After being an essential contributor to The Small Faces and then The Faces, Ronnie Lane struck out on his own, the end result of which sounded nothing like either one of his two former bands. Actually, he wasn't quite on his own, he put together a new band appropriately called Slim Chance, and this first album is just a joyous romp from start to finish. There's nothing spectacular about it, heck you'll probably have a hard time remembering most of the songs until you've lived with the album for awhile, but they sound damn good while they're playing. Generally speaking, these eleven songs are based around rolling piano and/or moodier keyboards, acoustic and/or slide guitars, steady drums, saxophone, and the occasional additional accompaniment, such as the accordion on the terrific title track. Lane's nasally voice isn't pretty but it is heartfelt and sincere, and he's often joined by his bandmates on harmonies that are easy to sing along to. While I find his down home sound to be uniquely his own and instantly appealing, the songwriting is strong as well, plus Lane plucks some well-chosen covers too. The two songs that bookend the album, "Careless Love" and "Chicken Wired," boast a fun ragtime feel, while "Roll On Babe" and "Tell Everyone" are a pair of acoustic ballads that slow down the middle of the album, but not in a bad way. I dig the weepy slide guitar and lovely sax on "Don't You Cry For Me," while "(Bye & Bye) Gonna See The King" and the short "Silk Stockings" are loose and lively, the former with gospel-ish vocals that set it apart. The only song here that doesn't really seem to fit is "Amelia Earhart," which sounds of a specific period (the '40s?) whereas the rest of the music sounds timeless, never more so than on "The Poacher," with its unforgettable horn riffs and rare use of strings. All in all, this boisterous, boozy album makes me feel good, and its earthy tunes provide a perfect sit down by the campfire and sing along sort of ambiance. Again, there's little here that I'd call great, but there's even less that I'd call less than really good, as with Anymore for Anymore Ronnie Lane immediately delivered a gem of a countrified folk rock album that should greatly appeal to fans of other roots rock combos such as The Band.
Ronnie Lane's Slim Chance (A&M ’74) Rating: B+
A clear notch below Anymore For Anymore but another fine effort nevertheless, Ronnie Lane's Slim Chance again sees Lane delivering a nice mix of well-written originals and worthwhile cover songs. Again, his use of old time instruments such as accordion, violins, mandolins, harmonica, and (especially) saxophone gives the album a homespun, rural charm, and though again highlights don't exactly jump out at me, neither are there any real misadventures. The last album featured a strong Faces remake ("Tell Everyone," originally on Long Player), and so does this one, as his version of "Stone" (originally on First Step) is among the highlights, with artful acoustic pickin' that also marks other tracks such as "Ain't No Lady," which also features Lane's rapid-fire vocals. As alluded to previously, Lane isn't technically a great (or even a good) vocalist, but his voice exudes an honest, easily likeable sincerity that's often quite affecting, and the band remains loose and lively, even if the material is a bit mellower and less memorable on the whole. Among the older artists he successfully covers are Fats Domino and Chuck Berry, while the best original composition is probably "Give Me A Penny," which has a rich, multi-colored sound, possesses a strong melody, and features a soulful vocal performance from Lane. Elsewhere, we get the waltz-like "Little Piece Of Nothing," the gospel-flavored "Bottle Of Brandy," a sparse ballad in "I'm Just A Country Boy," and a pair of tunes on the jazzy side of things: the sax-happy instrumental "Street Gang" and the cute, clever cover "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself A Letter." Perhaps none of these songs are drop-dead classics, and there are a couple of others that I could do without, but again Ronnie Lane and his band of misfits (at least they never fit into what was happening at the time from a commercial standpoint) delivered another album that's fun to listen to and makes me feel good. After all, I love me some saxophone, and there's more than a few stellar sax moments interspersed throughout, plus Lane shares with Ray Davies a preference for the pastoral that I also find appealing. Anyway, this second album isn't quite as good as the ones before or after it, but it is still quite good.
One For The Road (Island ’75) Rating: A
Ronnie Lane's Slim Chance hit an inspired peak with this third effort, which is the first album to be comprised solely of Ronnie Lane compositions. This album contains many of Lane's catchiest songs and features crisp performances from his talented band, which included Steve Simpson and Charlie Hart, both of whom played a multitude of instruments. One For The Road contains only nine filler-free songs, and the songs on the whole are longer than usual, with the jaunty "Steppin' and Reelin'" (which sounds like an Irish jig) stretching out to 6:26. Starting the album on a high, "Don't Try & Change My Mind" features an easy loping melody, Ronnie's strutting vocal, and the band's characteristically rich, earthy instrumentation. "32nd Street" is lively but a little less memorable, as Ronnie perhaps mumbles a bit more than necessary, though I appreciate its catchy shout alongs, and "Snake" is also good but not nearly as good, in part 'cause its likely ad-libbed lyrics seem made up on the spot. Still, I like its propulsive shuffle groove, and "Burnin' Summer" is probably the moodiest and most mysterious tune yet from the pen of Lane, plus it possesses an atmospheric seriousness not seen previously. As for the title track, well it's a rowdy, boisterous sing along if ever there was one, and quite honestly a law should be passed whereby the inclusion of this song is required on any pub jukebox, so perfect is it for such a setting. The majestic, elegiac instrumental "Harvest Home" achieves a sense of grandeur that Lane hadn't previously attempted, as again this song seems just a little bit more ambitious and flat-out better than what came before it. This track also exemplifies the prominence of the accordion (and, to a lesser extent, harmonica) on this album, much like how the saxophone was the instrument of choice on Ronnie Lane's Slim Chance. "Nobody's Listenin'" and "G'morning" are also extremely upbeat and catchy, and the album on the whole maintains the rural, backwoods charms of his previous albums while bettering both of them, making One For The Road both a classic and an overlooked treasure. Alas, Lane would never get to build on these early artistic successes; during the recording of a subsequent album with Pete Townshend, Rough Mix, Ronnie was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, which greatly curtailed his productivity. Lane managed only one more solo album, See Me, in 1980, before passing away of pneumonia in 1997.
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