REVIEW: ‘Crocodile Shoes’ by Jimmy Nail (CD, 1994)


Today’s POP RESCUE is the 1994 album Crocodile Shoes by actor and generally annoyed-looking Jimmy Nail, but would this album fit okay, or is it likely to cause blisters? Read on…

The album starts with title track and lead single Crocodile Shoes – with it’s strumming acoustic guitars, plodding simple beat, and a scattering of harmonica. Jimmy’s vocals feel troublingly high for first line ‘wine, beer, and spirits all the time‘, as he swaggers right into the first verse, but he recovers, and carries on. The little clarinet sections here, really add an almost cheerful and playful layer in what is essentially a downbeat track about loneliness. The song gave him a #4 UK hit single, and was the theme tune to his hit TV series of he same name.

Next up is third and final single Calling Out Your Name, one of Jimmy’s own songs. This song is undeniably taking plenty of echoes from country music, with what also feels like some from Paul McCartney (vocal-wise). Again, there’s plenty of strumming guitars and a simple beat. The melody in the chorus almost feels like it could belong in a psychedelica song from the late 1960s. The song stumbled in the charts, getting stuck at #65 in the UK.

The tempo is up for second single Cowboy Dreams, and we see the accordion and harmonica return. Jimmy’s vocals are warmer and richer here – less miserable. In a way, it doesn’t really sound like him – instead sounding like a long-lost Mark Knopfler track (who he would later collaborate with in 1995). The writer on this track was Paddy McAloon from Prefab Sprout (he’s written three songs on this album), so I wonder if this is what helps shift the tone of the song? This track gave him a #13 UK hit.

Okay, saddle up, it’s time for some unashamed country music in next song Once Upon A Time. There’s some big beats, a bouncy pace that’s hard not to jiggle or foot tap to, and a fiddle in the background helping to keep everything sewn together. Whilst the song is musically bright and cheery, it kind of has a bit of an ending dilemma, and kind of limps out to the fade.

This is followed by Only One Heart which features vocalist Margo Buchanan. The focus on this song is the contrast between Jimmy’s strained vocals against Margo’s delicate and rich vocals. She gets all the best notes – and hits them with great ease. Piano, acoustic guitars, and a wave of strings plod through the backing track. If this song was just sung by Jimmy, it would be pretty hard going, but Margo’s vocals and their harmonies really do lift it.

Bitter And Twisted is up next, and this song takes a more blues turn, and builds quite nicely. Jimmy is once again surrounded by plodding beat and harmonica and the end result is actually quite a nice mid-tempo track despite what the title suggests.

This is followed by Love Will Find Someone For You, which is a slow sad ballad, with Jimmy singing alongside steel guitar, keyboards, and a soft ballad beat. The keyboards mid-section sounds somewhat dated – like a keyboard trumpet from a kids Casio keyboard.. but that aside, this is a reasonably nice plodding ballad song.

As if the last song being loaded with lyrics about an angel wasn’t enough, next song Angel picks the topic up again. However, this time it’s up-beat and almost feels like it should have been a single. There’s plenty here in the verses that remind me of the melody to Getting Away With It by Electronic and Neil Tennant from The Pet Shop Boys. That aside, it really feels oddly out of place – far too pop to sit alongside the rest of this album – but thankfully it made it!

Piano and strings open next song Between A Woman And A Man, sounding almost as if Mariah Carey or Celine Dion are about to take the mic… but no, Jimmy steps us. This gentle ballad gives him a place to show off his softer, less-miserable vocal style, although again at times he’s raspy and dry, and occasionally dangerously treads the line between Jimmy Nail and Kermit the Frog. This could easily be covered and genre-shifted, and despite a few uneasy vocal moments, it’s quite a nice song.

Next up is Don’t Wanna Go Home is a blues rock song, that opens like a Nick Cave sermon meets another Paul McCartney song, but the guitars and piano help to keep this song up-beat. Backing vocalists really add warmth and depth to the vocals, all helping to build this song up, particularly guitarist Phil Palmer, who gets some wonderful solo pieces. The end result is another contender for a good single, but it wasn’t to be.

The album closes with Dragons. This song is pretty percussive, with egg-shakers and an almost bossa nova/calypso beat (i don’t know, if feels disorientating whatever it is). Again, Paddy McAloon from Prefab Sprout is on pen duties here, and it feels like something you might expect to have found on a Go West or a-Ha album from the 80s. It’s a really nice closing track – Jimmy takes the lyrics with great ease, and the scattering of piano and bass guitar make this a nice light ending to the album.

Over all, this album is pretty good. Whilst it focuses on country and blues music (which isn’t particularly my bag)

 

Where is Jimmy Nail now?

Jimmy saw great success with this album, undoubtedly aided by it being a tie-in album for the hit BBC TV series Crocodile Shoes that Jimmy had written and played the lead in, and so as the story of the series unfolded – seeing Nail’s character become a country/blues singer – this album almost stands as the soundtrack and the album by his character.

Just 5 months after the flop of this album’s third single, he released the first of the singles from his next album Big River (1995), which gave him a few more hit singles.

He returned to Crocodile Shoes in 1996 – releasing album Crocodile Shoes II during the second and final series of the TV show.

After the success of his parallel music and TV career, he has failed to achieved the same level of commercial and chart success. His most recent charting single was Blue Beyond The Grey, which stalled at #87 in 1999. His final album was released in 2001, with the self-referencing and somewhat downbeat title 10 Great Songs And An OK Voice. It flopped at #76 despite it consisting of cover versions.

Since 2012, Jimmy has worked with Sting on the latter’s musical The Last Ship. Jimmy starred in it during 2014, until Sting took over his role.

In 2016 it was announced that Jimmy would take a role in the London run of Jeff Wayne’s War Of The Worlds.

POP RESCUE RATING OF ‘CROCODILE SHOES’

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