Gerry Rafferty, Days Gone Down: The Anthology 1970-1982 (Raven, 2006)

For twelve years, Gerry Rafferty had a prolific musical career. He was part of two bands, The Humblebums and Stealers Wheel, and had two separate stints as a solo artist. He combined his pleasant, soulful tenor and melodic songwriting with a number of musical styles, including folk, rock, blues, and jazz. Most of Rafferty's songs reflect the travails of a hard-working musician struggling to maintain his soul and integrity in a field that tends not to reward people like him, and yet Rafferty managed to strike gold twice. Well, the first time his record label struck a lot more gold than he did, but Rafferty's musical legacy is largely defined by his two major hits. "Stuck In The Middle With You," recorded in 1973 with Stealers Wheel, has an irresistible, enduring groove that even its association with a rather disturbing scene in the movie Reservoir Dogs cannot tarnish. "Baker Street," off Rafferty's 1978 solo album City To City, is famous for a saxophone part for the ages played by Raphael Ravenscroft.

This year, Raven Records released Days Gone Down: The Anthology 1970-1982, covering the bulk of Rafferty's professional career. Working mostly in chronological order, the disc contains twenty-one songs and runs nearly eighty minutes. The length is rather daunting, but the disc contains quite a bit of depth and diversity beyond the two obvious inclusions. Early songs like "Steamboat Row" and "Mary Skeffington" reflect Raffery's ability to write folk songs worthy of the traditions of his native Scotland. "New Street Blues" has Rafferty rocking out and evoking Paul Rodgers a bit on the vocals. On "Who Cares?," from Stealers Wheel, Rafferty began the absorption of jazz into his music that would climax with "Baker Street." Even as the music became more successful and more produced, songs like "Royal Mile (Sweet Darlin') continued to echo Rafferty's roots. The album's final two songs, "Home and Dry" and "Days Gone Down (Still Got The Light In Your Eyes)," showed that Rafferty could write love songs full of vitality while lacking sentimentality.

Rafferty has kept a very low profile since 1982, only making two albums since then. Twelve years of paying his dues put him in a position to relax and live quietly and comfortably, and Rafferty has taken advantage of that. Despite two very big hits, Gerry Rafferty's musical output as a whole remains underrated. Perhaps this compilation will cause a positive re-evaluation of Rafferty's career. After hearing this CD, I would certainly argue on his behalf. A few of the arrangements do sound a bit dated over thirty years later, but anybody in the mood for some old-fashioned, electric/acoustic guitar rock will find lots to like on Days Gone Down.

Overall Grade: A-

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