John Otway

The Wimp & the Wild

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Reunited after almost a decade's worth of solo work, John Otway and Wild Willy Barrett convened for a fourth album together in 1989, only to produce a set that is frequently overlooked, both by fans and by the duo themselves. Ignore it at your peril, however, for within its corridors lurk some of Otway's finest performances of the age, beginning with an almost heartbreakingly Spartan revision of "Best Dream." Stripped of the syrupy sessionmen that scarred its appearance on 1979's solo Where Did I Go Right?, "Best Dream" is revealed now for the jewel it always wanted to be, and makes you wish Barrett had taken on a few more of that same album's contents. "Last of the Mohicans," a punky roar built along the same lines as "Really Free" and/or "Headbutts" is as witty as one could wish, while "Fashion" might be an unabashed novelty (read "filler) number, but rides a tricky Barrett guitar that effortlessly repays regular listens. The piano ballad "Separated" has a certain loveliness as well, Otway at his most heartbreakingly naked. A terrific rendering of the ever-brilliant Eddie Stanton's "Focke Wolf" reminds us of a songwriter whose career-long obscurity ranks among the music industry's most unforgivable crimes -- the man who also penned the solo Barrett's "Tales from the Raj," "Milton Keynes We Love You," and "Please Don't Throw Me to the Christians" should never have been as unknown as he is. There's a frenetic cover of the Sweet's "Blockbuster," and a showstopping version of "The House of the Rising Sun," and one emerges from The Wimp & the Wild astonished that the album is not routinely ranked among the duo's greatest ever accomplishments. Because it really is up there with the best of them.