second bananas. In that capacity Laine's career has been marked by years as a rock journeyman, including stints with Balls (love the name), Ginger Baker's, Air Force and a degree of mid-1970s recognition working with Paul McCartney and Wings.

Laine's solo career started out with a flourish. Signed by Deram (coincidently The Moody Blues label), under the moniker 'Denny Laine’s Electric String Band'' he released a pair of interesting if little known singles:

- 1967's 'Say You Don't Mind' b/w 'Ask the People' (Deram catalog number DM 122)
- 1968's 'Too Much In Love' b/w 'Catherine's Wheel' (Deram catalog number DM 171)

Deram shelved a planned third 45 ('Why Did You Come') with a planned album also being cancelled. Laine's next solo project didn't come out until 1973. Seemingly interested in capitalizing on the massive worldwide successes enjoyed by Laine as part of Wings' "Band On the Run" album, the small Wizard label released "Aah ... Laine!". And here's where it gets kind of strange and interesting. Laine apparently had nothing to do with the collection and reportedly didn't even know the album had been released until a couple of years later. Personally I'm not sure I believe that since I distinctly remember seeing quite a few reviews of the collection during that timeframe. Billed as a self-produced album, the collection apparently pulled together an assortment of previously recorded and shelved demos and studio experiments. As you'd expect from such a project, the sound and general quality of the material bounced all over the place. That said, the album served to showcase Laine's pleasant, if fragile and unexceptional voice on a decent set of pop-rock material. Judging by original numbers like 'Baby Caroline', 'Talk To the Head' and Havin' Heaven', Laine was actually a pretty good writer with a nice feel for crafting commercial songs with interesting hooks (much like his Wings boss McCartney). Unfortunately, even at his best Laine's voice couldn't compete with McCartney. The other big surprise was that while Laine served as Wings' lead guitarist, with the exceptions of 'Baby Caroline', 'Talk To the Head', and 'The Blues', little of those axe skills were on display here.

- I've always been a sucker for songs that start off with weird arrangements and that was definitely the case with 'Big Ben'. Opening up with an odd array of acoustic guitar, hand claps, backward tapes, and synthesizer burps and beeps, this one sounded like some sort of oddball outtake from "McCartney II". One of the least commercial endeavors on the LP and one of the most entertaining. rating: *** stars
- While Laine's lead vocal was a bit on the flat side, 'Destiny Unknown' was a compact rocker that would have made Wings proud. I know this sounds kind of mean spirited, but with a McCartney lead vocal on it, this would have been a massive radio hit.
- The ballad 'Baby Caroline' was easily one of the album's prettiest and most impressive performances. Yes, I'll admit it, Laine's limited voice even sounded nice on this one. Another should've-been-a-hit and my favorite track on the LP ... rating: **** stars
- I'm not even going to second guess what Laine was thinking when he recorded the country-flavored 'Don't Try, You'll Be Refused'. Hideous song, hideous vocal, hideous concept. Judging by the song's early fade out, someone else felt the same way about the performance. Mr. Laine I know Ringo Starr and you are no Ringo Starr ... rating: * star
- Kicked along by a nice bluesy acoustic slide guitar figure, 'Talk To the Head' was a surprising funky number. The song was also interesting for displaying Laine's lower register voice. He actually sounded great in this range. Another personal favorite which should not have been faded out so early. rating: **** stars
- Perhaps taking a page out of the McCartney songbook, 'Sons of Elton Haven Brown' was an interesting Western-inspired rocker. Again using his gravelly, lower vocal range, this one was also quite impressive. rating: **** stars
- A slinky, bluesy ballad, 'Find a Way Somehow' was likeable, but would have been even better had the female backing vocals and the spoken word segment been stripped from the arrangement. rating: *** stars
- Probably the album's most overtly commercial song, 'Havin' Heaven' was the kind of song you would have expected Wings to record - namely an instantly memorable pop number with a rollicking rock base. Full of interesting textures including dollops of rockabilly and reggae rhythms, you were left to wonder why it was tapped as a single. Not sure what the car accident sound effects were about ... rating: **** stars
- 'On that Early Morn' was an excellent hard-rocker. With a stripped down arrangement, anyone who doubted Laine's rock credentials needed only check this one out. Great performance and the raw vocal only served to improve it. rating: **** stars
- Showcasing Laine's best guitar solo, 'The Blues' was another straightforward rocker. rating: **** stars
- Hum, opening up with a guitar and pennywhistle solo, 'Everybody' turned into a great pop song that again had considerable commercial potential. Once again, singing in a lower register dud wonders for Laine's voice, though the la-la-la section should have been cut out of the final mix. Another personal favorite ... rating: **** stars
- In spite of the highly irritating female voice sharing lead with Laine, 'Move Me To Another Place' was a nice rocker. Yeah, it had a distinctly early-1970s vibe, but that might well be part of the appeal. rating: **** stars

In England the album was tapped for a single in the form of:

- 1973's 'Find a Way Somehow' b/w 'Move Me To Another Place' (Wizard catalog number WIZ 104)

By no means a bad album, but not exactly something that you were going to run out in the rain to locate. That said, this was one of those albums that you could honestly label as a 'grower' in that it improved with each spin. In my case, I was ultimately won over by the realization that Laine sounded like he was having fun on many of these songs. Warner Brothers acquire American distribution rights, but did nothing to promote the set which naturally vanished without a trace. Adding to the debacle, four years later the British Paladin label somehow acquired rights to a couple of the songs, releasing 'Baby Caroline' as an instantly obscure single (though they managed to screw up the song title):

- 1977's 'Caroline' b/w 'Blues' (Paladin catalog number PAL 5014)

"Aah ... Laine!" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) Big Ben (instrumental) (Denny Laine) -
2.) Destiny Unknown (Denny Laine) -
3.) Baby Caroline (Denny Laine) -
4.) Don't Try, You'll Be Refused (Denny Laine) -
5.) Talk To the Head (Denny Laine) -
6.) Sons of Elton Haven Brown (Denny Laine) -

(side 2)
1.) Find a Way Somehow (Denny Laine) -
2.) Havin' Heaven (Denny Laine) -
3.) On that Early Morn (Denny Laine) -
4.) The Blues (Denny Laine) -
5.) Everybody (Denny Laine) -
6.) Move Me To Another Place (Denny Laine) -
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