A mate gave me this some years ago.
I relegated it and then thought twice and stuck it in a “maybe” pile for years.
So, I’m approaching it afresh.
The only other Price LP I had before this was the soundtrack to the magnificent Lindsay Anderson film "O Lucky Man" (1973), which could work as a solo stand-alone album.
Price is largely forgotten today but he was arguably the most talented of The Animals. He clearly was the most “inventive” and musically inquisitive and probably the most ambitious. After he left the group he moved through a number of styles fluidly and naturally without any sense of opportunistic genre hopping.
Wikipedia: Alan Price (born 19 April 1942, Fatfield, Washington, County Durham) is an English musician, best known as the original keyboardist for the British band The Animals and for his subsequent solo work.
Price was educated at Jarrow Grammar School, South Tyneside. He is a self-taught musician and was a founding member of the Tyneside group the Alan Price Rhythm and Blues Combo, which was later renamed The Animals. His organ-playing on songs by The Animals, such as "House of the Rising Sun", "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood", and "Bring It On Home To Me" was a key element in the group's success.
After leaving the Animals, Price went on to have success on his own with his own band Alan Price Set and later with Georgie Fame. He introduced the songs of Randy Newman to a wider audience. Later, he appeared on his own television show, as well as achieving success with film scores including winning critical acclaim for his musical contribution to the 1973 film O Lucky Man!, and wrote the score to the stage musical Andy Capp. In addition, he has appeared as an actor in films and television productions.
This autobiographical concept album is ambitious in its scope and honest in its ambitions and, perhaps, is a product of its time and place.
It’s not a concept album with a structured narrative but all the songs are interlinked and thematically consistent.
Further, the album is separated into two: Side One is “Yesterday” whilst Side Two is “Today”.
Price accentuates the distinct sides by drawing from pre-rock English music styles, especially English music hall (and English variations of Trad Jazz and Broadway) on Side One, while opting for a more (only slightly) contemporary sound on Side Two.
The ye olde worlde pre rock (though still rock) sound on the album is nothing new. The Band and Dylan had done the same with American music in the late 60s as had Randy Newman with his Vaudevillian pop.
North Londoner Ray Davies of the Kinks, did the same with English music, particularly on the “Muswell Hillbillies” LP from 1971. (Not surprisingly, perhaps, Davies has subsequently said that his favourite album is The Band’s Self-Titled album from 1968).
The whole ye old worlde England thing was on a roll at the time.
This LP did well in England and David Essex took the whole concept to the tops of the English charts over a series of albums in the mid-1970s when he synthesised English music hall with glam pomp and pop. Neither act sold well in the US. Maybe they were too English? Though that doesn’t explain why a record as English as the Kinks “Village Green Preservation Society” (and just about every Kinks concept album after) sold better in the US than it did in England.
The albums other strength is the detail in Price’s song writing.
Sure, singer-songwriters are known for their autobiographical songs but those songs are usually quite narcissistically siinglular where the writer puts forward his or her emotions with no relationship to the outside world. Price here wants to show through music what it was like to grow up working class in Newcastle, England, post-World War Two (Side One “Yesterday”), and how it affected him (Side Two “Today”).
The music is still emotionally detailed though the detail is influenced by external forces (that create the person) not the usual internal ones singer songwriters are obsessed with. Sociology as opposed to psychology I suppose?
The “feel” of Newcastle (or at the least the Newcastle he grew up in) is palatable. Newcastle in England’s north was a hub of manufacturing, heavy industry and coal export during the industrial revolution and suffered accordingly with economic downturns (especially after World War Two). This music, then, is pure Zola, with a touch of Richard Llewellyn or perhaps John Ford’s film version of Llewellyn’s “How Green Was My Valley”. There is no immediacy or a call to arms but there are vivid recollections of the child of working class parents.
He draws on Davies (again) and especially on Randy Newman’s observational detail and perhaps some of his sensibility (Price covered seven Newman songs on his second album in 1967). Newman wasn’t as autobiographical as Price but he had the knack of placing himself in the place of the songs protagonists and creating a faux autobiographical song punctuated by sharp observation.
There is so much autobiographical and observational detail in the songs across the album that ultimately you really have to want to know what growing up to working class parents in Newcastle (or a place like Newcastle) was like.
Rarely, in pre punk, is this level of autobiography attempted, probably because there is a limit to commerciality. Lennon and McCartney may have written personal songs but they were not (generally) historically autobiographical. Jagger and Richards rarely attempted the same. Prior to the rise of punk this music was the preferred repertoire of Broadway writers, folk artists, some singer songwriters, some country acts like Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash and a smattering of pop acts such as Randy Newman, Nilsson, Ray Davies and perhaps Brian Wilson.
I’m not sure if Alan Price would like the description, but this LP is pitched somewhere between the poetry and observation of Ray Davies and the glam bombast of ye olde worlde England with David Essex.
The beauty is the lack of pretension and the way it manages to steer clear of bloated self-indulgence (he is not “searching for himself”).
And, yes there is some Newcastle dialect (Geordie) on the album.
I should also say the sleeve is awful and I’m not sure what the depicted teddy boy has to do with anything (apart from the teddy boy revival at the time of the album’s release). Clearly there is meaning in the sleeve through. The album’s title “Between Today and Yesterday”, the dog, the crying teddy boy, the stark room, the window, the colourful rainbow outside the window…..
Tracks (best in italics)
- Left Over People – a bouncy way to start thought there is bite in the lyrics. There is more than a hint of Randy Newman in its tone.
- Away, Away – the working life, the working life. Vivid in it's depiction of work in times past.
- Between Today and Yesterday – a ballad and a beautiful one at that.
- In Times Like These – a song about community and friendship in an economically deprived post-war England.
- Under the Sun – another sad song about things past, or things that have passed
- Jarrow Song – more of an up-tempo song with the narrator contemplating moving on to London Town. It serves as a fitting end leading into the "today" or side two. Even the music changes in the second part of the song to something more contemporary, anticipating side two.
- City Lights – The narrator arrives at the city but all is not gold. A familiar theme but well done….an quite a bit of Ray Davies and David Ackles.
- Look at My Face – the narrator finds love
- Angel Eyes – the narrator loses love. There is a touch of David Essex here and the song quite infectious.
- You're Telling Me – things are starting to get heavy – organ heavy in this keyboard workout by Price
- Dream of Delight – a touch of Paul Simon in this gentle, almost soft rock, "airing ones mind"
- Between Today and Yesterday – the song (rehashed from side one) sums up the narrative streams and even the musical styles of the album in one song. A great end.
Clearly I like Yesterday more than today (no surprises there) but an overall good album …. I'm keeping it.
1974 Jarrow Song #6
Left Over People
Between Today and Yesterday
In Times Like These
Under the Sun
You're Telling Me