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Album: Gerry Rafferty - Rest in Blue | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Gerry Rafferty - Rest in Blue

Album: Gerry Rafferty - Rest in Blue

Ten years after his death, a posthumous new album reaffirms a singular talent

Rafferty, still speaking volumes

It’s a decade since we sadly lost the talents of Gerry Rafferty to liver failure in 2011, at the age of 63, but this Friday sees the posthumous release of his 11th album, Rest in Blue.

It comprises new Rafferty songs, some beautiful traditional numbers – “Wild Mountain Thyme” and “Dirty Old Town” among them – and an affecting cover of Richard and Linda Thompson’s “It’s Just the Motion”, a song he produced in the studio with the couple before Richard Thompson pulled the plug on those sessions. There’s also a fairly ebullient 1990s re-recording of the Stealer’s Wheel classic, “Stuck in the Middle With You”, probably after its Tarantino uplift.

His daughter Martha is behind the set’s release, removing the sonic varnish of multilayered synths Rafferty had built up and left on many of these demos, and holding focus on his magnificent voice. Some of them date back to 1970, and it seems this songwriting craftsman worked across years, even decades, on pieces we’re only hearing now. His long-time guitarist Hugh Burns adds his signature touch throughout, alongside the Hammond and piano of ex-Dire Straits-man Alan Clark, and sweet, sympathetic backing vocals from Katie Kissoon.

Rest in Blue’s opening songs, “Still in Denial” and “Full Moon”, address the alcoholism that killed him, and they do it with anger and clarity, too. They, and the following “Sign of the Times”, about climate change, all have the rich, full-cream feel of his classic 1970s albums City to City and Night Owls; the art work, too, is by John Byrne, Rafferty’s longtime collaborator on all his solo albums, and right back to Stealer’s Wheel.

The moving and beautiful “Wild Mountain Thyme”, with its slender acoustic piano/guitar backing, and “It’s Just the Motion” are stand-outs of the set, with the latter’s minimalist band of piano, bass and light touches on guitar giving Rafferty’s superb and unmistakable vocals the room to fully inhabit this great song – he doesn’t just cover it, he haunts it – while “Dirty Old Town” is slowed to down to a funereal pace, dressed lightly with touches of slide guitar, harmonica, and bowed bass.

“Lost Highway” is more sharp-eyed and angered, taking us back to the dubious legality and morality of the Iraq war – “I saw the Operation Desert Storm / People walking down a lost highway / While they were dying on my TV screen / I watching it from far away”. Rarely has protest music sounded so catchy, upbeat and relatable.

Fine acoustic fingerpicking is the setting for a gem in “Precious Memories”, the album’s third great reminder of his winning ways with a traditional song, while the set closes with that loose, upbeat 1990s version of “Stuck in the Middle”, its closing burst of laughter only adding to the intense poignancy of what we lost when he went. The music that comes before it is a convincing demonstration of what remains – the artistry and spirit of the music, which still speaks volumes.

@CummingTim

His daughter Martha is behind the set’s release, removing the sonic varnish of multilayered synths and holding focus on his magnificent voice

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