Underrated: Paul Carrack

Underrated: Paul Carrack

We've written about underrated lords of rock here before, including such notables as Todd Rundgren HERE and Benjamin Orr of the Cars HERE.  There's somebody else the world should pay homage to, and that is Paul Carrack.  For those who don't know the name, you know the voice.  He's sung "Tempted" by Squeeze, "How Long" by Ace (one-hit wonder), and "Silent Running" by Mike + The Mechanics.  But he's done more than that.  Much more.  Let's take a looksee.

Underrated: Paul Carrack

In England, Carrack is called "The Man With The Golden Voice."  This is true.  As you listen to the tunes below, our Best of Paul Carrack on video, you'll notice how smooth his voice his, how melodic, and how ultimately listenable it is.  The most underrated in rock history?  He's up there.  

Like Ben Orr, Carrack has oftentimes been overshadowed in his career, like singing and playing in bands (Squeeze, Ace, Mike + The Mechanics), and backing other musicians on keyboards (Roger Waters, Nick Lowe, The Pretenders, The Smiths), but he has scored two solo hits.  We'll come back to those.

Chronologically, Carrack's first hit was with the song "How Long," which he co-wrote whilst in the band Ace.  It was a #3 single in the United States in 1974.  Listen...

Do you know it?  If this was a first for you, chances are pretty good that you'll listen again.  As an FYI - it's not about a girl.  It's about a member of the band who was playing with other bands.  Yup, it's the same as your girlfriend or boyfriend cheating on you.  Exactly the same.

It took 6 more years for Carrack to make waves on the charts with his voice, but he did so with "Tempted" by Squeeze in 1981.  Interestingly, as well known as the song is, it was NOT a hit.  It failed to crack the Top 40 in every country where it was released.  No big deal.  The band has done quite well with the song nonetheless.

The next year, Carrack did crack the Top 40, barely, with the solo track "I Need You."  For those Nick Lowe fans out there, you can hear the Lowe influence on arrangement and production.  He and Carrack were actively working together at this time.  This is a bit of the their labor's fruit.

Carrack hit his stride in the mid-'80s.  You can find his voice on a number of hits, from "Silent Running" (1985) with Mike + The Mechanics to "Don't Shed A Tear," his biggest solo hit in 1987 (Top 10 in the U.S.).  Here are both.

You don't hear the latter song on too many Back To The '80s weekends on the radio.  We, however, know better now, don't we?

Here's his voice on a solo track from '87 called "One Good Reason."  It was a Top 40 hit nobody remembers (#38).  Have you been looking at his image ever since "Tempted" in '81?  Note his consistent use of nice clothes and suits.  It's almost like he was a slightly younger Robert Palmer (but only by 2 years).  

In 1989, Carrack hit the motherlode.  Perhaps his greatest vocal performance ever was singing lead vocal for the Mike + The Mechanics track, "The Living Years."  It's one of the greatest songs of the decade because of its arrangement, its production, its lyrics, and, of course, Carrack's voice.  If you're sick of the song, give it one more chance.  Close your eyes and listen to the words.  Pretend this is you, singing about your deceased parent/relative/friend.  You may not cry, but you'll most definitely give the song a little bit more respect.

Something we all most definitely forgot occurred within the context of one of the world's most significant events of the 20th century, the fall of the Berlin Wall.  In 1990, Roger Waters performed Pink Floyd's epic The Wall in Berlin eight months after the wall fell.  Performed with an All-Star cast, the track "Hey You" was sung by Mr. Carrack.  Watch & listen.

Did you notice that the song was performed behind the wall?  How hard would that be for you to sing directly at a wall?  How hard would it be knowing that, behind it, were 250,000 fans, many of whom had spent the majority of their lives waiting for this very moment?

In terms of hits, that's been hit.  Carrack has remained busy for the last 23 years, playing in Ringo Starr's All-Star Band, touring again with Squeeze, writing songs with Timothy B. Schmit and Don Felder of The Eagles, and playing keyboards for Simply Red's Blue album (1998).  

Let's leave our newfound love of Mr. Paul Carrack with two more tracks.  The first is the song "Over My Shoulder," from the 1994 MIke + The Mechanics album Beggar On A Beach Of Gold.  Note how his vocal can make a somewhat below average song to slightly above average.  The next song is "Love Will Keep Us Alive," performed by The Eagles.  This is one of the songs that, while not written with Schmit and Felder (it was written with Jim Capaldi (of the band Traffic and a whole lot more) and Peter Vale), his association with them helped get the album on The Eagles reunion album, Hell Freezes Over.

For those of you who really want to get your Paul Carrack groove on, listen in the background or watch the video below, a 2007 concert Carrack performed in Germany (the country that owned the dastardly wall).  Scroll ahead to about 19 minutes and 30 seconds to hear Carrack's voice on the aforementioned "Love Will Keep Us Alive."

What do you think?  Do you agree, after listening to all of these tracks, that Paul Carrack is one of the Rock era's most underrated talents?  If so, what's your favorite song?  Did we miss a hidden gem you've always loved?  Or, do you think the guy is a hack and the world needs more voices like Lou Reed (who belongs in the Overrated category)?  Let us know, yes?

Dave Philp is Chief Organizer Guy of YouChoose, a live events music fundraising and social media company that has raised many, many thousands of dollars for non-profit causes. Join the good fight and help change your corner of the world by visiting YouChoose now: http://myyouchoose.com/. To sign up for our email newsletter, click HERE. Mmkay?