Verden Allen

For Each Other

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Mott the Hoople fans have heard little from Allen since 1972, when -- weary of being typecast as its brooding organ presence, and occasional songwriter -- he walked out before the band broke wide open. A similar twist of fate plagued his marginal post-Hoople outlet, Cheeks, which gigged frequently, but never recorded.

For Each Other, Allen's second solo outing, finds him breaking a two-decade silence with a deftly crafted affair on which he handles nearly all the instruments (except lead guitar and bass overdubs, respectively, on two tracks).

Allen sets the tone with "A New Way," whose swipe against obsessive careerism bounces over a Dylanesque talk-sing twang and mid-tempo organ that wouldn't have sounded amiss on Wild Life, Mott's flirtation with country-rock. Allen keeps matters low-key and restrained throughout, giving appropriate textural priority to his evocative organ and piano work, which shines on the driving, six-minute epic "Losing You." Allen's subtlety also pays off on his Mott-era contribution, "Second Love," in which he trades the original's bombastic trumpets for a less impatient delivery and flutelike synthesizers. Other highlights include "Email," a wry look at the foibles of daily living; the stolid, determined title track; and "If Only" and "All Over You," which offer wistful laments for love gone sour.

As his sturdy, workmanlike vocals demonstrate, Allen is hardly a natural singer, and he doesn't display the lyrical deftness that characterized Mott's hit-and-miss early albums. Still, neither issue prevents Allen's album from being enjoyed on its own unassuming merits, although he could use two or three stronger songs next time around.

For Each Other may not set the world alight, but it bears repeated listening, while providing a reassuring snapshot of an underrated talent. Just don't expect reruns of Brain Capers, and proceed accordingly.

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