Danny Wilson

Meet Danny Wilson

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There's a cult of Meet Danny Wilson lovers and if you ever ask them about the album, a Steely Dan comparison is bound to come up. It's not without merit, and considering that the other bands the album might remind you of -- Deacon Blue and Fairground Attraction -- aren't on the tip of much of anyone's tongue, Steely Dan is at close as it comes. But the Dan never sounded this lively, this exuberant, this finger-snapping. If that makes them sound light as feather, keep in mind that Lloyd Cole loves this record. Head songwriter Gary Clark shares some of Cole's love of literate and clever lyrics that fit just right with the notes they land on, but he prefers a horn-section blast to Cole's guitar jangle (plus Clark has more Jimmy Van Heusen records than Cole does, no doubt). The sweet "Mary's Prayer" is the almost-hit, barely making enough impact to call the band a one-hit wonder. It's only part of the story for an album that effortlessly hurls clever arrangements and lyrical stingers out of the speakers. Opening with the syncopated and humble "Davy" and then switching to the Vegas hipster, Bobby Darin-for-the-'80s "Aberdeen" makes for a killer opening, and the album keeps minding the pace. The transition from the dreamy "Steamtrains to the Milky Way" to the intentionally clunky instrumental "Spencer-Tracey" might remind you of the old A-side/B-side record/tape flip, and "Ruby's Golden Wedding" is prime Salvation Army band material. The shuffling "A Girl I Used to Know" -- all standup bass and brushes on the drums -- should've been as big as "Mary's Prayer," but apparently American radio only had so much tolerance for a brainy Swing Out Sister. The ending of the album leaves the listener hanging and hungry for more as the last meandering piano fades, but Danny Wilson were hit hard by the sophomore jinx and never recovered. If anyone ever reissues the album with the band's wonderful live version of ABBA's "Knowing Me, Knowing You," it'll be perfect. Sophisti-pop's Sgt. Pepper's; believe it.

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