One on One Paul Carrack
- 1Good and Ready03:12
- 2A Long Way to Go03:57
- 3I Miss You So04:14
- 4You're Not Alone04:10
- 5Lighten Up Your Mood03:59
- 6Precious Time04:27
- 7When Love Is Blind04:17
- 8Shame on You, Shame on Me04:38
- 9Set Me Free02:58
- 10Behind Closed Doors03:00
Info for One on One
The brand new studio album by Paul Carrack "One On One". In more than 20 years of running his own record label and touring operation, Paul Carrack knows more than most about taking responsibility for his own career. So when lockdown cast its unwelcome shadow on the music business, one of Britain's most distinguished and soulful singer-songwriters was ready with his response.
The result is One On One, not just a masterful new addition to a body of work that now runs to 18 solo studio albums packed with signature songs never mind his classic recordings with Mike and the Mechanics, Squeeze, Ace and more, including The Living Years, Over My Shoulder, Silent Running, Tempted, How Long and so on. This is a record on which his imprint goes deeper than ever because, in creating it from his home studio base as often before, Carrack not only wrote, played and recorded the whole thing, but this time, following his muse and trusting his instincts to the very last day, even mixed the album himself. You could almost call it the result of his live-in years.
Not that One On One doesn't contain some memorable cameos, by the likes of master guitarist Robbie McIntosh and former James Brown sideman Alfred 'Pee Wee' Ellis. We'll come to those in a while, but this is a record that has Paul's initials carved through it. It really brings to the fore that almost effortless soulfulness we've loved so well since his own composition How Long became a pop anthem, his first of dozens, more than four and a half decades ago.
"I haven't let the time go to waste," says the ever-unassuming Carrack with a smile, sitting in the home studio once a garage where he made One On One. Some other artists' creativity and resourcefulness came to a complete standstill during the great non-year of 2020, but not his. "Basically we should have been on the road all last year," he recalls, "so January, February, March, everything was going great, the shows were selling out and we were due to go to Europe, the USA and Australia." "By mid-March I started to get the vibe that things were going to be shutting down, and we thought it would probably be only a couple of months, so we rescheduled a lot of the shows but it quickly became apparent that the situation wasn't going to change any time soon. I started going into the studio, initially to keep my chops (voice) ticking over, but found that it also helped to keep my mind occupied and acted as a kind of therapy at what was a very anxious time." Talk about making a virtue out of a problem. Only one of these songs existed even in demo form beforehand; Carrack conjured all the rest during lockdown. The groove kicks in straight away with Good and Ready. It's a perfect, positive message from an artist who's been raring to go and get back among his audience, and a worthy addition to a list of trademark solo tracks like Eyes Of Blue, Satisfy My Soul, and the title track of his last release, These Days.
One On One is a truly live-sounding album, which is all the more remarkable when you remember that Carrack is the band, and was often working completely on his own. "I've done a lot of recording in here over the years, when it was freezing cold in the winter, and boiling hot in the summer," he says. "But seven, eight years ago, we decided to do a number on it (the studio), and make it into a really nice space to work. Thank goodness I did. It was probably the best thing I've ever done.
He’s a label owner, hugely popular recording and touring artist, one of the most in-demand voices and songwriters of his generation and the creator of a catalogue of household hits. But beyond all that, Carrack just loves making music, and now he’s delivering a real career landmark and the best blue-eyed soul album of the year.
‘Good Feeling,’ out on September 24 on his own Carrack UK label, is the latest lovingly-crafted piece of work by a British talent whose mark on music stretches all the way back into the 1970s. The follow-up to 2010’s ‘A Different Hat’ (his gorgeous collection of vocal performances accompanied by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra), it was produced by Paul himself and he plays most of the instruments on it, although his son Jack, now a member of his band, joins him on drums.
Simply put, ‘Good Feeling’ takes everything that’s good about Paul Carrack and adds to it, and several tracks from it will soon be highlights of his prolific live performances. The near-title track ‘Good Feelin’,’ a song that lives up to its title if ever one did, has already become Paul’s latest airplay favourite, and the album includes an irresistible collection of originals and covers. He co-writes with his old Squeeze pal Chris Difford and another British songwriting treasure, Charlie Dore, and shows his great versatility by interpreting both Nick Lowe and Bruce Springsteen.
Across four decades, countless Carrack performances have quietly made their mark on the collective consciousness, including Ace’s ‘How Long,’ Mike & the Mechanics’ ‘The Living Years,’ ‘Over My Shoulder’ and ‘Silent Running,’ Squeeze’s ‘Tempted’ and solo landmarks like ‘Satisfy My Soul,’ ‘I Live On A Battlefield’ and ‘Eyes Of Blue.’ Not to mention the gems he presented to the Eagles, who made anthems of ‘Love Will Keep Us Alive’ and ‘I Don’t Want To Hear Any More.’ Or recording and performing collaborations with an incredibly eclectic list of legends like Roger Waters, Ringo Starr and B.B. King.
