David Essex

Living in England

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A strangely low-key release combined both recent and vintage material to offer up an odd America-only counterpart to Essex's latest British-hits collection, tracing him only from his late-'70s shift into more grown-up fare than he is, perhaps, best remembered for. "Oh What a Circus" (from the stage show Evita) and another Tim Rice co-write, "A Winter's Tale," were both U.K. hits from that period, and offer a peculiar counterpoint to the still vibrant rhythms of "Rock On," present here in one of several re-recorded versions that Essex has cut over the years. Also included are both sides of his then-current U.K. single, "A Shoulder to Cry On," and "Living In England" itself. Elsewhere, straightforward versions of "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore" and "Everlasting Love" are balanced by a remarkably bubbly rendition of "Paint It Black," while Essex's take on Jacques Brel's "Song for Old Lovers" is a highlight for anybody entranced by his ballad work. Nevertheless, Living in England as a whole remains an uneven release, portraying an Essex so completely at odds with the smoldering rocker who hit the U.S. so hard two decades earlier that he is all but unrecognizable. After all, anyone can cover "Rock On" these days.

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