Dick Gaughan

Sail On

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While not the best album in Gaughan's impressive canon, Sail On is testament to the fact that he sounds best in a stripped-down setting. Unfortunately, it proves the point by a number of over-arranged pieces, like "Land of the North Wind" and "Son of Man," which utilize a band, it seems, just because they can, diluting the power of the songs. He's much better, for example, on Pete Seeger's "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy," "No Gods and Precious Few Heroes," which he tackles solo, or the very spare "The 51st (Highland) Division's Farewell to Sicily," which shows his guitar talents -- and extensive they are, too. He's a revelation on his cover of "Ruby Tuesday," and brings a wonderfully personal touch to Richard Thompson's "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" -- indeed, he's a superb interpreter of songs as well as a writer. But the good stuff simply throws into relief how little Gaughan needs the extraneous instruments, and his production, especially on the fuller arrangements, is curiously flat. But when he's good, he's very good indeed.

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