Jim Capaldi

Poor Boy Blue

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Poor Boy Blue may have been Jim Capaldi's final album before his unfortunate passing from stomach cancer in early 2005, but it in no way sounds like a goodbye. Rather, this is an ebullient work by an obviously driven and inspired musician -- a project of life, not a premonition of death -- and a resoundingly uplifting experience for all of his fans who may arrive at it with a sad perspective. Therefore, the bluesy opening title track is hardly a woe-is-me proposition, but a tongue-in-cheek bit of good fun based on the always welcome "La Grange" template, and complete with hard-biting geetars, sticks-on-the-rim percussion, and only the Gibbons "haw-haw-haw" gone missing. It also has no similar follow-up in the remaining tracks, which surprisingly center around gleaming, '80s-flavored rock and pop exemplified by the smart dance-y synth pop of "Breathless," the AOR of "Secrets in the Dark" (which sounds like a lost Russ Ballard composition), and a number of love songs ("Edge of Love," "Bright Fighter," the ultra-saccharine ballad "California Sunset") of the sort that Capaldi's former Traffic colleague and fellow Hall of Famer Steve Winwood used to top the charts two decades earlier. Winwood, of course, guests here, as does Irish guitar giant Gary Moore (surely giving one of his most understated performances ever), a bevy of Capaldi's friendly luminaries, and even his brother on backing vocals. With or without them, though, it's Capaldi's spirit that defines this almost unerringly upbeat set, which only hints at sadness near the end with the brief, stripped down acoustic number "I've Been Changing," before closing on the upswing once again via "Now Is the Time." In conclusion, it's that personal spirit, not some of Poor Boy Blue admittedly dated musical formulas, that should get Capaldi fans and general classic rock enthusiasts alike curious to check out his vibrant and eclectic last album.

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