The wait has been cruel -- it's been two-years-plus since we reviewed Jesus of Cool, Nick Lowe's first solo album and the debut of a long overdue reissue series of the singer-songwriter's catalog -- but the re-release of Labour of Lust, Lowe's second solo outing, is kind.
Out of print for years, the album benefits greatly from upgraded sound and, like its reissue predecessor, combines tracks from the original US and UK releases. And what tracks they are, including Lowe's biggest solo hit and a genuine slice of pop perfection, "Cruel To Be Kind," which hit No. 12 on both sides of the Atlantic.
Recorded with Lowe's legendary outfit Rockpile, while they were simultaneously recording Rockpile co-leader Dave Edmunds' Repeat When Necessary album, Labour of Lust is full of what Lowe calls, in the liner notes, "amphetamine-fuelled Chuck Berry music."
With three-minute bursts of classically constructed rock 'n' roll -- complete with witty and ribald lyrics, ace melodies and ringing guitar hooks -- played at the brisk tempos of the then-nascent new wave, the album holds up extremely well three decades-plus after its original release in 1979. It sounds timeless rather than dated.
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With the benefit of hindsight, it's also easy to spot the seeds of Lowe's remarkable recent work in the country inflections of "Without Love" and the stark ballads "You Make Me" and "Basing Street."
There's also the pure pop thrills of "American Squirm" and oft-overlooked gem "Dose Of You." They're nearly the equals of "Cruel To Be Kind," which, in this writer's humble opinion, is one of the greatest pop songs of all time.