Gerry Rafferty

Baker Street [EMI Gold]

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Although he only scored a few big hits, Gerry Rafferty carved out an impressive niche during the late 1970s and early 1980s by combining well-crafted pop songs with a lushly-produced studio sound that worked country and folk elements into its atmospheric pop style. All the classics from this era, plus a variety of album tracks, are highlighted on Baker Street, a British budget-line compilation from EMI. As one might expect, it prominently features Rafferty's two biggest hits: "Baker Street" marries Steely Dan-styled lyrics about big-city desperation to a skillfully-arranged tune highlighted by some unforgettable saxophone solos, and "Right Down the Line" is a country-flavored love song that manages to be sweetly romantic without lapsing into mawkish clich├ęs. None of the other tracks here hit the listener with the immediacy of those two classics, but it offers plenty of fine songcraft: "Get It Right Next Time" layers positive lyrics over an ethereal, pulsing keyboard memory reminiscent of 1970s-era Pink Floyd, and "Sleepwalking" is a cleverly-written tale of nocturnal loneliness built on a thick layer of percolating synthesizers. Other songs take a more rootsy approach: "City to City" is a rollicking rave-up livened up with plenty of country-style fiddle, and "The Royal Mile" underscores its nostalgic tale of train travel with a Irish folk melody. The songwriting remains engaging throughout the disc, but some of the tunes slip into blandness due to efficient but inspired performances by the backup band. Songs like "Wastin' Away" and "Days Gone Down" fail to make a strong impression because their studio-slick treatment make them sound like every other singer/songwriter from the era. Despite this occasional slip, Baker Street remains the finest portrait of Rafferty's most successful solo era, and is thus recommended to anyone interested in delving in beyond the hits.

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