Just call it Old Man Week here at the Panic Manual. This week has seen live reviews of Tom Petty and April Wine along with Ricky’s reminscences of mail order music clubs and ’90s Canrock footnote Zuckerbaby, so in keeping with that vague theme (it’s like Shark Week, but with grey hair and guitars), let’s take a look at the latest release from another veteran performer, Robyn Hitchcock.
For The Man Upstairs, Hitchcock partnered up with famed producer Joe Boyd, known for his work with Fairport Convention, The Incredible String Band, and Nick Drake among many others and in some ways it shares the spirit and the sound of those records. As they began working together, Boyd suggested a “Judy Collins” album, referring to the folk singer’s tendency to feature a mix of originals and covers of both well known and lesser known songs on her 60s and 70s records. Instead of an album full of Dylan, Lightfoot and Phil Ochs songs, however, Hitchcock tries his hand at songs from the like of Grant Lee Phillips, Roxy Music and The Doors. Of the covers, opening track “The Ghost In You” is the highlight with Hitchcock wringing some real pathos out of the Psychedelic Furs’ 1984 hit and transforming it into a beautiful ballad. He follows that up with “San Francisco Patrol,” the strongest song of the entire collection with it’s memorable refrain of “I can’t take my eyes off you.”
Sure, I may joke about the fact that we’ve covered mostly music by “old men” this week, but The Man Upstairs, the product of a musician who’s been playing and recording since the ’70s and a producer with an even longer tenure, is evidence of a still vital and compelling artist.