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Jim Capaldi

Open Your Heart: Island Recordings 1972-1976

Review by Gary Hill

This collection from Jim Capaldi is so strong. It gathers up three albums across four years of his career. A fourth disc, a DVD (which brings the final year of the five in the subtitle), is included with a couple TV appearances.  I have never heard these albums before, and I have to say that they are really undiscovered gems for me. As much as I enjoy the music of his Traffic band-mate Steve Winwood's solo career, I find these even stronger than that. That said, Winwood does contribute to some of the music here. Chris Spedding is another notable musician featured on the set. The video material is strong, but then again, it was done for television, so what else would you expect. Each CD includes at least one bonus track, too. This all comes in a nice clamshell box with a fairly extensive booklet and cardboard sleeves for each disc.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) in Music Street Journal: 2020  Volume 3. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2020.

Track by Track Review
CD One: Oh How We Danced (1972)
                      
Eve

Piano and vocals bring this into being. The cut gets more layers of sound as it continues. It's a 1970s pop rock number that has some solid hooks and works well. The organ brings something special to the mix, and the whole thing just has a lot of style and charm.

Big Thirst
Coming in fairly mellow, there is a soulful, rather bluesy vibe to this cut. The number builds out to more of a mid-tempo sound at points, but it leans on the mellower, slower side of the equation. Female backing vocals are a nice touch. This has such a classy and classic sound.
Love Is All You Can Try
There is more energy and groove to this jazzy, bluesy rocker. This is a lot of fun. I really love the piano work on this thing.
Last Day of Dawn
A bouncy, playful sound is on display here. I love the cool percussion line. This has some great hooks, too. This is a song that really feels a lot like it would have been at home on a Traffic album. This gets quite powerful as it continues. I love killer jam later in the piece in particular. The tune is definitely one of the highlights of the first disc.
Don't Be a Hero
I like the piano based introduction to this cut a lot. It moves from there to a piano and organ arrangement that makes me think of Procol Harum quite a bit. The vocals come in over the top of that motif. As the tune gradually builds outward that PH element is still on display, but tempered by more Traffic oriented sound. This is a slow moving piece that is evocative and powerful. It's another highlight of the first disc. Before it hits the three-minute mark it intensifies for a smoking hot guitar solo section.
Open Your Heart
A bouncy, catchy kind of arrangement is on display here. This track is not one of my favorites here, but it is fun. It also has some definite connections to the Traffic sound. The more intense sections definitely bring the whole thing up a bit.
How Much Can a Man Really Take

Now this expansive rocking piece really feels like a Traffic cut. It wouldn't take much imagination to hear this as they would have done it. It's a powerful number and another standout. The flute solo later in the piece is so cool. I also love the expressive guitar soloing.

Oh How We Danced

This energetic and bouncy number is another that makes me think of Procol Harum quite a bit. Of course, the Traffic element is on display, too. Horns bring some definite jazz to the table. The guitar soloing is tasty. This is just another powerful piece. The jam at the end is really a full on jazz treatment, but also lands fully in Traffic territory.

Bonus Track:
                 
Going Down Slow All the Way

Starting with piano, the vocals come in over the top. This is another that makes me think of Procol Harum quite a bit.

CD Two: Whale Meat Again (1974)
  
It's Alright
There is a folk-rock-turned-more-powered-up mode to this piece. There are definite roots music elements at play here. This is a tune that would be home on a Traffic disc.
Whale Meat Again

Coming in with a full-on jazz meets blue arrangement. As the vocals join, I'm reminded of something John Lennon might do. I love the guitar work on this thing. That said, the whole tune rocks like crazy.

