|Hull-Hound On My Trail|
|by Bill Henderson|
|from Sounds '75 - discovered by Michael Clayton|
Alan Hull ‘Squire’ (Warner Bros K56121) Preview - Sounds May 10 1975
It is a commonly found truism, much repeated to the point of dogma, that Alan Hull is a creative husk, that he hasn’t written anything worthwhile since the very early days of Lindisfarne or in fact, before. That since then, he has been, and will continue, writing, numerically and qualitatively, progressively less and less.
On the evidence of the last Lindisfarne album, ‘Happy Daze’, I agreed. On the evidence of this album, that belief is thrown out the window. To say that Alan Hull should have gone solo years ago is to state the obvious but these songs were written on the road while Lindisfarne still existed. The next album, written at leisure, should be a stone killer.
In the meantime, ‘Squire’ is quietly and beautifully knockout. No argument. Hully proves here that eclecticism can be a virtue as long as you retain, like the Beatles, your individuality and direction, your own personality throughout. Hull does so with songs, diverse in style, both sounds and words but with the stamp of Alan Hull is on every one. (Sic). They’re also, almost without exception, great songs.
‘Squire’ is a collection of love songs (in its broadest sense) with the necessary converse of a hate song (though importantly and characteristically, it’s a tempered hate song). The arrangements (by Jean Roussel) and production (by Hull himself) again like the Beatles, without wishing to press the point or the comparison too far, in the care and attention to both detail and overall feel are perfectly sympathetic with the (melodic and instantly memorable) songs. The song of hate, for example, ‘Dan the Plan’, a diatribe against a person now in jail, not a million miles from a certain T. Dan Smith, who turned Newcastle into the "Brasilia of the north" is in amended protest style with strummed acoustics and harmonica intro. But the sympathy is there in the corresponding track on side two ‘I’m Sorry Squire’, the incidental instrumental music from Tom Pickard’s TV play, ‘Squire’, poignant with a touch of melodrama, here used as somewhat unwilling apology to Dan.
The love songs start with ‘Squire’, the theme from the play, a song to the character’s alto ego. Then the springtime pastorial ‘Picture A Little Girl’, to his children. A tribute to our rock ‘n’ roll heritage, Nuthin’ Shakin’ (the Eddy Fountaine one) with backing by Snafu, as Hully says, "tight as shite". With its corollary on side two, ‘Golden Oldies’, a wistful remembrance of the days when pop music wasn’t ephemera and glitter, to the memory of Johnny Lennon and Bobby Dylan, "when it was easy to say, ‘I love you’" Last on side one is ‘One More Bottle Of Wine’ Hully’s best song ever - a beautiful anthem (but a meaningful one); a love song to friends, to companionship, to mankind, of optimistic acceptance. The great (slightly maudlin as it should be) universal drinking song. I’ll be singing it for the rest of my days.
‘Waiting’ is an ambiguous song which means more than it appears to say, with great trombone impersonation solo from Jacka. ‘Bad Side Of Town’ is another love song (somewhat romanticised and soft centred) to the place he was brought up and its community values (with orchestra and ‘Penny Lane’ trumpet). ‘Mr In Between’ with rockaboogie nonsense lyrics is perhaps the least memorable but only comparatively. Throughout there is fine support from Kenny Craddock (primarily), Colin Gibson, Ray Laidlaw, Ray Jackson and Jean Roussel.
‘Squire’ is an album of songs about real people, real emotions, real values. It’s a statement of belief from Alan Hull and also one of the most consistently excellent (and continually playable) albums I’ve heard in a long time. Alan Hull with his 60s melody, craft, listenability and depth of interest may be an anachronism these days but thankfully he’s still around. The rumours of Hull’s creative death are greatly exaggerated.