Murray Head

Nigel Lived

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Recorded in the summer of 1972 and released the following year, Nigel Lived is Murray Head's first solo LP. A rarity for this singer, it takes the form of a concept album. A songwriter found the diary of a stranger and wrote songs out of some fragments. The booklet reproduces pages of the fake diary along with the lyrics, weaving a believable fiction that helps in distancing or objectifying the autobiographical nature of the songs. They are split between the "success" and "failure" sides of the LP and tell the story of an artist (actor? singer? -- both would apply to Head) who leaves his small hometown, comes to the "big city" to make it, and, after an initial encouraging period, watches his life fall apart. Head is surrounded by an impressive cast of session musicians from folk, rock, and jazz realms, including Caravan flutist Jimmy Hastings, jazz clarinetist Tony Coe, and original King Crimson drummer Michael Giles. The whole album seems to foretell Chris DeBurgh's Spanish Train and Other Stories, especially because of the daring arrangements (a Gregorian choir and a steel drums ensemble in "Religion"). Other comparisons would include Shawn Phillips and Cat Stevens' records around the same time. Head still had to write a memorable song like "Say It Ain't So, Joe," but despite the lack of shining moments, Nigel Lived makes a solid and surprisingly uncompromising album. And "Junk" is the longest, weirdest song this singer ever recorded.

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