CD Review of Never Say Never by Ian McLagan and the Bump Band
Ian McLagan and the Bump Band: Never Say Never
Recommended if you like
The Faces, The Rolling Stones,
Paul Westerberg
Label
00:02:59
Ian McLagan and
the Bump Band:
Never Say Never

Reviewed by Jeff Giles

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H
e’s never really been famous in his own right, but for the last four decades and change, Ian McLagan has been one of the most highly respected session players in the business, lending his distinctive keyboard playing to albums by everyone from Dylan and the Stones to Springsteen and the Georgia Satellites. As a member of the Small Faces (and then the Faces), McLagan helped to define what rock & roll keys should sound like, and even if you didn’t know it at the time, his performances probably helped define your early rock listening habits: That’s Mac you hear playing Wurlitzer on the Faces’ "Stay with Me" and the Stones’ "Miss You," for instance, and that’s his Hammond B-3 on Rod Stewart’s "Maggie May"…just to name three of the most famous entries in an unimaginably long résumé.

Understandably, McLagan’s own music hasn’t always been his highest priority – he took a 20-year break between his second and third solo albums – but since the turn of the century, he’s been on a bit of a tear; 2000’s Best of British kicked off an impressive run that, with the release of Never Say Never, includes five studio releases and a live collection – in addition to his tenure in Billy Bragg’s band and ever-crowded session schedule.

Sadly, Never Say Never has its roots in tragedy – the album is dedicated to McLagan’s late wife, Kim, whose death in a car accident prematurely ended their 28-year marriage in 2006. Fans of McLagan’s sweetly ragged brand of pub rock needn’t worry, though; the album boasts the same proudly imperfect blend of shout-along rockers and boozy ballads you’ve come to expect, starting with the title track, a down-tempo, electric piano-led number that sounds like it could be a new Faces recording.

The highlights pile up like peanut shells at the bar: The seesaw groove of "Little Black Number," the classic rock rave-up of "I Will Follow," the vaguely Hawaiian lilt of "Killing Me with Love," the Felice Brothers cover-in-waiting "My Irish Rose." The album’s only real bum note comes with "Where Angels Hide," a solo piano ballad that exceeds McLagan’s limited vocal grasp. The crooked, one-legged hop of his croon is usually part of McLagan’s charm, but it works better as part of a song’s seasoning than as a lead instrument – something underscored by some of the album’s superior slow songs, like the beautiful, Hammond-laced waltz that closes the album, "When the Crying Is Over," or "Loverman," which almost sounds like a lost Pussy Cats-era Nilsson track.

It won’t attract a lot of attention outside the classic rock faithful, but for anyone who misses the Faces – or the late ‘70s heyday of pub rockers like Nick Lowe – Never Say Never proves the old way of doing things still works wonderfully.

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