11 Apr 2021
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Max Merritt & The Meteors - Album Review: i can dream

16 Mar 2021 // A review by Kev Rowland

There is no doubt that Max Merritt is a Kiwi icon, seen as one of the region’s most important musicians to come out of the Fifties, with his impact on soul, rock and R'n'B meaning he was inducted into both the ARIA Hall of Fame and the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame. Sadly, he was diagnosed with a rare auto immune disease in 2007, and died in Los Angeles, California, on 24th September 2020, at the age of 79. Prior to his death he had been working on his first new album for some forty years, i can dream (all in lower case),

The album comprises three different recording periods, with five songs recorded in Los Angeles between 2011 and 2020, another two recorded in 2018 at a different studio, plus ten songs recorded in Melbourne in 2002 for what was being described back then as being a new album. The result is something which actually sounds as if it was recorded at one period in time as opposed to being spread out, with the only real differentiation being the production. Overall, the production is very good, but there are also times when it really grates as auto tune has been used in certain places. This is one of my pet hates in the modern music scene, even more than my loathing of drum machines before they became decent, and in many ways, this has done a disservice to the end result, which is a really enjoyable album indeed, and I would much rather this had been left far rawer.

Max will probably always be best remembered for Slipping Away, a major hit in both Australia and New Zealand in 1975, and with this album we are definitely taken back to the Seventies. He has a wonderful voice, mellow and gentle and in many ways reminiscent of a more soulful Bob Seger from that period. Add in some wonderful songs, with great lyrics and hooks, lush backing vocals, and one can see the flares and platforms. There are times when he brings in a much stronger blues influence, and mixes up the accompaniment, including an accordion, slide guitar or brass, all of which makes this feel far more earthy and real. Sunbury is a real delight, a song out of time, as he sings about the 1972 Sunbury Festival where Max Merritt & the Meteors was one of the acts (they also played in 1973), and sings the line “if you remember Sunbury, you weren’t there!”

It is mellow, easy listening, yet also with an edge and one can certainly hear why he was such a major draw, as he just sounds totally relaxed and fully in control at all times. It is the type of album that can be played and enjoyed on first hearing yet the most it is played the more it becomes like a comfortable leather armchair, with the listener relaxing right in. The horns and piano on I Don’t Wanna Lose You are sublime, just right, with Max’s vocals right to the fore, bass and drums keeping it basic and Hammond providing some wonderfully dated chords. He can rock as well, with closer Candy Row having some real bite, with the brass over the top, and the hooks and edge right there. Max may no longer be with us, but hopefully this album will remind people of his legacy.

Rating: ( 4 / 5 )
 

About Max Merritt & The Meteors

Max Merritt was born in Christchurch on 30th April 1941 and by his early teenage years was engrossed in music, beginning guitar lessons at the age of twelve. By the mid-fifties, rock and roll had exploded around the world and Max was quite taken by the styles and sounds of Elvis Presley and Bill Haley.

Max left school in 1956 to serve an apprenticeship under his brick-laying father. Buying himself an electric guitar, he formed his first group, the Meteors, in 1956. The group was made up of friends Ross Clancy on saxophone, Ian Glass on bass, Peter Patene on piano and Pete Sowden on drums.

His mother Ilene became concerned seeing young people sitting around Cathedral Square on winter Sunday afternoons with nothing to do, so with the help of her family decided to hold Sunday dances. Also with the help of Kerridge-Odeon theatre manager Trevor King, a venue was set up. The Christchurch Teenagers Club held in the Railway Hall in Sydenham, became so popular that up to 900 youngsters attended the dances held between 1pm and 6pm. For a charge of two shillings and sixpence, dance-goers were treated to music provided by a teenage Max Merritt and the Meteors, while a buffet tea of scones, sandwiches and hot saveloys was served by Mrs Merritt and her daughter Pam.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Max Merritt & The Meteors

Releases

Been Away Too Long
Year: 2012
Type: Album
Live In Concert
Year: 2007
Type: Album
Very Best Of
Year: 2001
Type: Album
Back Home Live
Year: 1977
Type: Album
Out Of The Blue
Year: 1976
Type: Album
A Little Easier
Year: 1975
Type: Album
Stray Cats
Year: 1971
Type: Album
Max Merritt And The Meteors
Year: 1970
Type: Album
Shake
Year: 1966
Type: EP
Max Merritt's Meteors
Year: 1965
Type: Album
Good Golly Max Merritt
Year: 1964
Type: EP
Giddy Up Max
Year: 1964
Type: EP
C'mon Let's Go
Year: 1960
Type: Album

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