In a career spanning more than 50 years, Alan Price has just about done it all. The founding member of The Animals (and creator of the indelible organ parts on tracks like "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" and "House of the Rising Sun") followed his tenure in that band by refining his craft as a top-flight singer-songwriter and broadening his artistic horizons by scoring films and stage musicals. So perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise that one of the prolific Price's projects fell through the cracks. That project was Savaloy Dip: Words and Music by Alan Price, a 1974 album recorded - and released - by Reprise Records. Yet the release, intended to follow Price's acclaimed soundtrack to the film O Lucky Man!, was short-lived. For reasons now lost to time, it was decided to scuttle Savaloy Dip, but only after a small number of Ampex 8-tracks had been released. In the ensuing 40+ years, Savaloy became a great "What if?" in the Price catalog, but Omnivore Recordings has just come to the rescue with the first-ever wide release (on CD) of this cool and funky little gem.
The rhythmic drive of opening track "Smells Like Lemon, Tastes Like Wine" establishes the album's loose, freewheeling vibe and fusion of rock, R&B and jazz. (In this respect, Price's style isn't dissimilar from that of his friend Georgie Fame, with whom he worked extensively in the 1970s.) Searing guitars, power-packed drums and swaggering brass are all key ingredients of the Dip. The half-spoken, half-sung, off-hand delivery adds a sardonic quality to this tight set of 11 spirited songs featuring Words and Music by Alan Price.
Price never shied away from expressing his admiration for Randy Newman, recording a popular cover of Newman's "Simon Smith and the Amazing Dancing Bear," and devoting more than half of The Alan Price Set's 1967 album A Price on His Head to the young songwriter's sharp compositions. "Willie the Queen," a sweetly sympathetic portrait of a stylish gent in women's clothing, shows Randy's influence as it melds Price's Newman-esque piano and droll vocals to woozy New Orleans-style brass. (Price also works in a groovy organ solo.) It's one of the astute, character-driven tracks here, also including "Poor Jimmy," about Welsh boxer Jimmy Wilde (1892-1969) who fell from grace and ended his years in poverty. Price channels Allen Toussaint in the brass arrangement of the ironically jaunty tune.
Fast 'n' furious, bluesy piano licks add spice to the toe-tapping rock-and-roll of "You Won't Get Me" and there's a similarly brash spirit on the title track. Price fondly recalls his home on the title song "Savaloy Dip" (named after a sausage dish usually spelled "saveloy"), and on the happily eccentric and somewhat McCartney-esque "Country Life," he espouses a bucolic life - complete with some pretty mean jazz scatting! Though its songs are of a piece, the sounds of Savaloy Dip are happily varied. The funky "Keep on Doin' It" and darkly atmospheric "Passin' Us By" (with its infectious hook) showcase yet more sides of the artist. "Over and Over Again" is the only track on Savaloy Dip not written by Price, but the Ken Craddock tune fits right in as another offbeat story song. It's brought to life with a swirling carnival air and barroom sing-along feel that emphasizes Price's English heritage.
Conceptually the songs of Savaloy Dip aren't linked; Price would turn to the "concept album" format for his very next effort. 1974's Warner Bros. release Between Yesterday and Today was titled after its closing track, a re-recorded and rewritten version of Savaloy's closer. The stately voice-and-piano "Between Today" is the most affecting and sober track on Savaloy, and a fine coda to the jaunty tracks that precede it.
Omnivore's new Savaloy Dip, produced by Brad Rosenberger and Cheryl Pawelski, has been splendidly remastered by Gavin Lurssen and Reuben Cohen and features a booklet of informative liner notes by Gene Sculatti. Greg Allen's fine, classy design enjoyably incorporates an image of the original eight-track tape. After one listen to Savaloy Dip, you'll wonder why it took so long for it to see wide release - and you'll want to help yourself to repeated servings.