Pair the Rolling Stones’ producer Andrew Loog Oldham with American rock-and-roll hero Del Shannon at the height of Swinging London, and what’s the result? It was an album called Home and Away, but despite its lofty ambitions of being a British answer to Pet Sounds, the LP didn’t see release as scheduled in 1967. It took more than a decade for Home and Away to surface, and it’s recently been reissued as a remastered CD from Now Sounds (CRNOW 40).
Though the new Home and Away is a most welcome release, the oft-quoted Pet Sounds analogy isn’t quite appropriate. Though Home and Away and the Beach Boys’ classic are both orchestrated pop albums, Pet Sounds was an intensely personal vision both musically and lyrically – that of Brian Wilson and his chief lyrical collaborator, Tony Asher. Home and Away was the work of numerous pop songwriting teams from Oldham’s Immediate Records stable. Not that there’s anything shameful about an immaculately crafted collection of largely original pop songs, which is what Home and Away is; the high quality of these tracks, sung passionately by Shannon and arranged pristinely by Arthur Greenslade, will make you wah-wah-wah-wah-wonder why the album was initially shelved in the first place.
After the decision was made by Liberty Records to leave the LP in the can, tracks began to trickle out on singles and elsewhere, and Home and Away has been released numerous times prior to Now Sounds’ edition. The complete sequence first surfaced on a 1978 compilation album, and reappeared in the CD era on anthologies including EMI’s The Liberty Years, before getting a proper album release in 2006 from the reactivated Zonophone imprint. Now Sounds’ edition, though remastered and splendidly redesigned by reissue producer Steve Stanley, repeats the 16-track sequence of that Zonophone disc.
Love is in the air, but this isn’t a romantic album by any means. Del Shannon crafted some of the most striking pop records of the early 1960s with grief and heartbreak foremost on his mind, and the tone of Home and Away is indeed, melancholy. Though darkness took him to artistic heights, it eventually consumed him, and Shannon took his own life in 1990. Here, the moody atmosphere is often quite beautiful, with harpsichord, French horns and flutes among the baroque accoutrements. No, the material isn’t as strong as Pet Sounds, but isn’t that an unfair comparison for almost any album?
We dive in, after the jump! Plus: the full track listing with discography, and an order link!
“You’re all I had in life, but now we’re through,” Shannon cries in “Mind Over Matter,” one of the songs salvaged for a single release. Though the vocalist invokes the title phrase to get over his girl in this mini-masterwork, one gets the feeling it was a losing battle. Over dramatic, haunting strings and horns, Shannon desperately pleads “Give me strength that I need to carry on” into the fade. He’s all too believable on this somber gem penned by J.P. Solomons, but it should come as no surprise that the strongest material on the album is Shannon’s own. His familiar timbre takes on a newfound, ethereal quality on the ravishing “Silently.” Its evocative, poetic imagery (“Sitting here, without a chair, wondering where can you be? Butterfly floating by, quietly, fluttering its wings…Silently…just like me…”) shifts into the terrain of memory, with Greenslade’s subtle arrangement and the background harmonies hauntingly quoting a childhood melody. It’s heavy stuff, not to mention quite beautiful. (It’s all too easy what this song would have sounded like in the hands of The Association!) “He Cheated” is Shannon’s other original composition here, and it’s not much lighter: “How many times are you gonna be burned?”
What’s perhaps most impressive here is that Shannon is never self-conscious about his musical experimentation on Home and Away. Then again, it’s no surprise, as the artist had already introduced unusual sounds into his records such as the Musitron on 1961’s“Runaway.” That seminal record is revisited in a new fashion on Home and Away, and though the remake may have its adherents, it doesn’t erase the memory of the original. Shannon and Oldham recast the song with Spanish-style guitar, a more dirge-like tempo and the usual, prominent array of strings and horns. The hazy, lysergic quality better suits Billy Nicholls’ dark “Cut and Come Again” (as in “love has…”), and a similar theme of love lost permeates Ross Watson’s “My Love Has Gone,” on which Shannon deploys his pained falsetto in a baroque setting. There are also diverse musical nods here. On Billy Nicholls’ “Led Along”, that falsetto soars mightily over some “bom bom dit dit” vocalizing that would have made Brian Wilson and Mike Love proud. And the bleakness of Andrew Rose and David Skinner’s “Life is But Nothing” is tempered by a horn part that seems grafted on from “Wishin’ and Hopin’,” of all things! Another stated influence was that of Lou Adler, producer of The Mamas and the Papas and later, a series of Carole King albums including the landmark Tapestry. The big beat of “Easy to Say, Easy to Do” is melded to harmonies that almost go into exuberant John Phillips territory.
Del Shannon took one step further and met psychedelia head-on with 1968’s The Further Adventures of Charles Westover (his real name). But that justly-acclaimed album seems very much in thrall to the sounds he first explored on the shelved Home and Away. Of the mono bonus singles retained for Now’s handsome new edition (otherwise all in stereo), the odd U.S. single version of “He Cheated” adds spoken-word call-and-response, while “Runaway ‘67” is overdubbed with applause for a live feel. The singles are appropriately punchy for the AM airwaves, though none gained significant chart success. Alas, no discographical annotation has been included for these singles from the U.S., the U.K. and the Philippines. Alan Brownstein has remastered all tracks from the original master tapes, and they sound better than ever before. Kieron Tyler supplies a new essay adapted from his notes for the Zonophone CD release, and Steve Stanley has impeccably designed the entire package including the vastly-improved, spot-on period cover. These upgrades might be enough to seal the deal on a purchase for those who already own Home and Away in one of its previous CD issues.
Now or then, Home and Away captures an artist finding his place in a rapidly-changing musical landscape and doing so with grace and beauty. One could hardly ask for more.
Del Shannon, Home and Away (EMI/Zonophone 0946 374853 2, 2006 – reissued Now Sounds CRNOW 40, 2012)
- It’s My Feeling
- Mind Over Matter
- Cut and Come Again
- My Love Has Gone
- Led Along
- Life is But Nothing
- Easy to Say, Easy to Do
- Friendly With You
- He Cheated
- Runaway ‘67
- Led Along (Mono US Liberty 55961 & UK Liberty LIB 0277, 1967)
- Mind Over Matter (Mono UK Liberty LIB 0277, 1967)
- Runaway ’67 (Mono US Liberty 55993 & UK Liberty LIB 5020, 1967)
- He Cheated (Mono US Liberty 55993, 1967)
- Silently (Mono Philippines Liberty 20376, 1967)