Yellow Sun
Some of the guitar work on this brings a country edge. The organ is a nice touch. This is more of a balladic folk music based piece. It's classy, but not a standout for me. I does get pretty involved as it drives forward. I think it goes on a bit too long, though.
I've Got So Much Lovin'
There is a classic blues piano bit that brings this into being. The cut works out from there into a bouncy kind of rocker from there. The piano remains a driving factor here. Horns and female backing vocals both add to the magic of the piece.
Low Rider
Classical strings bring something special to the table here. There are some seriously funky elements at play on this number. This energized number brings a lot of cool to the proceedings. Imagine mixing Stevie Wonder with Traffic. That will have you pretty closer to this cool tune.
My Brother
Another cut that calls to mind John Lennon's music quite a bit, this is an effective rocker. It makes good use of horns and really has a great groove and energy to it. I love the synthesizer jamming later in the song.
Summer Is Fading
This high energy jam really feels a lot like Traffic. The tune has some killer jamming. There are some definite jazzy tendencies at play here. The percussion is unusual and effective here. The song evolves nicely and is one of the highlights of the second disc.
We'll Meet Again
A full symphonic arrangement brings this into being. Vocals come over the top of that arrangement. This is a short, and quite strange, tune.
Bonus Track:
         
Tricky Dicky Rides Again

Piano brings this cut into being with a bouncy kind of jam. Here is another that makes me think of John Lennon. The lyrics, as you might guess from the title, are very topical and political. The cut gets powered up by horns and other elements.

CD Three: Short Cut, Draw Blood (1975)
         
Goodbye Love

Piano and organ start this number As the arrangement fills out it picks up some hints of funk. The tune has a potent funk and jazz informed sound that calls to mind Traffic. The bass work on this is exceptional.

It's All Up to You
I love the pop rock vibe on this thing. A mainstream rock song with a lot of drama drives this number. The classical strings are just a little over the top, but still work reasonably well.
Love Hurts
Soulful keyboard textures lead this out. From there the cut gets an almost disco kind of arrangement. This is the Boudleaux Bryant song that is probably best known from Nazareth. That said, it's been recorded by everyone from The Everly Brothers to Joan Jett. This version is marred by an over-the-top string arrangement and disco beat. It is a very soulful version of the tune.
Johnny Too Bad
There is a bit of a bouncy reggaeish vibe to this number. It's playful and fun, but not up to the level of a lot of the other music here.
Short Cut Draw Blood
This rocker gets things back on track after a couple less successful numbers. The tune is another that has some definite John Lennon hints. I love the keyboard washes that come over the top, but the whole tune is so cool.
Living on a Marble
While this has an understated arrangement at the start, that doesn't mean mellow or dull. In fact, it's dramatic and powerful. The cut powers out from there into some smoking hot rock that has real energy and emotion in it. Again, I'm reminded a bit of John Lennon's music. This is a highlight of the set. The cut crescendos to segue into the next one.
Boy with a Problem
Percussion along with symphonic elements bring some real drama to the table as this works outward. Those understated elements hold it instrumentally for about the first minute. Then it works out from there with some soulful textures added to the mix. The vocals eventually come over that arrangement. This is another killer cut that has so much great 1970s vibes on display. It gets into some powered up grooves as it continues.
Keep on Trying
There is an opening that consists of sort of a crowd conversation. This is a loose kind of party jam with lead vocals that are almost spoken rather than sung. Backing vocals are more add to the magic of the piece. While this isn't one of my favorites here, I like it quite a bit. It is a fun tune. There is some killer horn work late in the song.
Seagull
A balladic piece, this is pretty. It has the sounds of waves (fittingly) in the mix. Some flute is a nice touch. Intricate guitar is on display. The tune powers up a bit after a time, but still remains a 60s oriented-powered up ballad. The retro stylings, even for the year this was released, work well.
Bonus Tracks:
          
Sugar Honey

A bouncy pop rock sound is on display here. This feels a lot like something John Lennon would do. It has some cool old-school rock and roll guitar fills.

Talkin' About My Baby
I really like this one a lot. It has a classic soulful pop rock vibe to it. It also has some great hooks. There is a real Motown vibe to it in a lot of ways. This is actually one of the stronger pieces here, and it's a bonus track.
Still Talkin'

After the previous number fades out, this rises up as an instrumental reprise of the melodies of that piece. This is mostly instrumental, but the chorus vocals return near the end.

 
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