You're right, of course. Seeing his popularity slump must have been trying. In his later years Lonnie seemed to be searching wildly for something to record that might rekindle his career. Nothing did, as we know, but some of his efforts were splendid.
I think his musical range increased as the years wore on and he tackled songs that, in the mid-fifties, would never have occurred to him. The truth was that he was a great singer and could interpret and deliver a song and make you listen.
I agree with John Peel's assessment; I've often wondered if, in fact, Lonnie ever really knew how good his best recordings were and what elevated them above more mediocre pop music. In my view his later over-embellished arrangements of, for example, 'Rock Island Line' are a case in point. How on earth could he have thought that they were an improvement on the sparse efficacy of his original? I wonder if he simply wrote off his old records as 'old hat', and threw out the baby with the bath-water, as the saying goes?
As for his 1976 LP (produced by Adam Faith), well, I can hardly listen to it. Almost nothing remains of the quality inherent in the early work. Perhaps everyone felt the need to justify the presence of all of those 'luminary' rock celebrities and turn those simple and elegant songs into rock anthems complete with self-indulgent solos all over the place.
But then, if they hadn't changed things, what was the point of doing the album at all?
I don't mean to be harsh with him - I still have a great regard for the quality of his work when he was at his best and he remains my biggest musical influence. Seeing him 'live' in 1958 at the Finsbury Park Empire convinced me that playing music in some form or another was all I wanted to do for my living and, so far, it seems to have worked out!
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