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Dwight Twilley

Arista 4214
Released: March 1979
Chart Peak: #113
Weeks Charted: 9

Dwight TwilleyIn 1976, Dwight Twilley's debut LP, Sincerely, heralded a commercially irrelevant but cultishly satisfying return to the pop-rock of the Sixties. Actually, Twilley had fired the first shot almost a year earlier with "I'm on Fire." In that regional hit single, he was absolutely volcanic, ablaze with the kind of love for old rock melodies that can stoke a smart young rocker with an anonymous voice and an incendiary heart.

On Twilley, the artist's third album, the heart still smolders eloquently, but the voice has taken on the glaze of a charming narcissist. It's too bad, because Twilley has a real band here: lead guitarist Bill Pitcock IV snaps out guitar lines so joyfully coarse they practically defy the coolly smoothing production to tame them, while the drumming of Jim Lewis and Jerry Naifeh lends even the singer's mooniest melodies an unsentimental tempo.

But everything is focused on Dwight Twilley -- the record's title, the myriad of self-ravishing cover photos and, most importantly, all the best songs. Thus Twilley stands or falls depending on whether you find its earnest star as worthy of sustained contemplation as he does.

Twilley's prevailing themes are helplessness and devotion, but the LP's opener, "Out of My Hands," dumps helplessness into the lap of near-paralysis: the middle-period-Beatles melody swirls to a peak of indecision. Even when he asserts "I Wanna Make Love to You," the singer's desire seems inflamed by the hunch that he'll never get past second base. Similarly, the most passionate rocking is addressed to absent lovers in the gorgeous "Alone in My Room" and "Betsy Sue." During the kicky chorus of "Darlin'," Twilley admits he's most tickled "when we're apart." You get the feeling this guy's idea of paradise is coitus interruptus.

Though Twilley's thoughtful and self-reflective hesitation often makes his pop-rock pleasurable, it can also limit him: few convincing reactions and melodies come forth when he ventures outside himself. Right now, Dwight Twilley doesn't evince the range or courage to shoot the works and record a masterpiece of narcissism. Yet he's too honest to churn out the automatic rhythms and emotions of less-ironic pop-rockers. But something's gotta give -- and soon -- because this boy sounds like he wants to explode.

- Ken Tucker, Rolling Stone, 7/26/79.

Bonus Reviews!

When Dwight Twilley and his bandmate Phil Seymour were growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in the mid-Sixties, they were much impressed by the Beatles. This led to their emulating John and Paul's tight vocal harmonies. After a few false starts in the recording business, the Twilley group landed on hometowner Leon Russell's Shelter label a few years ago, where they hit with a single, "I'm On Fire."

Then and now, the band plays straightforward, occasionally decorated rock, with similarities to the Beatles not only in vocal harmonies but also in song construction and the sound mix. The music is aimed at the young adult and late teenager, and Twilley's efforts seem designed to entertain and exploit that audience by exposing them to some of what they missed by not being around during the Beatles era. But to anyone who was around when Liverpudlians held happy sway, Twilley's music will sound like an old story twice told.

- Joel Vance, Stereo Review, 1/78.

Twilley, who made considerable introductory waves several years ago, returns strongly here with this set. It's raw edged though textured rock with lots of sock from guitars, bass, keyboards and harmonica while strings add an interesting flavor. At times Twilley is reminiscent of Tom Petty yet projects his own distinctive, arresting vocal style. Phil Seymour adds backing vocals on "Darlin." Best cuts: "Out Of My Hands," "Nothing's Ever Gonna Change So Fast," "Runaway," "Betsy Sue," "Darlin," "I Wanna Make Love To You."

- Billboard, 1979.

Twilley's first two albums were marginally fascinating because of how obsessively he synthesized the Southern and British pop-rock traditions -- like a cool Alex Chilton, or (only we didn't know this yet) a Nick Lowe who worked too hard -- and because so few bands were bothering with the kind of catchy '60s-AM songs that Twilley turned out by the half dozen. Well, scratch the catchy part -- both the Records and the Knack, to stick to the lightweights, have songs on the radio that cut anything on Sincerely, which is a lot catchier than this. And while you're at it, scratch Phil Seymour, Twilley's former rhythm section and harmony group. And add Jimmy Haskell doing Paul Buckmaster imitations. And think dark thoughts about the Raspberries and Eric Carmen. C+

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

This self-titled third album rivals Twilley's debut as best album with super tracks like "Alone in My Room," "It Takes a Lot of Love," "Darlin'," and "I Want to Make Love to You." As of this printing, this fine pop/rock album has yet to see a CD release. If you like Twilley's other albums, then this is worth the search. * * * *

- Rick Clark, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

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