Steve Warner - Steve Warner

by Jeff Penczak Rating:7 Release Date:2016-01-26

Aussie folkie Steve Warner’s sole album (originally released on the Tasmanian imprint Candle back in 1979) is as hard to pin down as Warner himself. Not to be confused with American country singers Steve Warner or Steve Wariner, this Steve Warner crafts elegant bedsitter images, full of flowing piano backing and elegiac orchestration, which perfectly encapsulates the mood-setting opener, ‘Summer’. ‘Hey Hosanna’ goes for a more playful mood with its ukelele-like guitar strummings and vaudevillian arrangement that’s something like Syd Barrett sitting in for Viv on some obscure Bonzo B-side.

     But then the ghosts of Bert Jansch and Donovan trip merrily into the room on the back of ‘Lightning Over The Meadow’ and we are starting to realise this will not be an easy album to pigeonhole for the uninitiated, which is usually a good thing. Seek it out for yourself and enjoy this lost gem. For inside you’ll also enjoy such toe tappers as ‘A Boogie’, a barrelhouse barnstormer worthy of Long John Baldry and Steve Goodman; the experimental flute-driven thing called ‘Rainfall’ that starts like something lifted from an old Twilight Zone episode and proceeds apace into piano-synth classical/prog territory; and the good time strum of ‘Charlton’ that suggests Warner was listening to a lot of Charlatans and Dan Hicks albums!

           Three instrumentals in a row might make for a flat way to end one side of a record, so let’s flip it over and see what’s in store over on Side 2. ‘We’ll Go On’ is a pretty, McCartneyesque ballad, and ‘Poems In Your Eyes’ continues in the same vein, with perhaps a touch of America and Gordon Lightfoot’s melodic spice to recommend it above standard singer-songwriter fare. ‘Momento’ might stray a tad too much into loungey Steeley Dan territory from some tastes (and is one too many piano instrumentals for mine), and ‘Untitled’ strikes another nerve, digging up personal pet peeves about being too lazy to bother with song titles (and it’s just another showy instrumental geared toward displaying Warner’s nimble fretwork, which only wears thinner throughout its way-too-long five minutes and suggests it was only a work-in-progress that never quite gelled even in Warner’s mind).

     Closer ‘Cement River’ returns to pastoral nostalgia, with a lovely tale of yearning for lost loves and missed opportunities that somehow also sums up this album. For, to my knowledge, despite the incredible promise, Warner never made another album.

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