In an ideal world Gerry Rafferty would need no introduction, but as he’s been a virtual recluse since before many of our readers were born here’s a quick summary. The Paisley-born busker hooked up with Billy Connolly in The Humblebums, founded Stealer’s Wheel and went on to release some stunning solo albums in the late seventies. And that was largely that. While Rafferty has made music on and off ever since, he never recaptured his late-seventies peak; his last four albums (in ’88, ’93, ’94 and 2000 respectively) didn’t trouble the UK top forty.
So, will Life Goes On bring Rafferty a whole new audience? Not a chance – and not just because it’s bookended by God, starting with a version of ‘Kyrie Elieson’ and ending with a reverential ‘Silent Night’.
If we were being unkind, we’d say that Life Goes On is a selection of studio-floor scrapings, a meagre selection of songs from someone capable of much greater things. And if we weren’t being unkind we’d say the same, because that’s exactly what it is. The bulk of Life Goes On is culled from Rafferty’s last three studio albums, padded out with a handful of new songs and some re-recordings. It’s like a Greatest Hits that forgot to include the hits.
Don’t get us wrong, there’s some nice stuff here. Rafferty is in fine voice, the production is as sparkly as ever (if overly polished for current tastes), and ‘It’s Easy To Talk’, ‘Your Heart’s Desire’ and ‘Time’s Caught Up On You’ are all rather lovely. Most of the time, though, we’re reminded of Brian Wilson’s late-eighties comeback, the overproduced and largely unmemorable songs sending us scurrying off to find the records Wilson made at his creative peak. On a few occasions, such as ‘The Waters of Forgetfulness’, we’re reminded of something much worse: Eric Clapton’s solo albums.
It’s the same with Gerry Rafferty. Rafferty’s voice and production talents are wasted on too-thin songs here, and listening to Life Goes On just makes us wistful for Night Owl and City to City. If you’re new to Rafferty, neither album will disappoint. Life Goes On, though, is for completists only.