Sonic Grade: F
We had two copies of the Heavy Simply Vinyl pressing to audition as part of our last big shootout a few years back. We used to actually like it, but it now sounds worse than we remember, especially in the low end, which is a blurry mess. Better than any domestic copy I suppose, but that’s not really saying much.
Right Down the Line
City to City
Whatever’s Written in Your Heart
Home and Dry
Waiting for the Day
Rolling Stone Rave Review
Even in his mother’s womb, Gerry Rafferty must have expected the worst. This Scotsman entitled his melancholy 1971 solo album Can I Have My Money Back? (the answer was “No!”). And when Stealers Wheel, the group he subsequently formed with Joe Egan, became an overnight success with the hit single “Stuck in the Middle with You,” only to lapse into morning-after obscurity, he probably said, “I told you so.” On City to City, his first LP in three years, Rafferty sticks grimly to his guns. Not only does he use the same producer (Hugh Murphy) and several of the same musicians, but a similar un-self-pitying fatalism pervades the record.
However, there is a slight but significant change for the better that makes City to City as eloquently consoling as the spirituals Rafferty echoes in “Whatever’s Written in Your Heart.” Indeed, there’s a prayerful quality to the entire LP, a quality reminiscent of the dim dawn after a dark night of the soul. “The Ark” begins as a Highland death march, complete with doleful bagpipes, but swells into a stirring hymn to love. And, after etching a relationship stalemated by the inability of two lovers to express their feelings, the somber “Whatever’s Written in Your Heart” (whose only instruments are a piano and a hushed sythesizer) concludes with a coda of vocal harmonies that sing of sublime forgiveness.
Hope, in almost all these songs, lurks on the horizon. And when it springs fully into view — as on “City to City,” with its rollicking train tempo, and on the jaunty “Mattie’s Rag” — the music almost burbles with anticipation.
Gerry Rafferty still writes with the sweet melodiousness of Paul McCartney and sings with John Lennon’s weary huskiness, and his synthesis of American country music, British folk and transatlantic rock is as smooth as ever. But his orchestrations have acquired a stately sweep. For all their rhythmic variety — from the suave Latin lilt of “Right down the Line” to the thump of “Home and Dry” — these are uniformly majestic songs. The instrumental refrain on one of the best of them, “Baker Street,” is breathtaking: between verses describing a dreamer’s self-deceptions, Rapheal Ravenscroft’s saxophone ballons with aspirations only to have a sythesizer wrench it back to earth with an almost sickening tug. If City to City doesn’t rise to the top of the charts, its commercial failure will be equally dismaying. And our loss will be greater even than Rafferty’s. After all, when was the last time you bought an album boasting more than fifty minutes of music? And great music at that.
– Ken Emerson, Rolling Stone, 1-15-78.
Rafferty’s turns of phrase and tight composition skills create a fresh sound and perspective all his own. Any diverse style (and he attempts many) filters through his unique mindset, resulting in a classic platter buoyed by many moments of sheer genius. “Whatever’s written in your heart, that’s all that matters.”