Nikki Sudden

Red Brocade

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Red Brocade feels more like a Jacobites recording than one of his wonderfully shambolic slash-and-burn rock offerings (evidence is in the tracks; Dave Kusworth, Sudden's long-suffering partner in Jacobites plays some guitar here). Not surprisingly, the piano plays a big role in these songs -- check "Broken Door," with Terry Miles' gorgeous keys. In many ways this is a more "orchestral" pastoral work, with strings, acoustic double bass, tenor saxophone (courtesy of Mars Williams playing like a partying Clarence Clemons or Alvin "Red" Tyler, no less), and B-3 organ among the instruments employed here. The slippery midtempo rocker "Countess" uses all of the above, and the use of handclaps is also prominent. Wilco's Jeff Tweedy makes a harmonica appearance on "Silver Blanket," with Sudden's trademark 12-string work eclipsing his scattershot vocal in the tune's introduction. As Kevin Junior's Ron Wood-esque electric guitar enters the picture, Todd Fletcher's piano gives way to a Hammond B-3 and the song breaks wide open into the world as a perfect depiction of why a relationship doesn't work. Sudden, of course, is oblivious and is just trying to get through it; his reverie, sadness, and resignation feel like Ronnie Lane's ghost coming through his voice. Tweedy finishes it all off with a moaning, weeping harmonica solo that puts the cut in the sad rock stratosphere. "Take Me Back Home," which closes the disc, throws off all the grief and sadness and lets it rock. Williams' sax solo and the guitar work are simply over the edge, and the set ends if not on a celebratory note then a wanton one. Red Brocade is one of those forgotten Nikki Sudden records, one that stands as Robespierre's Velvet Basement in his catalog. It's a ragged rock school masterpiece. The great sadness is that -- like so many of Sudden's records -- it languishes as a one-off for yet another fly-by-night indie label that has no idea how to market or promote it, and the fear is that it will soon be deleted like so much of his work. Seek it out, folks -- this one will shake you to the core.

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