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'Edmunds Anthology' Beats to the Heart of a Rock Fan

April 23, 1993|ROBERT HILBURN | TIMES POP MUSIC CRITIC

"Behind any great rock 'n' roll record, you'll usually find an artist with the soul of a real fan," Rick Clark suggests in the liner notes to Rhino Records' new two-disc retrospective on the career of Dave Edmunds, summarizing nicely the motivation and vision of Edmunds himself.

Most of the noteworthy British rockers of the '60s and early '70s, from the Beatles to the Who, fell in love with '50s American rock and then tried to expand on it, musically and thematically.

But others, such as Edmunds, were such massive fans of the energy and innocence of the music that they simply wanted to reproduce what they heard, although with their own personality and imagination attached.

Edmunds, 50, was born in Wales, where he grew up obsessed by the American music--not just rock pioneers such as Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis, but also country and R&B artists.

So, it's ironic that the new "The Dave Edmunds Anthology (1968-90)" opens with a recording that's greatly influenced by the late-'60s psychedelic experimentation of the Beatles and Moody Blues.

"River to Another Day" is one of six tracks by Edmunds' old group Love Sculpture, whose experiments also included the bluesy "The Stumble," the classical "Sabre Dance" and even the "Porgy and Bess" standard "Summertime."

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The album's first taste of Edmunds' deeply felt rock-roots instincts comes with his echo-heavy remake of Smiley Lewis' old R&B hit "I Hear You Knocking." The single, which was recorded after the breakup of Love Sculpture and featured Edmunds on all the instruments except bass, was a Top 10 single in England and in the United States.

Since then, Edmunds--working on his own or with the group Rockpile, where he teamed up for a while with singer-songwriter Nick Lowe with excellent results--has produced a disarming body of work, much of it contained in the Rhino anthology.

Among the highlights: Edmunds' versions of Chuck Berry's "The Promised Land," the Edmunds-Lowe composition "Here Comes the Weekend," Lowe's "I Knew the Bride," Graham Parker's "Crawling From the Wreckage" and John Fogerty's "Almost Saturday Night."

The box set's excellent liner notes include entertaining comments by Edmunds on most of the tracks.

Here's the story behind his recording of Elvis Costello's "Girls Talk," which was a modest hit in 1979. "Elvis just made a cassette of him singing the song with an acoustic guitar at like 100 miles an hour," Edmunds recalls. "We slowed it down and put in a few little things like some Everly Brothers acoustic guitar parts. We got a good feel going on it, and it turned out very well. I like the song, but I don't think Elvis liked our version of it."

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