Closer to the Flame

I’m trying to think of someone who wouldn’t love this album. Manuel Noriega? Right from the start, the music goes down like good whiskey, with a big, deep sound that warms the pit of your gut.

The style is familiar: classic American rock & roll, flavored with rockabilly and a strong infusion of soul. Yes, for his first solo album in five years, Dave Edmunds — a longtime collaborator with the likes of Nick Lowe — didn’t try to invent something new. For that we should despise the guy?

Better he should love what he does, and re-create it with such complete conviction. The title cut shows how deep his feelings can run. There’s image after image of flame. ”With every kiss” he comes a little closer to it. ”Girl I feel it burning”; ”You brought me in out of the darkness.” Add a gospel-like choir and classic Memphis-style horns and the song starts to sound as much religious as love-struck, filled with reassurance that goes deeper than the words.

Then, in a lilting little pop number called ”Stockholm,” he’s a rock musician on the road, where, he tells us with a wink, he’s ”never been alone.” But the one place he wants to stay is well, you know, and, just to prove it, we can hear his Stockholm woman gasping with pleasure in what sounds like Swedish.

Closer to the Flame, in other words, has range. It falls off a bit on the second side (or, for CD listeners, during the last six songs), which sounds too unabashedly like the pure rockabilly that stars of the past did more convincingly. But — for me, anyway — the songs on side one are more than enough.

Closer to the Flame
  • Music