But his talent outweighed his confusion. Gilbert’s 1970 single Nothing Rhymed was the first of 12 hits, two of them No 1s, and possibly the first charting song to mention world hunger. He sang: “When I’m drinking my Bonaparte Shandy [brandy]eating more than enough apple pies, will I look at my screen and see real human beings starve before my eyes?”
Clever pop with haunting lyrics is his forte. These 65 tracks include Alone Again (Naturally), which blends a gentle, melodic melody with suicidal words.
Disgusted, his character promises to treat himself by throwing himself from a nearby tower.
Gilbert is torn apart again by the bittersweet Why Oh Why. But other big hits, Clair, and the still mystifying Ooh-Wakka-Doo-Wakka-Day are less pessimistic.
This collection begins with 1973’s Get Down and ends with Christmas Song, a hit from 1974 with a message that still rings true today. Gilbert does not dream of a white Christmas: “All I dream of all day is a peaceful world.”
His collaborations with KT Tunstall, Mick Hucknall and Peggy Lee are also present and correct.
Gilbert, born in Ireland and raised in Swindon, is often compared to Paul McCartney and Ray Davies because his lyrics use colloquial English and reflect working-class life.
It certainly struck a chord. In 1972, he sold more singles in the UK than any other male solo artist.
At 76, Gilbert’s sales might have declined, but his creative ability had not.
This year’s critically acclaimed Driven album was packed with gems like Blue Anchor Bay.
This three CD box set is a testament to the work ethic, artistry and eccentricity that never left him.
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