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Paul Carrack’s middle name should be prolific. He knows that when you’re on a roll, you don’t take your foot off the gas. That’s why he’s unveiling another outstanding addition to his album catalogue barely a year after the last, and why he’s back on the road just a few months after the completion of his most successful tour to date.
‘Rain Or Shine’ is the swift successor to 2012’s chart album ‘Good Feeling,’ which produced such radio favourites in the title song and ‘Time To Move On.’ It’s the latest in Carrack’s line of distinguished solo releases, which since 2000 he’s made for his own Carrack-UK label.
Once again he’s blending new compositions, including ‘Stepping Stone,’ ‘Life’s Too Short’ and the first single ‘That’s All That Matters To Me,’ with hand-picked covers of such soul and pop gems as ‘If Loving You Is Wrong,’ ‘Losing You’ and three songs recorded by one of Paul’s musical heroes, Ray Charles.
There’s also a direct connection to The Genius in the fact that the entire album has string or brass arrangements, recorded in Los Angeles, overseen by the great arranger/producer/composer Richard Niles, who worked with Charles in his later years. All of the rhythm tracks for ‘Rain Or Shine’ were recorded at Carrack’s studio in the UK, some with his son Jack on drums.
Paul’s love for Brother Ray has always shone through in his singing and keyboard playing with Ace, Squeeze, Mike + the Mechanics and his own albums. If anyone was in any doubt, the delightful ‘I Can Hear Ray,’ written with Charlie Dore for ‘Good Feeling,’ was further evidence. ‘You Don’t Know Me’ is one of the new interpretations, a song recorded by many but really owned by Ray after his version hit No. 2 in the US in 1962. “That was a song I was walking around singing all the time, it’s beautiful,” says Paul, who plays everything on the track.
Other songs on ‘Rain Or Shine’ have a place in his heart for different reasons. The brooding soul classic ‘If Loving You Is Wrong’ has been a Carrack fave since he first heard Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland’s reading of it, which goes back to the days of his first UK chart band. “Ace were signed to Anchor Records,” he remembers, “and they put out all the ABC stuff, so we used to go and raid the cupboard, and it was all the Bobby Bland albums. We thought ‘This guy’s great.’ They had some great stuff, they had Steely Dan, Little Feat. They were the only records we had, because we couldn’t afford to buy any.”
From an earlier era comes a gorgeous remake of ‘Losing You,’ the emotional ballad taken into the top ten on both sides of the Atlantic in 1963 by ‘Little Miss Dynamite’ herself, Brenda Lee. “All my cousins were massive Brenda Lee fans in the ’50s, dancing round the old radiogram,” says Carrack. “That was another tune that kept popping into my head. I can picture it plain as day in my Auntie Jessie’s room, she had the living room with the radiogram, and my cousins jiving in the chiffon dresses.”
‘That’s All That Matters To Me’ has a personal back story of another kind. “I had the tune, and I didn’t have anything to hang it on,” Paul says. “The thought that came into my head was that one of my daughters is travelling the world, India, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and all that. When I first heard the idea I didn’t like it much, so there’s a little bit of that in the lyric. It was the concerned father, but if she’s alright, that’s all that matters to me.”
As a hugely popular recording and touring artist, the voice behind a songbook of household hits and the owner of his own label, Carrack is an independent, one-man engine room. He has staying power that would put young artists to shame, and this time he’s even surprised himself with how quickly another fine album has arrived.
‘Rain Or Shine’ comes right after an epic ten-month run of shows that followed the release of ‘Good Feeling,’ including a massive two-leg UK tour, international dates and a run of gigs in Europe and North America with Eric Clapton, who personally invited to join his stellar band and had him as featured vocalist.
“I thought there was no way I’d be doing an album in 2013,” says Carrack candidly. “But [respected producer-musician] Peter Van Hooke, who’s an old mate, started to come round to badger me about it. So I started writing, and I had five tunes pretty quickly. That’s always kind of the way I do it anyway, I don’t write until it’s time to do an album.
“I had a few little nuggets lying around, because I’ve started now putting little riffs and things on my phone. I think they say if you want something doing, give it to a busy man. The fact is, I was just in the mode of work and my voice was sounding good, because I’d been doing all those gigs.”
The 2012-13 season was one to remember for Paul and his band, especially after BBC4’s airing of the career documentary ‘The Man With The Golden Voice.’ “We had a real surge of new people coming to see us, and I think that was down to the TV documentary,” he says. “It was the best tour we’ve had, attendance-wise, so hopefully they’ll stick with it.”
Even more gratifyingly, the Carrack crowd is quite a mixture. “It’s a cross-section. We’re getting the loyal ones who’ve been there all the time, we’re picking up new ones along the way and getting people coming for the first time,” he observes. “But it seems to be going very well.”
After that epic tour was complete, Paul went straight on the road with Clapton. “I’ve played on a couple of his tracks, he’s always been very respectful and I know he digs what I do,” says Carrack. “He told me that he’d thought of asking me before, but he knows the way I’m operating with my own set-up.” Paul was the show’s featured vocalist on two of his signature tunes, Ace’s ‘How Long’ and Squeeze’s ‘Tempted,’ and Clapton insisted that he star again on a final encore cover of the Joe Cocker song ‘High Time We Went.’
That was praise indeed, but then Carrack’s performances have been making their mark on the collective consciousness for four entire decades of pop and rock history. After paying early dues in the jazz-rock band Warm Dust, he put his talent in front of the wider British public for the first time with Ace, who hit big in the UK and even bigger In the US with ‘How Long.’ After a spell as a studio member of Roxy Music, his solo career took its bow in 1980. Alongside it, and the brief spell in Squeeze that yielded ‘Tempted,’ he became the vocalist-keyboard player of choice for everyone from the Pretenders to the Smiths.
His tenure with Mike & the Mechanics contained classic lead vocals on such major hits as ‘The Living Years’ and ‘Over My Shoulder,’ before he found his true independence by setting up Carrack-UK and producing a string of assured albums, containing such landmark songs as ‘Satisfy My Soul,’ ‘I Live On A Battlefield’ and ‘Eyes Of Blue.’ That’s before you even factor in 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 legends from Roger Waters to Ringo Starr to B.B. King.
This far along the line, Paul Carrack is still at the top of his game and still out there proving it every night. “The options are, get stuck in and do as much as you possibly can, or get fat and lazy,” he says. “I think work’s quite good for you.”