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Andy Fairweather low and the Lowriders - Zone-O-Tone

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 18 / 11 / 2013

Andy Fairweather low and the Lowriders - Zone-O-Tone
Label: Proper Records
Format: CD


Fantastic soul-infused latest album from former Amen Corner singer Andy Fairweather Low and his new band the Lowriders

According to Andy Fairweather Low, the twelve original songs that make up his latest album were inspired by the soul music of Stax and Atlantic, The Four Aces, Josef Locke, Johnny Kidd, Lonnie Donegan and the Shadows; as few are in a position to argue with Fairweather Low when it comes to music, we’ll just confirm that the Welsh wonder is right once again. You can hear elements of all the above in ‘Zone-O-Tone,’ plus a rather hefty helping of Fairweather Low’s own unique musical style. Fairweather Low was one of those good-looking 60’s front men, who appealed to the girls for obvious reasons but also to their boyfriends because of his unique soulful vocals. Fairweather Low first came to prominence fronting Amen Corner, and immediately caught attention due to the fact that he hardly opened his mouth while singing; it was even stranger as Fairweather Low possessed a powerful soul voice. The fact that such a sound could emanate from a diminutive person who was hardly opening his mouth made the experience of watching Amen Corner for the first time, probably running through their first single, ‘Gin House’, even more unforgettable. Fairweather Low always seemed uneasy while a member of Amen Corner, not so much on stage but when appearing on the TV shows of the day. Although the band enjoyed considerable success, it was felt that the popiness of Amen Corner’s singles was not really what Fairweather Low craved. It was felt that the band had to discard their blues/jazz roots and even the blues/soul of that first successful single to keep the record company and fans happy. While subsequent 45s were not at all bad given what their contemporaries were releasing, songs like ‘Bend Me, Shape Me’ and even their number one ‘If Paradise is Half as Nice’ were not band compositions, and you couldn’t help feeling that Fairweather Low was seeking much more than screaming girl fans. When Amen Corner disbanded Fairweather Low, along with a few of his Amen Corner band members, released a single, ‘Natural Sinner’ under the band name of Fair Weather, a self-penned number that had already been recorded by Amen Corner but not released at the time. It made the all-important top ten proving that Fairweather Low didn’t have to depend on outside writers to satisfy both his own musical vision and the record buying public. A few further singles and two albums were issued in the early 1970s, but the band didn’t trouble the charts after that initial 45 and Fairweather Low took the solo route. Fairweather Low had considerable success as a solo artist. His time with A&M records was particularly fruitful, with the singles ‘Reggae Tune’ and ‘Wide Eyed and Legless’ keeping Fairweather Low in the spotlight. But during the late 1970s Fairweather Low’s career took an unexpected turn. It seemed that almost overnight this talented singer was in demand, not just for his unique vocal style but also for his skill on the guitar. He worked with the Who and much later on Pete Townshend’s ‘Psychoderelict’ album and tour all the while attracting attention and work from Roger Waters, Dave Edmunds, Bill Wyman and Joe Satriani. Although Fairweather Low has backed many respected artists, perhaps he is best known as a regular sideman to Eric Clapton. Not a bad CV really. For his latest solo album Fairweather Low is backed by the Lowriders, who are also backing him on his current tour that runs into December. Fairweather Low is one of those vocalists who has improved with age. Maybe he is opening his mouth more these days (it’s been years since this writer saw Fairweather Low live so I can’t confirm that), but Fairweather Low has lost none of the uniqueness in his vocals and they don’t appear to have deteriorated at all over five decades of singing. In fact he’s in extremely fine vocal form throughout this album. Fairweather Low is still one of the most expressive vocalists to emerge from the UK. While it is his guitar playing that Fairweather Low has been hired for now through the years, this is far from a guitar album. The basic band of Paul Beavis (drums), Nick Pentelow (Saxes and Clarinet) and Dave Bronze (bass) are so tight it sounds like they have been playing for years, and it’s impossible to shine the spotlight on any separate musician or performance. This is a band album where every member plays an important part of the overall sound. There’s a reason why this isn’t being promoted as a solo Fairweather Low album. ‘Zone-O-Tone’ is a perfect example of an extremely talented band playing as one, and the enjoyment and professionalism of the whole group is what makes the album so great. Add in a steaming brass section and Paul Carrack helping out on Hammond on a handful of tracks, and ‘Zone-O-Tone’ becomes a relaxed but still rocking, good-time album that will not only move your feet but will warm your heart at the same time. Mixing elements of jazz, soul, blues and country into his songs makes for an unusual but really enjoyable listening experience; while each song simply oozes class and in less experienced hands, especially over the course of a dozen songs, the smoothness created could get just a little too cozy, but Fairweather Low and his band are too talented and experienced to let that happen. There’s always a sound or a vocal that’s totally unexpected that lifts the song just when you think things are getting too slick. ‘Zone-O-Tone’, despite Fairweather Low contributing to a number of excellent albums over the years, has to rank as one of the most satisfying collections he has ever been involved in. Maybe Fairweather Low has finally found a group of like-minded musicians who bring out the best in this talented musician. If you like real music played by guys who inject soul and passion into their work played with real instruments, then make ‘Zone-O-Tone’ top of your wish list.

Track Listing:-
1 Dance On
2 Deep River Blues
3 Let Me Be Your Angel
4 Roll Ya Activator
5 Hard Way to Go
6 Breakin' Chains
7 Love, Hope, Faith & Mercy
8 La La Music
9 Unclouded Day
10 Mother Earth
11 You'll Never Beat the Devil
12 Blood Toys
13 Unclouded Day (Slight Return)

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