Tape of the Month Jan. ’23: Nick Lowe and his Cowboy Outfit

Welcome to the future.

The year is 2023. Let’s enter a new era together where we talk about cassettes in our flying cars! We’re pleased to be continuing this series and we hope that you’ve been enjoying it, too! The new year is a time of great potential and we look forward to a great year for music – shows, tapes, sick finds, random gold, we welcome it all!

This month we’re checking out Nick Lowe and his Cowboy Outfit by powerpop pioneer Nick Lowe. We’re hoping to present a fair amount of variety in our selections, even if they happen to be rock leaning. Alright, let’s take a look!

Nick Lowe – Nick Lowe and his Cowboy Outfit

(1984) Produced by Nick Lowe, Colin Fairley, Paul Bass, Elvis Costello

Track listing:
Side A:
1. Half a Boy Half a Man
2. Break Away
3. You’ll Never Get Me Up (In One of Those)
4. Love like a Glove
5. The Gee and the Rick and the Three Card Trick

Side B:
1. (Hey Big Mouth) Stand Up and Say That
2. Awesome
3. God’s Gift to Women
4. Maureen
5. L.A.F.S.
6. Live Fast, Love Hard, Die Young

When I first started the CTEP, I was listening to tapes in my car, making mixes at home, and scoping out local record/thrift stores for tapes. One of the first tapes I got into was George Thorogood’s Half a Boy Half a Man. I’ve written about that album previously, but I will say that I think it’s solid! I didn’t realize it at the time, but it would serve as my introduction to Nick Lowe, seeing as its title track was a cover of his song. So naturally, when I encountered this album in the wild and saw that it had the song, I had to buy it!

Cowboy Outfit kicks off with a bang by way of Half a Boy Half a Man. This track just rips it wide open and sets a jubilant tone right away. Which after all this is a pop album, it’s supposed to be pleasant, right? This ballad of someone with a ‘Peter Pan complex’ brings old time rock techniques into the 80’s. As Nick Lowe is known for, the production is straight up, minimally ‘tinkered’ with, so to speak.

Break Away and You’ll Never Get Me… bring us into Cowboy territory, if only its fringes. Twangy guitars are in full force as legally required by law. These songs are driving. In fact, the album has been pedal to the metal thus far. It should be noted that these are western numbers are covers, one of which Nick Lowe (with Rockpile) played on the original recording. That song being Mickey Jupp’s You’ll Never Get Me Up (In One of Those).

Love like a Glove may be the album’s first sign of …. corny-ness, for lack of a better term. However, it is tight, masterfully executed, and catchy. We can’t take it too seriously, but it is what it is! The Gee and the Rick… is a swagger filled exploration of solid gold rock and roll. These tracks are where we start to tap the breaks and settle in tempo wise.

Side B, I must say, is somewhat disappointing compared to the exciting first half. It suffers from deviation from form in ways that may have been intended to be interesting, but maybe miss the mark. Without being too hard on it, let’s move forward. Hey Big Mouth… suffers from the aforementioned condition by way of drum machine. At its core is a fine song, but something about this arrangement feels unnatural. Maureen is given a similar treatment, but without the drum machine, and it does feel better for it.

Awesome is the highlight of the second side. I mean it’s just damn cool. Nick Lowe is typically good for an instrumental on each release, but this one is perhaps his greatest. Paul Carrack on the keyboards really shines through. He elevates the entire tape, but he helps make this song fun and dangerous, while giving it some swagger. This song is liquid cool. It’s black and chrome under the red glow of a neon sign. It’s driving at night while Fonzie offers you a joint. We mean it!

Now, from cool to fool. God’s Gift to Women is a number about a guy who can’t get laid. It occupies this great place between pop, country, and even punk (kinda). It’s a goofy, straight ahead number again blessed by great keyboard work. L.A.F.S. introduces a horn arrangement and features a mellow, funky groove. You can detect elements of the present day Nick Lowe style tucked within this soulful song about love and chance encounters. Live Fast… sends us home happy with the only true country offering coming from Faron Young’s catalog. Some other country fueled numbers have been included on later editions, but you won’t find them on the original tape.

The Verdict:

The verdict is favorable. It’s complicated, but it’s favorable. I love this album, but I’m a Nick Lowe fan. Logically, I can explain to you that this collection of songs is less powerful and potent than other albums. It taps into this Nashville Skyline quality where an unassuming album turns out to be surprisingly enjoyable. It’s such an amalgamation of genres that I’m not sure that anyone who is a die hard fan of rock, pop, country, or punk would like it. However, if you’re a fan of music, you’re likely to dig it. I find myself coming back to it with warmth, excitement, and joy.

Respect, DJ O’K

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