Stanley Unwin’s son joins in affectionate Ronnie Lane tribute
The prize for this month’s most lovingly-crafted package has to go to this CD-size hardcover book illustrating how aimless musician Horsfall underwent an epiphany after seeing the late Ronnie Lane’s visage in a cup of Yorkshire Gold tea during a gypsy woman’s fortune reading – compounded by a blast of his Anymore For Anymore album. For added listening pleasure, the charmingly-lavish presentation also includes a sachet of said tea.
If I didn’t know different, I’d have taken this record for a lost Ronnie Lane album, so striking is the similarity in vibe and sound on the opening track, a rollin’-rockin’, laid-back cover of Careless Love that strides an endearing and efficacious good-time way through the old chestnut and gives due breathing space for some tasty soloing along the way in time-honoured fashion. And as it turns out, my gut feelings weren’t at all misplaced, for Yorkshire roots-rocker Des has fully intended the album as a deliberate tribute to the late great Faces bassist. Not only does he closely observe Ronnie’s own arrangement of Careless Love here, but he’s also even recruited three of the musicians from Ronnie’s Slim Chance band (Benny Gallagher, Charlie Hart and Steve Simpson), and they sure deliver the goods here.
Right from the off it is apparent that the making of The Good Gentleman’s Tonic has been a labour of love; every aspect, from the liner notes to the super-deluxe packaging, exhibits an almost obsessive attention to detail. The aim? To be inspired by (but steer clear of aping) Ronnie Lane’s 1970s output with Slim Chance. This Andy Bell-produced release takes in folk, country, blues and rock and is intended as the first in a trilogy of Kuschty Rye releases to mirror the albums put out by Slim Chance.
Judging this album as a release in its own right and divorcing it from the story of its conception is a difficult task. That said, it stands up well, is superbly produced and has moments that are truly engaging. ‘Tonic’ kicks off with “Careless Love,” a good time number that sounds like it’s played by a raggle-taggle band of gypsies. “Nothing New” is an extremely memorable accordion-driven number with great harmonies.