Frankie Miller is a Scottish singer songwriter who had a few chart hits in the 70’s and was at one point backed by pub rock legends Brinsley Schwarz. You can tell a lot, I think, about a musician by the stars who line-up to record tributes. Alongside The Quireboys Spike, for whom this is a long cherished project, are Ronnie Wood, Ian Hunter, Andy Fraser and Simon Kirke of Free, Luke Morley of Thunder, Tyla of Dogs D’Amour and 80’s rock goddess Bonnie Tyler, amongst others. A family tree of British blues rock pioneers and survivors, it’s fair to say Frankie has inspired several generations of our most cherished homegrown talent.
Looking at the cast list it will come as no surprise that these songs are shot through with bittersweet romance, boozy regret and a rough hewn charm. What perhaps is a surprise though is that these are not Frankie‘s most famous numbers, but previously unrecorded songs. Frankie has been confined to a wheelchair since a brain haemorrhage in the early 90’s and Spike has gathered together admirers to get his heroes songs heard, rather than just running through old favourites. It’s a much more admirable enterprise than the usual covers album, and mostly the songs deserve the rootsy and tasteful airings they get.
What is evident is that Miller is an incurable romantic at heart, even the grubby ‘Amsterdam Woman’ is shot through with a tender ache. Spike is clearly a kindred spirit and most of the songs, mainly mid-paced to slow, are told with a twinkly eye, and possessed a heart of gold and a Teflon liver. Occasionally the lyrics are a little to cliched to convince, even for this bunch of professional rogues – ‘Bottle of Whiskey’ is the sort of self-pitying lament Tyla used to dash off between binges .The good outweighs the bad though and the creeping menace of ‘Brooklyn Bridge’ and the Faces strut of ‘Intensive Care’ are both ‘lost’ classics, well worth discovering.
There’s a strong country-folk flavour to several of the numbers, the gentle swing of ‘Cold Cold Nights’ and ‘Did You Ever Wanna Go Home’ are softly rousing without ever really tugging at your heart strings.
If you’re a fan of Frankie Miller, or any of the large pool of talented fans assembled here then this is definitely worth a listen and the whole thing gets ten out of ten for sentiment, but I’ll have to be a little harder on the songs themselves.