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CLIVE GREGSON "Happy Hour" Fellside Recordings FECD141

July 1999: Clive Gregson plays a solo set at "Brampton Live" which somehow fails to really sparkle. An hour later he and Boo Hewerdene are on stage with Eddie Reader, it all falls into place, and we are treated to a sublime 90 minutes. There's the conundrum: Gregson has, working with Richard Thompson, Christine Collister, Eddie Reader etcetera, produced wonderful music over two decades. He writes great songs, he's undoubtedly a consumate musician. But as a solo performer, live or on record? I remained unconvinced.

"Happy Hour", Gregson's first release for Fellside, goes some way towards changing that. Entirely his own work, and recorded at his studio in Nashville, he himself describes this album as "sparse, dour and direct". While that may be true lyrically (the title is definitely ironic), there is a lightness of touch here, coupled with sardonic hmour, which keeps any sense of gloom at bay.

"Happy Hour" may reflect where Gregson is at right now, but there are strong echoes of the past, too. One can imagine Christine Collister singing "Nothing Ever Lasts"; "Melody" begins "I'm So Tired of Working Every Day". Sounds familiar? "Fred Astaire" "I Would Have Walked Away" and "How Could I Resist" are vintage Gregson songs, and changes of pace and instrumentation give each song a distinct, well crafted feel. This is a fine album, which is a must for Gregson fans, and if like me, you have had reservations about his solo work, "Happy Hour" just might change your mind.

But I still like the collaborations, so here's a suggestion. A cross-generational supergroup of Mancunian song-smiths, Gallagher, Gregson and Nash. You'd make some money Clive!

Steve Ingham

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This album was reviewed in Issue 34 of The Living Tradition magazine.