British guitarist and producer Eric Stewart has an impressive resume, one highlighted with a handful of classic pop and rock songs and his involvement with many notable artists such as Paul McCartney, 10CC, and Alan Parsons, and his studio, Strawberry Studios, was an important catalyst in the 1980s Manchester music scene, especially Factory Records. Yet his solo career has been relatively modest, having released but four solo albums. Anthology compiles the best of the lot, plus a few 10CC songs as well.
The anthology starts with “Girls,” the sole cut from his first solo album, Girls, which was the soundtrack to a small budget film of the same name. Released in 1980, it’s a fun, upbeat number that blends a New Wave ethos with a tropical beat. Frooty Rooties, the album he considers his solo debut proper, appeared in 1982, and was a satisfying rock album that reminded of 10CC on numbers “Make The Pieces Fit,” “Doris The Florist,” and the epic ten minute “The Ritual.” When he steps out and indulges his rockabilly sweet tooth on “Strictly Business,” it results in a delightful homage to the roots-rock that influenced him.
Frooty Rooties was a satisfying diversion for Stewart, as 10CC was falling apart. He would spend a good portion of the Eighties in the employ of Paul McCartney, collaborating with him on his albums Tug of War, Pipes of Peace, and Press To Play. The influence would be felt on what would become 10CC’s final album, 1995’s Mirror Mirror. One song, “Yvonne’s The One,” was a song McCartney and Stewart had written for Press to Play, but was rejected. McCartney does appear on it and another unused song from the sessions, “Code of Silence.” Mirror Mirror was credited to 10CC, but was in fact mainly a collection of solo tracks from Stewart and Graham Gouldman; thus, Anthology offers up Stewart’s tracks. “Margo Wants The Mustard” and “Everything Is Not Enough” are pretty standard Eighties rock, not bad, but not particularly distinctive.
Anthology focuses mainly on his last two solo albums, 2003’s Do Not Bend and 2009’s Viva La Difference. They’re both of a pair, as sonically they don’t differ all that much; Stewart’s style is a friendly, ear-pleasing adult contemporary rock that’s clearly inspired by his days in 10CC, blending mid-tempo numbers (“More And More Each Day,” “You Are Not Me”) with catchy, upbeat fare (“Do Not Bend,” “No, No Nettie”) that satisfies. Stewart can still turn out a quality ballad, too; “A Friend In Need” and “It’s In The Blood” are two fine examples that prove he’s not lost his songwriting touch.
10CC is undergoing a bit of a revival, and with a large, comprehensive box set having recently been released that examines the band and its members pre- and post-10CC work, Anthology serves as a nice compendium to it. While it would have been nice to have heard some more of Girls mixed in–it’s not nearly as dire as his comments in the liner notes make it seem—and one would love to hear more unreleased Stewart/McCartney work, those are minor quibbles over what is essentially a delightful collection of music.
Anthology is available now on Lemon Recordings.
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