Gerry Rafferty

North & South

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Gerry Rafferty's '80s and '90s albums were so low-key and infrequent that a rumor actually went around that the singer/songwriter had made so much money off his monster 1978 hit "Baker Street" that he'd simply bought an island and retired. He might not have made that much, but it's clear from the casual, relaxed vibe of 1988's North & South that Rafferty is a man with little to prove and no concern as to whether his sound is particularly commercially viable. As a result, North & South sounds remarkably like Mark Knopfler's post-"Money for Nothing" records. (The title track and the slide guitar-enhanced "Hearts Run Dry" are particularly Dire Straits-like.) The ten songs take their own sweet time to unfold -- six are over six minutes long -- but Rafferty's knack for simple but memorable melodies and his inimitable voice, which sounds as great as ever, are enough to keep even a casual listener interested. The unexpectedly Celtic-sounding "Tired of Talking" is a particular highlight, but the '70s-phobic should note that this album is as smoothly produced and utterly sweat-free as Rafferty's best-known work.

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