Leo Sayer

Another Year

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Leo Sayer's third album continues in the grand tradition of its predecessors, centering its concerns around the lives and loves of the sad and lonely of the British metropolis. The opening "Bedsitterland" sets the scene in a style that wouldn't have been out of place on an Al Stewart album, with lyrics that certainly echo Ralph McTell's "Streets of London" -- "I've slept in the gutter on a summer's day, I've bummed cigarettes in the night cafes." Indeed, later in the cycle, "Streets of Your Town" draws that latter parallel even closer, all but paraphrasing McTell's original lyric to transplant the sorry story to Any City, U.K. The title track, too, has a seedily downtrodden air, celebrating the passing of another year ("'75 is here") by wondering how the calendar can change when the singer's life remains the same. And the vaudeville air of "The Old Dirt Road" celebrates the tramps and hoboes of an earlier age, glorying in their freedom from the cares of conventional life and not caring a fig for poverty or dirt: "gotta sixpence in my pocket, I'm a millionaire." Sayer's fascination with the working-class lifestyle reaches its apogee with "Moonlighting," a 1976 hit single that is both wholly international and irretrievably English. Name checking everything from the hero's van (a blue Morris -- what else?), to a road map of the region, a lengthy lyric and convoluted arrangement follows the adventures of a pair of young lovers as they elope to Gretna Green, a Scottish border town renowned for allowing walk-up weddings. Monty Python fans, meanwhile, will certainly enjoy some of the voices Sayer employs as this near mini-opera winds on. The flip of this dingy coin comes with two songs certainly written from the other side of Sayer's own pop stardom -- "The Kid's Grown Up," which contrasts his own modern lifestyle with the little boy he used to be, and "The Last Gig of Johnny B. Goode," examining the final days of a fallen pop star (prize lyric: "we should have booked the audience rather than...the band"). Just three albums into his career, and already Sayer was contemplating how it might all end -- confirming an honesty and, if you will, a fearfulness that plays its own part in Another Year's overall success. How quickly, however, such realism would be forgotten. Within a year, Sayer would have relocated, physically and mentally, to L.A. and begun the long drive into AOR safety and respectability. Another Year might not be the last of his truly enjoyable albums, but it is certainly the last that can be described as essential listening.

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