BY LEE ZIMMERMAN
As its only surviving member, Joey Molland’s had an understandably difficult time establishing a solo identity that’s clear and apart from his lingering legacy with Badfinger. Not that he’s blameless in that regard; in recent years he’s toured on the oldie circuit under the name Joey Molland’s Badfinger. That said, Return To Memphis not only represents Molland’s best individual effort to date, but also one that best defines him beyond the power pop confines of his former ensemble.
While a handful of songs bring Badfinger to mind in less specific ways – –those being the plucky rockers “Frank and Me” and “All I Need Is Love,” as well as the patently dramatic “Got a Feeling” – – Return To Memphis mostly finds Molland coming into his own as an elder statesman of sorts. His voice is huskier, his outlook well weathered, and if any comparison is especially appropriate, it would be in a certain newfound similarity to Ian Hunter, particularly when it comes to such stately piano ballads as “Hero” and “Walk Out in the Rain,” and the wailing refrain of the album’s final entry, “Still I Love You.”
Still, make no mistake. Unlike Paul Rodgers’ recent cover collection, The Royal Sessions, Return to Memphis isn’t a literal salute to any specific signposts, musical or otherwise. His small, taut backing band and producer Carl “Blue” Wise may make Memphis’ Royal Studios their home, but even so, Molland avoids retracing rarified standards or deliberately bowing to the city’s soulful sound. If anything, the new environs have given him a new freedom of expression and the creative impetus to let his own workmanlike stance take flight. Consequently, one can only hope this is only the first of many satisfying “returns.”
DOWNLOAD: “Frank and Me,” “Still I Love You,” “Got a Feeling”