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Rock On
David Essex

Columbia 32560
Released: October 1973
Chart Peak: #32
Weeks Charted: 21
Certified Gold: 3/26/74

David EssexDavid Essex has achieved so much in so little time that he doesn't seem to have decided what record audience he is trying to please: a little rock, some reggae, a bit of nostalgia, and a few teen ballads. The star of stage (Godspell), screen (That'll Be the Day) and singles ("Rock On") doesn't dare commit himself to any particular form. Rather than displaying a wide range of talents, Essex is still fishing for a consistent style.

David Essex - Rock On
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His waifish voice sounds odd attacking rock tunes like Fabian's "Turn Me Loose." Essex is always on the verge of being smothered by his accompaniment. The secret to his survival against overwhelming decibels lies in the clean and tight production job by his man Friday, Jeff Wayne.

A number of British performers have been milking the nostalgia boom by imitating the styles and phrases of the rock and roll era. "Rock On," a big British hit, might do as well here, but in the States the original artists are actually performing at local rock and roll revival shows. Gary Glitter sounds redundant in America, and so does Essex' mention of "summertime blues," "blue suede shoes" and the solemnly intoned "James Dean."

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Far more successful is "Lamplight," the only lasting cut on the album. Showing extraordinary American influence, Essex comes across like Dr. John navigating Leon Russell's "Tightrope." My first reaction was rage that such a rip-off could be perpetrated across the Atlantic, but after a few plays "Lamplight" seems a jolly good show after all.

It's unusual for a teen idol to risk tackling rock numbers his first time out, but then it may be that Essex doesn't know whether he wants to be a rocker, a face or an actor. He does the latter very well, but not, at least for now, the former.

- Paul Gambaccini, Rolling Stone, 2/28/74.

Bonus Review

David Essex has had some success in England in the role of Jesus in "Godspell" and as the composer-performer of a hit single, "Rock On." I listened to the latter on this album, and my conclusion is that if this is what the English consider music then they are in the dark for more reasons than an Energy Crisis. Essex is so bad that you can't even laugh at such things as "Lamplighter" -- "Shine on mee (grunt-grunt), Shine on mee (grunt-grunt)" -- only cringe. In "Turn Me Loose" he attempts soul, and the result is early Elvis out of Amos 'n' Andy. Jeff Wayne is the alleged perpetrator of the arranging, conducting, and production, all of which leave me speechless. If only they had left David Essex that way.

- Peter Reilly, Stereo Review, 7/74.

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