The Stables, Milton Keynes
20th September 2016
Albert Hammond brings four decades of hit songs to Milton Keynes’s Stables. Louder Than War’s Craig Chaligne reviews.
What a back catalogue and what a longevity !!! Albert Hammond spent most of his career writing and producing songs for other people. For the past few years he has been touring a show entitled Songbook where he performs a selection of tracks from his extensive back catalogue. It was his third stop at The Stables and the intimate theatre provided a welcoming setting to the sprightly 72 year old. First on tonight was local musician Sian Magill, a rather brilliant songwriter with a fantastic voice who has just released her debut album “River Knows This” this year. She played a short set of folk-soul numbers including an excellent cover of Richard Thompson’s “Beeswing”.
Backed by a versatile four piece that managed to do justice to all the phases of his songwriting career, Albert was determined to get the Stables’s audience on their feet. Far from sticking to a chronological approach, the setlist jumped from decade to decade with ease. Starting with the calypso tinged “Everything I Want To Do” from his 1973 solo LP “Free Electric Band” followed by the ecological item “Down By The River” from 1972’s “It Never Rains In Southern California” both showcasing his seventies solo artist days. “I Don’t Want To Leave Without Your Love”, a hit in 1988 for Chicago came from the period when he was a writer/producer (writing for most of the eighties pop stars) as did “Don’t You Love Me Anymore” popularised by Joe Cocker in 1986. Hammond recalled with relish how Cocker stopped in the middle of a take to got and get some ribs from a nearby restaurant and never returned for the rest of the session. His early successes as a songwriter in the late sixties were compiled in a semi-acoustic section where we was only backed by bass and guitar. Starting with “Little Arrows” a hit for Leapy Lee on both sides of the Atlantic in 1968, Albert then played “Freedom Come, Freedom Go” that The Fortunes recorded in 1971. The novelty song “Gimme Dat Ding” saw him regretting that he hadn’t written the song in a lower key as he wasn’t planning on having to perform it four decades later.
The show was full of great stories and anecdotes. “Praise The Lord And Pass Soup” was introduced with a story about his first meeting with Johnny Cash (who invited him at his home and cooked Chilli Con Carne for Albert for the whole duration of his stay). His impression of Julio Iglesias on “To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before” had the crowd in stitches. The greatest tracks of the evening were the extracts from his seventies solo LP’s, most of them co-written with the sadly departed Mick Hazlewood. The Duo really were on a roll as in the space of a couple of years they wrote classics such as “The Air That I Breathe”, “It Never Rains In Southern California”, “I’m A Train”, “The Peacemaker” and many more.
All words by Craig Chaligne. More from Craig can be found at his Author Archive.