by Steve Pick
Yet Another in the Summerlong Summertime Blogathon.
This is what I can't believe. Dave Edmunds, who we all learned to know and love in the late 70s when he and Nick Lowe co-led Rockpile and he sang all those blistering rockabilly-inspired rave-ups, started out his musical life singing with a completely different bluesier approach. I mean, Love Sculpture, his first band of note (most famous for the instrumental take on Khatchaturian's "Sabre Dance" played in triple time with guitar distortion), was mostly a blues band a la Fleetwood Mac, but I would never have guessed from what I'd heard that Edmunds was doing the vocals.
In the middle of their debut album, the 1968 Blues Helping, Love Sculpture offered their take on "Summertime," and it's fairly remarkable, first for its dynamics, and second for its astonishing technique. Beginning with delicate arpeggios and working its way into a full sound with backing vocals, overdubbed slide guitar comments, and an overwhelming display of power from Edmunds on both vocal and guitar, this version of "Summertime" seems more interested in waking baby up and getting him revved up for a great life.
The two verses are sung distinctively different. The first verse is mostly quiet, and sticks closely to the melody as written, until Edmunds leaps up at the tail end of "Don't you cry." Now he sings the second verse with a refusal to be held down by the lullaby quality of the song. Again and again, he belts out high notes, holds syllables to greater length than expected, and infuses the confidence of those lyrics about rising up singing, and the protection of the parents, with an irrepressible assurance.
And then, he takes to the sky himself, with a guitar solo of heavenly skill. After a blues-inspired beginning, with some nice stuttering steps and familiar licks on the first couple lines, he flies up to the high notes, bends and swoops and even throws in a quote from the original melody before ascending all the way to a peak of transcendent emotion. The second chorus is less rarified, but powerfully reassuring, as he scats a vocal perfectly in synch with his guitar before returning briefly to the melody and then hammering home some exhilarating high notes. We're left breathless, but he's not, as he has to sing the last two lines again before a brief guitar coda on the fade out.
Even on an album of impressive takes on familiar blues and r'n'b standards, "Summertime" stands out as a tour de force display of Love Sculpture's skills. I worship the records Edmunds made - Tracks on Wax 4, and Repeat When Necessary are both damn near perfect. But, I don't think music history would have been sorry if he'd been able to keep going in this direction, either.