Dave Edmunds

...Again

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Not long after the 1994 release of Plugged In, Dave Edmunds chose to tune out, slowly winding his way back to his native Wales, where he essentially acted as a hermit. Occasionally, he'd show up on-stage -- or on Jools Holland's Later -- but his active career essentially ceased, punctuated by the live album A Pile of Rock (a title often recycled in his career) documenting a one-off European show from 1997, plus a 2000-era largely instrumental album called Musical Fantasies. With this in mind, the release of ...Again in 2013 is big news: it appears to be his first new album in nearly two decades. This isn't the case. ...Again is a curious thing, a 15-track collection that contains no less than nine of the 11 songs on 1994's Plugged In, along with "Return to Sender," his contribution to the Otis Blackwell tribute Brace Yourself (released in 1994, but recorded in 1991), plus five new songs. It's not quite enough to be considered a full-fledged comeback but it's slightly more than tossed-off bonus tracks, too, as these new contributions spin the Plugged In material in a slightly different direction. Of course, it helps that the weakest moments of that 1994 album are left behind -- "Sabre Dance 94" is not revived -- and the new cuts are often quite strong. An instrumental version of Elton John's "Your Song" may veer a little too close to the middle of the road but the title track "Again" easily slips into the sound and spirit of the rest of the material, as does the slightly melancholy Beach Boys boogie of "People Wanna Get High" -- both are distinguished by being two rare original compositions by this retro-rocker -- while "Baby Face" is a nicely riotous Little Richard salute and "Georgia on My Mind" pays a fair tribute to Ray Charles. All five songs are easily enjoyable and their inclusion turns this record, which is essentially Plugged In, into a better album. Plugged In holds up well -- 20 years later, its isolationist roots rock doesn't feel dated as much as it feels out of time -- and having a five or six strong cuts added to it does enhance its value, yet it's hard not to wish that ...Again was a full-on new album instead of this half-measure.

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