CD Review: Morrissey

moz-Vauxhall and I Cover
Morrissey
Vauxhall and I
Parlophone/Rhino
by David Chiu

When I first listened to Morrissey’s Vauxhall and I around the time of its release 20 years ago, I was kind of disappointed: it didn’t grab me the way that Moz’s preceding album, the shit-kicking Your Arsenal, did. Vauxhall wasn’t steeped in the guitar-oriented glam-styled rock that was so brilliantly spearheaded by the late Mick Ronson. But over time, I slowly warmed up to Vauxhall and now it can be said that it’s one of Morrissey’s finest works in his solo career. It has been written that the album, which was produced by Steve Lilywhite, is more reflective and atmospheric, and that is certainly the case on a couple of the tracks such as “Now My Heart Is Full,” “Why Don’t You Find Out For Yourself,” and “Hold On to Your Friends” (maybe perhaps revealing a more uncharacteristically tender side of the singer) – it kind of recalls aspects of his works with the Smiths. It’s not to say the record, however, is entirely subdued; there are several uptempo rockers that could easily fit in with Your Arsenal, such as the buzzing “Billy Budd,” the dark and haunting “Spring Heeled Jim,” and the driving closer “Speedway.” Of course, the record’s most popular song is “The More You Ignore Me, the Closer I Get” – it’s classic Morrissey at his best as far as the lyrics go and probably the closest thing to a mainstream hit single that he would ever achieve in the States. It’s remarkable how one’s perception of something can change after two decades, which is true in the case of this record. In marking its 20th anniversary this new edition of Vauxhall and I also contains a previously unreleased live concert from the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in 1995– which in addition to featuring performances of songs from Vauxhall and Arsenal includes tracks that have never been on a Morrissey studio album such as” Boxers,” “Have a Go Merchant,” and a cover of “Moon River” – there’s even the Smiths’ “London” thrown in. Morrissey and his band sounded great from this recording, which makes its essential for the die-hard fan/completist if they haven’t already gotten a bootleg of the show.

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