Two albums that, either individually or collectively, represent the very best work John Otway and Wild Willy Barrett ever did; two albums, too, that really should be regarded as one. Both drew from the vast repository of songs that Otway wrote in the years when a record contract was still a demented dream away; both then looked back on more than five years of anarchic live shows to isolate the numbers that had always gone down best with audiences -- and which still do. Six of the twenty-one songs here made it onto Otway's last Greatest Hits album; plenty more still pop up in his live show today; and every last one of them continues to crackle with the genius (demented or otherwise) that hallmarked the partnership at its best.
It is impossible to play favorites with the two. John Otway & Wild Willy Barrett/ probably has the edge in terms of unsuspecting charm, a naïve hodge-podge of sessions that dated back to a 1972 date with Pete Townshend, but which holds together by sheer force of character. But Deep & Meaningless has a sonic depth that, at its peaks, makes Bat out of Hell sound like a lo-fi garage band -- the cannons that explode across "The Alamo," the posse that rides through "Running from the Law," the heartache that pours out of "Josephine." And so on. Neither punk nor folk (though marketing tried to portray them as both), neither rock nor pop, these two albums epitomize a musical world that simply doesn't exist any longer, one in which the most unlikely mavericks could make the most magnificent music, and actually have it released by a major record company. The fact that both players are still going strong today is simply the icing on the cake.