“After we did the tour last year, I more or less just ploughed straight into getting this album done,” says Paul of ‘Good Feeling’. “I’d made a start on it before that, but it feels good having it all done and dusted and under my belt. Doing something completely different like the orchestral album helped. That was very mellow and downbeat, so coming back to my normal way of doing things, I wanted it to be upbeat, and it felt that, and very fresh.”
The feelgood factor of ‘Good Feelin’,’ second single ‘Time To Move On,’ Lowe’s ‘From Now On’ and the Difford co-write ‘Marmalade Moon’ is perfectly complemented by the poignancy of ‘Long Ago,’ ‘Make It Right,’ Springsteen’s ‘If I Should Fall Behind,’ performed by Paul on a BBC Radio 2 anniversary special about the Titanic, and the closing number by jazz great Thad Jones, ‘A Child Is Born.’ Meanwhile the infectious ‘I Can Hear Ray,’ written with Dore, celebrates Paul’s love of the “Genius” himself, Ray Charles.
And if the whole thing sounds more soulful than ever, it’s no coincidence. “A lot of it’s in the mix,” says Carrack. “Things hang together somehow in a certain balance, it’s not very scientfic, it’s all done on feel. The lad who’s been helping me with this, Rupert Cobb, seems to have a handle on what I’m trying to do, he keeps it earthy. I’m glad that comes over.”
But the final word in the studio is Paul’s, as producer. “I swear I’ll never do it again each time,” he says. “But gradually, because I play a bit of everything, I start building up the tracks and the next thing I know, I’m doing the bloody lot!”
Paul’s inspirations come from many quarters, but eventually all roads lead back to the soul music he fell in love with, growing up in Sheffield. Stax, Atlantic, Motown, you name it. “It was all of them. Whatever was getting played in the clubs or dancehalls, ‘In The Midnight Hour’...but Motown I did like, especially the singers. David Ruffin is probably my all-time favourite.
“I would say probably Stevie Wonder as well. I love his early stuff, but ‘Talking Book’ was a mind-blower for me.” The Moog motif on ‘A Child Is Born’ is a deliberate and delightful nod to that era.
Paul first did the Nick Lowe tune, ‘From Now On,’ on an early solo album, but wanted to give it a fresh lick of paint as an older and, he smiles, calmer man. “We did it on ‘Suburban Voodoo’ in 1982, but that’s just a mad record, totally fuelled,” he laughs. “I much prefer this version. It does contain my favourite line by Nick, ‘Gonna do my level best to keep my nose clean.’”
Great surprises and listening treats are all over ‘Good Feeling’, but we must also give a special mention to ‘Make It Right’. “That was written by the Tinlin brothers, Alex and Rolf, who supported us on the last tour and they’ll be doing this next one as well.” says Paul. “My son did a bit of percussion with them on a showcase, and I popped round and thought they had something, they’ve got some really great songs.”
After a spell with the jazz-rock band Warm Dust, Carrack put his real musical passion to good use and got into the spotlight for the first time in his next group. As the writer and vocalist of Ace’s ‘How Long,’ his blue-eyed soul credentials were instantly sealed. A top 20 UK chart placing barely did credit to the song’s staying power, but it went top three on the American pop chart.
When Ace disbanded, Paul had a spell as a studio member of Roxy Music, before his solo career took its bow in 1980. Then came that short but sweet time with Squeeze, more solo albums and a stint in Nick Lowe’s brilliantly-named Cowboy Outfit. The work came thick and fast, both in Paul’s own name and as a go-to session man with the Smiths, the Pretenders, Roger Waters and many others. When Mike Rutherford of Genesis formed his side project Mike and the Mechanics, Paul and the late Paul Young shared vocals, and Carrack wrote and sang on many of their biggest tracks, none more so than ‘The Living Years,’ which gave them a US No. 1 in 1989 and remains in Paul’s live set to this day.
But Carrack’s solo career really put down firm roots when he set up his own label for the release of ‘Satisfy My Soul’ in 2000. “It was a good move. We didn’t overreach ourselves or go for big, mad promotional budgets, but it’s gradually built into a substantial business. It’s a lot of work, but it’s empowering and liberating.
“On my early solo albums, I would definitely not trust my own judgement, I tended to let producers and people have free reign. I just thought they knew better than me. It wasn’t until I started the label that I began to say ‘You know what? I’ll do it how I want to do it and hope that people like it.’”
That’s the way to build a career of substance, which is exactly what Paul Carrack has. But then, you need staying power when you’re a lifelong Sheffield Wednesday fan.
“It’s all been good,” he muses. “Certainly a lot better than the alternative, which I dread to think what it would have been, if I’d stayed in Sheffield and got a proper job. If there’s any regrets, it’s probably not having the balls to stick to my own gut feelings and instincts a bit sooner. But there again, the fact that I’ve done some of those side things is a bit of a story. It’s all part of the tapestry.
“All a musician wants is an outlet, really. You want to be able to put your stuff out, do your gigs and have a good old sing. That keeps me happy.”