Whilst revelling in a highly successful artistic and commercial purple patch, the pathway to creative success must have seemed crystal clear to an in-demand Walter Egan.
On a hot creative streak working with his Fleetwood Mac friends Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks across his landmark Fundamental Roll, Not Shy and Hi-Fi albums brought an irresistible momentum to Egan’s burgeoning solo career.
Yet with every pearl life casts it can also throw in too much grit to sour a seemingly smooth course. As much came to pass as having manoeuvred a change of labels from Columbia to Backstreet/MCA – whose roster of artists included Nils Lofgren, JJ Cale and Tom Petty, Egan’s progress was promptly halted by a petty and toxic power struggle between Danny Branson, the man who signed him to the label, and a rapidly ascending Irving Azoff for the presidency of MCA Records. With the winner writing their history, Azoff came out on top and Egan’s fortunes took a tumble off the label leaving him clutching at smoke.
Needless to say, you can’t keep a restlessly creative soul quiet for long, and Egan’s prodigious output continued apace during this time of personal and industry change. With his stalwart friends Buckingham and Nicks joined by their bandmate Christine McVie, a royal flush of West Coast musicians brought their inimitable stellar abilities to the recording of Mad Dog; which is considered to still be a great lost album. That is, until now.
The camaraderie between all players, during what must have been a challenging time for Egan, shines brightly on this set of breezy, catchy and lyrically resonating songs. The collage of beguiling harmonies, crisp instrumentation and unique songwriting propels the songs along as though listening to a classic FM radio station on a corniche drive with a shimmering blue sea reflecting a bright yellow sun for company.
Like capturing lightning in a bottle, the opening salvo of Stop, Don’t Stop and Hard Love sizzle with an electric groove and sky-scraping chorus’ blazing a trail of molten gold West Coast songbook certs.
Recorded at The Mad Dog Studio in Venice, California, the roll call of players reads like a who’s who of West Coast rock as Lindsey Buckingham appears on Jean and Someone Like You; Christine McVie on Only Love Is Left Alive and Silvery Sleep (an anagram of Elvis Presley); Spirit’s Randy California on Invisible Man; The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s Chris Darrow on The Loneliest Boy and another old buddy Jackson Browne contributes to Challenger. Walter spent three month’s rehearsing for Jackson’s band for his 1975 Late For The Sky tour and their chemistry together on Challenger teases what might have been.
Helped in no little part by his starry friends, all of who bring their A-game to this compendium of Californian soft rock vibes, there’s a masterly blend of updated 1950s rock tones suffused with a classic mid 80s soft rock pulse that runs right through the heart of this album, contrasted by tender ballads and sweet acoustic moments.
Further intriguing musical nuggets are revealed on the Stevie Nicks penned Sisters Of The Moon. Originally offered to Walter to record, it was slated to be included on his Not Shy album but producer Lindsey Buckingham kiboshed it. However, being a staple in Walter’s live set since 1977 – a live version was released on his ‘78 Meaning Of Live album – it’s presented here as it was intended to be heard with Annie McLoone supplying exquisite backing vocals.
Almost forgotten in some mysterious room of lost musical luggage, brimful with uncommonly beautiful and masterfully composed earworming songs deftly played by a cast of musical nobility, Mad Dog overflows with insightful prose, thrilling tunes, and not inconsiderable instrumental guile and learning reflecting Egan’s singular musical vision which is rendered even sharper on this finely focused and felicitous redux release.
To add to the album’s bounteous contents there are an additional four bonus tracks of contemporaneous recordings completing this extraordinary and momentous redux.
Further delights include two singles being released to coincide with the release of Mad Dog: Only Love Is Left Alive b/w Jean and The Loneliest Boy b/w I’ve Had It (not on the album).
Mad Dog along with Walternative, Apocalypso Now and The Meaning Of Live are part of the first phase of a comprehensive release schedule of redux back catalogue releases to be rolled out. Plus two EPs of Walter’s chart-topping hits Hot Summer Nights and Magnet And Steel makes these a must-have for any fan of the West Coast sound and Country Rock/Americana idioms.
Just one more thing, there’s also the release of a beautifully framed wistful single Old Photographs to round off this first phase of Walter Egan’s solo works.
(Red Steel Music)
By Paul Davies