Gilbert O'Sullivan

Stranger in My Own Backyard

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Gilbert O'Sullivan's fourth album, Stranger in My Own Backyard, was recorded in California (at the urging of American-based producer and manager Gordon Mills) in 1974, but only saw release that year on U.K. shores. The patchiest of O'Sullivan's early albums, Stranger occasionally finds its footing and delivers a witty and well-crafted song or two. "It's So Easy to Be Sad" merges traditional British dancehall gallop and American West Coast smoothness to great effect, and contains some of the best examples of well-planned lyrical phrasing O'Sullivan has ever put on record. "My Father" more closely follows the established template of his earlier outings, with its single piano and woozy horn providing just the right atmosphere for a tipsy ode to dear old dad. Like an Irish Harry Nilsson, O'Sullivan's songwriting often has the uncanny ability to illuminate and find humor in the everyday trials of common folk. Not every track seems to have been crafted as carefully as those two. Slap-dash efforts (both lyrically and musically) like "The Thing Is" and "15 Times" sound like filler (because they are) and the shockingly chauvinistic "A Woman's Place" (delivered without a trace of irony) probably did not go over very well in the decade of Helen Reddy's "I Am Woman." Low points aside, it's hard not to admit O'Sullivan's influence on later, crafty British songwriters like Andy Partridge, Graham "Suggs" McPherson, and Glenn Tilbrook, and for that, Stranger in My Own Backyard deserves a tip of the old cap.

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