The veteran U.K. guitar hero Chris Spedding has worked with practically everyone, from Brian Eno and John Cale to Cleo Laine and the Wombles, and at the age of 70 he's still picking up a storm and full of rock & roll attitude, as demonstrated on his 2015 solo effort Joyland, his first album under his own name in six years. Leading off with the title track featuring spare, echoey guitar figures over sinister narration from actor Ian McShane, Joyland is dominated by moody but high-spirited tunes with gutsy six-string work from Spedding and a roster of guest stars, ranging from Bryan Ferry (who unexpectedly fits right in on the outlaw's ballad "Gun Shaft City") and Robert Gordon (Spedding's frequent vocal foil who still sounds big and bold on the R&B-influenced "I Still Love You") to Johnny Marr (the former Smiths guitarist offers some spaghetti western picking on the Duane Eddy-ish "Heisenberg") and Glen Matlock (the one-time Sex Pistol adds some growling bass to the proto-biker number "Cafe Racer"). There isn't a lot in the way of surprises on Joyland, but at least in part that's because Spedding has always been a strong instrumentalist with a clear eye regarding how to use his gifts, and the open spaces and noir-ish textures of these songs fit him like a well-tailored suit. Spedding has also had enough experience in the producer's chair to understand how these pieces should fit together, and Joyland sounds expert and well-crafted without an air of slickness or craft overcoming inspiration. Joyland is smart, entertaining stuff with lots of great guitar work and atmosphere to spare, and it's good to know Spedding's chops and inspiration are still in great shape in a solo career that's spanned five decades...so far.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming