“Neil Diamond wasn’t being ‘ironic’ when he sang ‘Sweet Caroline’, was he?” - Danny Wilson, at the launch party for ‘True Love & High Adventure’, September 2000
Perhaps, in the end, the feeling is all. Not the locations, the details, the little legends that make up the big picture, and yet which serve only to obscure, to deflect, to distract you from the true beauty and wisdom that lies within Grand Drive’s first two albums, re-released by RCA/Victor Records. The cold hard facts couldn’t ring true, couldn’t pull you through darkest days, like
So it’s wholly unimportant that
And it’s entirely trivial, not to mention erroneous and unjust, to refer to
But, by the time of the band’s sublime third single, ‘Wrong Notes’ - a campfire tribute to “all the bumps and rough edges and imperfections that make life worth living,” sez Julian - twang was just one element of Grand Drive’s increasingly erudite musical vocabulary, as the Wilson Brothers (plus Ed Balch, honorary Wilson brother, Grand Drive’s third cornerstone, the man with the bass guitar) broadened their sonic palette to create a record which, in their own words “opened like the theme-tune to Camberwick Green, before turning into something that would’ve fit on the soundtrack to ‘Midnight Cowboy’”.
‘Wrong Notes’ was something of a breakthrough for the band, and the following year, 1999, it was collected together with the other two singles - now sold out in their initial pressing - along with B-sides and two new tracks, to comprise the ‘Road Music’ album, released on acclaimed London Americana label Loose Recordings. The reviews were accurately ecstatic for such a charming collection; The Times called it a “modern classic”, Mojo declared it “an album that glories in the song”. Remastered and rereleased today, what’s striking is how fully formed this nascent vision of
“Neil Diamond, he wasn't being a clever bugger, whether he was wearing tinted Alain Delon shades or not. It’s the real deal, and that’s heart music, not head music.” - Julian Wilson, a pub, Raynes Park, December 1998
And then came the great leap into genius.
Tracing Grand Drive’s progression from ‘Road Music’ to its follow-up, ‘True Love & High Adventure’, is like jumping from the Wright Brothers’ first flight to the Apollo moon landing - the former’s impressive, the latter’s inspirational. In the layoff between ‘Wrong Notes’ and ‘True Love...’ (few records are so perfectly titled), the
A gleeful, exhausted, proud Danny described it as “a modern psychedelic country-soul album”, which goes some way to capturing the essence of songs like ‘Ladder To The Sea’, ‘A Little Numb’, ‘One Last Parade’... Magical music that achieves that most elusive of qualities, timelessness, not least because its themes are as grounded and essential as the music is dreamy.
Indeed, ‘classic’ is a word that appeared heavily in the reviews for this record, and listening to the record a scant six months or so after its initial release on Loose, as RCA/Victor ready it for their imprint, it’s startling just how deserving an accolade that is. And now, with a major label’s backing, the band will be able to take these heavenly songs to a much wider audience, and perhaps receive the acclaim they so richly deserve.
Because, much like Bob’s Country Bunker, the hicksville joint Jake and Elwood played in the Blues Brothers,
(c) Stevie Chick, March 2001