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Get Down: Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “I’m A Writer, Not A Fighter” Remastered and Expanded

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Are you ready for another trip through Gilbertville?  The fine folks at Salvo and Union Square Music have just released the latest title in their acclaimed Gilbert O’Sullivan reissue series, and though the album is called I’m a Writer, Not a Fighter, it might as well have been named Another Side of Gilbert O’Sullivan.  On this 1973 set, the singer/songwriter placed less emphasis on the acoustic piano, his usual instrument of choice, and more on keyboards.  These electronic textures musically illustrated his typically astute (and often eccentric) lyrics in new ways.  At this point in his career, O’Sullivan had the luxury to explore new territory, having scored six Top 10 U.K. hits in 1971 and 1972, and also having conquered the pop charts across the Atlantic with tuneful slice-of-life songs like “Clair” and of course, “Alone Again, Naturally.”

The changes on I’m a Writer, Not a Fighter were apparent from the get-go, as O’Sullivan eschewed his tongue-in-cheek sung introductions to the record with a spoken-word piece over a funky groove.  Having put forth his musical credo on that title track (and managing in the course of one three-minute pop song to turn the autobiographical statement into a condemnation of “violence simply for violence sake”), O’Sullivan was free to introduce another round of songs populated by a motley crew of characters in often unusual situations.  In “A Friend of Mine,” the singer explains, “I am a loner/My only real companion is a dog I’m very fond of/His name’s Homer/He follows me wherever I go/And of course I do my best to feed him/It’s not the easiest of tasks…”

Somewhat more down-to-earth is “They’re Only Themselves to Blame,” a heartbreaking little tale of two young lovers torn apart by overprotective parents, its loping, wistful melody adorned by a gentle string arrangement: “It seems our parents followed us home one evening/Caught us walking one another home/Now I’ve been confined till further notice/Told I should be thoroughly ashamed.”  This song, as with others on the album, is striking in its heart-on-its-sleeve, open emotionalism and frank honesty, however terribly not in vogue that might have been.  Of course, those are the same characteristics that marked “Alone Again, Naturally” and “Clair.”

Hit the jump for more, including the track listing and order link!

Aided by the sympathetic production of Gordon Mills, O’Sullivan is also fond of juxtaposing jaunty melodies with downbeat or ironic lyrics, such as in “I Have Never Loved You As Much As I Love You Today.”  The song takes the form of a letter to a loved one from a serviceman abroad, and the strong melody keeps the poignant lyric from becoming too steeped in maudlin territory.

There are some rockers, too.  On tracks like “Who Knows, Perhaps, Maybe” and “Ooh, Baby,” O’Sullivan would never be confused with Robert Plant or Roger Daltrey.  But our man could certainly indulge himself in solid four-on-the-floor rock and R&B, and turns in enthusiastic and endearingly robust vocals.  The album also contains “Get Down,” a U.K. No. 1 that the singer recalls was actually inspired by soon-to-be Rock and Roll Hall of Famers, Faces!  Hmmm, imagine Rod Stewart admonishing, “Get down!  You’re a bad dog, baby, but I still want you around!”  Perhaps somewhere between “Hot Legs” and “If You Think I’m Sexy”…?

Salvo’s reissue appends four associated non-LP sides to the original 10-track album, the B-sides of “Get Down” and “Ooh, Baby” and the double-sided non-LP single “Why, Oh Why, Oh Why” b/w “You Don’t Have to Tell Me.”  The country-flavored “Good Company,” the flip of “Ooh, Baby,” is diverting, and the quirky “A Very Extraordinary Kind of Girl,” which supported “Get Down,” is the kind of unusual song only O’Sullivan could write.  Both “Why, Oh Why, Oh Why” and “You Don’t Have To Tell Me” return to familiar melancholy ballad territory, and the single returned O’Sullivan to the Top 10 after “Ooh Baby” had a disappointing placement.  Clearly, record buyers took a shine to Gilbert as Mr. Heartbreak!

In a colorful booklet also containing full lyrics, Chris Ingham contributes terrific track-by-track annotations which draw on copious quotations from the artist.  On the gospel-tinged “Where Peaceful Waters Flow,” O’Sullivan admonishes, “When the world you live in/Really gets you down/When you feel a pain inside you/Starting to pound/And the girl you love/She doesn’t want to know/Let an old friend as a Godsend/Lead you to where peaceful waters flow.”  This album just might lead you to that place!  It’s available now from Salvo and Union Square Music, and can be ordered at the link below!

Gilbert O’Sullivan, I’m a Writer, Not a Fighter (MAM SS 505 (U.K.), 1973 – reissued Salvo SALVOXCD003, 2012)

  1. I’m a Writer, Not a Fighter
  2. A Friend of Mine
  3. They’ve Only Themselves to Blame
  4. Who Knows, Perhaps, Maybe
  5. Where Peaceful Waters Flow
  6. Ooh Baby
  7. I Have Never Loved You As Much As I Love You Today
  8. Not In a Million Years
  9. If You Love Me Like You Love Me
  10. Get Down
  11. A Very Extraordinary Kind of Girl (MAM (U.K.) single 96-B, 1973)
  12. Good Company (MAM (U.K.) single 107-B, 1973)
  13. Why, Oh Why, Oh Why (MAM (U.K.) single 111-A, 1973)
  14. You Don’t Have to Tell Me (MAM (U.K.) single 111-B, 1973)

Written by Joe Marchese

April 12, 2012 at 09:29

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