December 21, 2022

While reciting a list of rock’n’roll household names, it’s possible that Walter Egan wouldn’t immediately bob to the top. Nevertheless, the veteran rocker has been lurking just under the surface for as long as most of us have been alive, hobnobbing with legends, and he and his band are still churning out the songs well into his eighth decade. Pluck! is his 15th full solo album, in addition to his work in The Brooklyn Cowboys, The Malibooz and others. His main claim to fame is a single named Magnet And Steel from his second album back in 1978, reportedly inspired by Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac. The song hit the top 10 in multiple countries (not the UK though), and appeared on the soundtrack of at least three movies. That album was produced by Lindsay Buckingham and featured Buckingham and Nicks on backing vocals, at the height of Fleetwood Mac’s fame, which gives some indication as to Egan’s status at that time.

Always one to wear his heart on his sleeve, Egan’s last album, Fascination in 2021, was inspired by his infatuation with Pamela des Barres, often cited as the music world’s foremost super-groupie of the ‘70s, and sometime wife of rock debauchnik and Silverhead front man Michael des Barres. This latest set, intriguingly titled Pluck! (please observe the correct punctuation), refers both to guitar picking, and the ‘courage’ meaning of the word. Although it’s mostly original work, some of the songs have been kicking around in Egan’s chest of drawers for decades, so what we have here is a genuine mix of old and new. Woman Deluxe for instance, was written in 1976, and Egan makes no secret of the fact that it is another tribute to Stevie Nicks. The lead single from the album is a cover of Dreams from Fleetwood Mac’s seminal Rumours album from 1977, which was originally written and sung by Nicks. Egan’s rendition is a pretty faithful cover, except that his raw vocal and guitar style is a mile away from the Mac’s dreamy smoothness.

Walter Egan

He pays homage to another favourite female vocalist in the song Dolores, written for The Cranberries’ Dolores O’Riordan, who died in tragic circumstances in 2018 – her name itself derives from a Latin word meaning pain or sorrow. And while we’re on the subject, he also draws attention to the contrast between people whose lives just chug along with no worries, while others, such as Dolores, and specifically Robin Williams, are wrestling with their demons to the point of despair. He pays tribute to Williams in the song Glad To Be Alive, which starts with the line, “On the day Robin Williams killed himself, I was spending my time doing something else…”

To be truthful, Egan’s appeal is not in virtuoso musicianship, and his singing voice is an acquired taste. But he keeps on writing and recording with a varied palette, covering the whole range from Elvis Costello-style easy listening, (Fallen For You even features a kind of castanet-clack of a type I haven’t heard since Lynsey de Paul’s No Honestly), through singer/songwriter ballads and the anti-war protest song Live In Peace, up to blues rock chuggers, such as the Tom Petty-ish opener Hard Summer Days. Them That Do even dallies with punk-edged driving rock, Woman Deluxe mines a hook line from Blondie’s Union City Blue, while the beautiful closer Honey On The Ground borrows heavily from Led Zep’s Going To California.

His minimal band consists of pianist, co-writer and backing vocalist Beth Sass, and the tremendously inventive drumming of Ron Krasinski, whose imaginative backings take Woman Deluxe and December Daze to a whole new level. In the absence of any information to the contrary, I’m assuming that Egan contributes both guitar and bass. The ambience is intensely nostalgic, like a bunch of kids in a ‘70s high school band – at the age of 74, Walter Egan is inhabiting an alternative timeline, and he just seems to be having a blast.