Sunday, February 18, 2024

Paul Collins - Stand Back and Take a Good Look

Adding to a roster full of some of the most formidable talents in the world of guitar-driven pop music, JEM Records welcomes to the family the king of power pop, Mr. Paul Collins. Stand Back and Take a Good Look is Collins' first new release in over five years and a master class work of timeless pop rock 'n' roll. Longtime fans will be delighted to hear Collins revisit his power pop roots on several tracks, but by no means does the king limit himself to any single genre. 

Without trying to copy his past glories, Collins still manages to celebrate his influential work in the late '70s and early '80s along with that entire era of classic new wave power pop. He recruited some highly talented friends to play on this record. The late Dwight Twilley appears on the album — as do members of Shoes and 20/20. Other contributors include Richard X. Heyman, Prairie Prince, Ronnie Barnett, and our pals Dany Laj & Jeanette Dowling. You may recognize some old Nerves and Beat songs getting their first proper release, and I don't think anyone will be complaining! With the opening 1-2 punch of the Jack Lee–penned title track and Collins' "I'm the Only One for You," Stand Back and Take a Good Look comes out teleporting you to Los Angeles circa 1978. This, my friends, is a legend in peak form! The Peter Case–penned "Will You Come Through?" and the re-vamped Beat number "Another World" will also send chills down the spines of power pop enthusiasts. Yet on the second half of the album, Collins shows plenty of versatility in his craft. He puts a touch of classical music on the melodious and reflective "Liverpool," dishes out first-rate country rock on "You Can't Go Back," and explores his folky side on songs like "Under the Spanish Sun" and "One Hill and I'm Home" (written by his brother Patrick). "How Will I Know" recalls the twangy late '50s/early '60s rock 'n' roll that would be a building block for power pop. 

All in all, Stand Back and Take a Good Look is a fantastic record with a good mix of should-be radio hits and quality deep cuts. Collins has stated, "The record is an attempt to show my DNA," and it does exactly that. In her liner notes, Palmyra Delran reflects on Collins' ability to craft earworm hooks — something that seems easy but is actually one of the hardest things to do in music. That talent is apparent even when Collins breaks from the power pop textbook formula. If "Liverpool" were any catchier, they'd need a vaccine for it. Once "You Can't Go Back" slowly works its way into your skull, it's there to stay. Even as he's matured and evolved as an artist, Paul Collins has never lost sight of what he does best. Stand Back and Take a Good Look rates among the very best of his solo efforts. Would you expect anything less from JEM Records?

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