Don Dixon

Romantic Depressive

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    8
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Don Dixon is known primarily as a producer, but this rock-solid collection of original songs will make you wish he'd step out from behind the board more often. Nothing on this album is especially groundbreaking -- not his gravelly baritone, not his Memphis soul beats or his late-'50s chord progressions -- but everything here sheds new light on old traditions. A multi-instrumentalist as well as a fine songwriter, Dixon plays almost everything on the album, and the sound is dense without being muddy, snappy without being shallow. You'll recognize both the rhythms and the sentiments on "Angel, Angel," but Dixon's delivery and his way with a melody make it all sound brand new even while it takes you back 20 or 30 years; the album's best track, "Giving Up the Ghost," is timeless in its gutbucket romantic desperation. Dixon does sometimes succumb to cleverness (remember his earlier album called Romeo at Juilliard?), and you can't help but suspect that the lackluster instrumental toward the end of the album was just an excuse to use the title "Good Golly Svengali." It's also true that "Lottery of Lives," an anti-Vietnam song, is not only dated, but also comes off as a by-the-numbers diatribe. However, by "Never Slow Down," it's hard to tell whether he's tweaking the left or the right, and at that point he wisely puts down his pen and slips quietly away. Highly recommended.

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