Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Pete Townshend & Ronnie Lane: Annie

Was I fibbing or was it just a change of plans? Pick one. Yesterday, I promised a half-marathon of Ronnie Lane related music and . . . I am not going to fulfill that promise; I going to exceed it with a complete marathon. I didn’t think I could find TV Thursday or First Friday selections, but I wracked my brain yesterday and came up with some interesting inclusions for the remainder of the week.

It’s Traditional Tuesday and that designation is very loose indeed. Sometimes the songs are actual traditional selections and other times the songs have a traditional feel. For today, it is the latter and our featured tune was co-written by Eric Clapton, Ronnie Lane, and Ronnie's wife: Kate Lambert.

It comes from the collaborative work of Pete Townshend and Ronnie Lane titled “Rough Mix.” On the song “Annie,” Lane handled lead vocals, Clapton played Dobro,© and Peter Hope Evans and Benny Gallagher respectively added harmonica and accordion. One reviewer of the LP at Amazon.com stated, “Annie is a song that might have been popular a hundred years ago.” I agree – it has always been my favorite song off the album.

I forgot how good an album this was. I don’t remember the circumstances of why or where I bought it, but I probably got it from a record store in Huntington, WV that sold promo copies illegally. I bought all of my records from this store – as they were dirt cheap. All I know is I was living in Ashland, Kentucky at the time and the corner is cut on the album indicates that it was either cut out or a late promo copy – without the stamp and white label. Brett Hartenbach’s review of the album states, “Rough Mix stands as a minor masterpiece and an overlooked gem in both artists’ vast bodies of work.” Hartenbach added, “Lane’s tunes, especially the beautiful ‘Annie,’ possess an underrated charm.”

The album, which credits the collaborators as playing “various acoustic & electric guitars, mandolins & bass guitars, ukuleles & very involved mind games,” was recorded following Lane’s diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis – the same degenerative disease from which his mother suffered. It is said that Pete Townshend suggested the project to help Lane with his medical bills. Other stories indicate that the album was completed to fulfill Lane's contract with Atlantic Records for a release by the reformed Small Faces that never was recorded.

While Lane and Townshend didn’t write any songs together for the album (Pete doesn’t work that way) and only sang together on three cuts, they collaborated instrumentally along with a star studded cast that included: Eric Clapton, Charlie Watts, John Entwistle, Mel Collins, Ian Stewart and others. Released originally in the US on ATCO, the album peaked at #45 on Billboard’s Top Album Charts in 1977.

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