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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Nils Lofgren - Nils

Name: Nils Lofgren
Album: Nils
Year: 1979
Style: Songwriter Pop
Similar Bands: Neil Young, Steve Forbert, Faces, ELO + Bee Gees.
"One-Word" Review: Gritty Disco
Based Out Of: Chicago, Il
Label: A&M Records
Nils - Cover & Sleeve
Nils - Back & Sleeve
Nils - Record


Nils (1979)
  1. No Mercy 4:05
  2. I'll Cry Tomorrow 4:26
  3. Baltimore 6:27
  4. Shine Silently 3:41 /
  5. Steal Away 4:05
  6. Kool Skool 3:17
  7. A Fool Like Me 3:09
  8. I Found Her 3:33
  9. You're So Easy 6:00
Album Rating (1-10): 6.0

Members & Other Bands:
Nils Lofgren - Accordion, Guitar, Keyboards, Lead,Vox (Bruce Springstein, Neil Young, Grin)
Bob Babbitt - Bass (MFSB, The Funk Brothers)
Stu Daye - Guitar, Vocals
Bob Ezrin - Keyboards, Percussion, Producer, Vibraphone, Vocals
Jody Linscott - Conga, Percussion (Kokomo)
Tom Lofgren - Guitar, Vocals (Grin)
Randy Newman - Composer
Doug Riley - Guest Appearance, Organ (Gold City)
David Sanborn - Guest Appearance, Saxophone (The Players Association)
Allen Schwarzberg - Drums
Andy Sedlmaier - Mastering
Brian Christian - Producer, Engineer
Colina Phillips - Additional Backing Vox
Debbie Fleming - Additional Backing Vox
Al MacMillan - Orchestration
Ringo Hrycyna - Engineer
David Gertz - Engineer
Jim Frank - Engineer
Geoff Hendrikson - Engineer
Damien Korner - Engineer
Bob Ludwig - Mastering
Ann Martin - Production Coordinator
T Lawless - Production Asst.
Inez Fridenberg - Production Asst.
Iiona Pring - Production Asst.
George Minnis - Production Asst.
Gary Nichamin (Boom! Graphics) - Album Design
Len Irish - Photography

Unknown-ness: When I got this album, I did not know who Nils was. But since then, I’ve run across his name, and understand I should probably at least have heard of him before. Just from his style, despite the name, it looks like it will be gritty, Americana singer songwriter style rock. He gives off an air of Bruce Springsteen. So I’m not looking too forward to this record, as it is not my style, but at the least it should be listenable.

Album Review: “No Mercy” begins with a crowd cheering, which was recorded at Madison Square Garden. Nils brittle vocals are layered over a fun bouncy pop song. The chorus has harmonized supporting vocals giving it a bouncy rock version of ELO. The flow of the song is a basic singer songwriter story song. The song builds well and gains a lot of confidence by the time the end comes around.
“I'll Cry Tomorrow” starts with a chugging guitar riff and is layered over with lighter, Neil Young-like vocals. By the time it reaches the chorus, the harmonized backing vocals summon thoughts of the Bee Gees singing over rock. The following verses include breakdowns where he speak-sings a few lines, and it is reminiscent of David Bowie.
“Baltimore” is a Randy Newman cover explaining how hard it is to live in Baltimore. The music style is shady, gritty and underhanded. But the vocals detract from the overall mood and make it seem much less authentic. There is an organ used in the song, which gives it a bit of an R&B funk feel. And along with the electric guitar, they create a rough & dark back alley vibe. There is a long instrumental ending, which is a free flowing, jazzy jam that is quiet and reserved, but waiting to strike at any moment. Rather than strike, it fades out.
“Shine Silently” comes to life with a horn sound and song style that makes me think that Barry White is going to follow up. But Nils voice is quite the opposite. It is higher pitch, and nearly religious in the light way it is presented. But this song is like a disco slow dance, especially with the pulsing bass line that amazingly does not bring any energy to the song.

“Steal Away” brings the rock back with a rattling, metallic guitar sound and a nice driving tempo. This is a song that I could hear a new wave band take and make much more nervous, and synthesized, and it would be a big hit for them. This composition is bold, but lacks the ability to hold my interest. This is basically a straightforward hard rock song with a crooning guitar and forceful beat.
“Kool Skool” returns to a dark and gritty street production. The composition feels loose and generally unstructured. It is a bluesy verse with the chorus sung by the backing vocals all along the verse. The song itself never really reaches a chorus.
“A Fool Like Me” is bridged by the same MSG crowd noise. The song is very much like an ELO style pop song. It is introduced with a smooth jazz sax that makes me think of the theme song to the TV show Night Court or the 80’s SNL cast intros. There is a slow-down breakdown that features what sounds like church bells before it launches into the jazzy, R&B female backing chorus section from before, which fades out.
“I Found Her” had a very similar tempo to “A Fool Like Me.” This song is light and far less rocking or gritty than the other songs. This song would fit nicely on an Air Supply album.
“You're So Easy” has a funky start that would fit nice on a disco floor or Michael Jackson cover. But as the vocals begin, especially the harmonized backing vocals, the song seeks identity with the disco side of the spectrum. The vocals sound like they want to have much more aggression, and persuasion than they actually emit. The vocals sound like they will eventually stop singing words, and might just transition into the Ark-Ark sound that the Martians made in the film Mars Attacks.

Stand Out Track: No Mercy

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