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For the Love of Charlie

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Album Review

In the United States, Charlie Gracie's career peaked in 1957 with the single "Butterfly," which rose to the top of the charts and earned him appearances on American Bandstand and The Ed Sullivan Show. Gracie enjoyed longer-lived success in England, where he was only the second American rock act to tour the U.K., and he remains a legend in his hometown of Philadelphia, where he's celebrated as the city's first rock star. While Gracie's well-scrubbed sound and style seemed pale compared to the likes of Elvis Presley or Gene Vincent, he was a far more exciting singer than such Philly-bred teen idols as Frankie Avalon or Fabian, and he was an agile guitar player to boot. Gracie has continued to record studio material for small labels over the years and has issued a handful of live albums, but rather remarkably, For the Love of Charlie is the first proper album from Gracie to receive a nationwide release. Time has worn a bit of the sheen off Gracie's voice, but he still sounds commanding and energetic, and his skills on the guitar are impressive. However, Al Kooper produced and arranged ten of the album's 12 tracks, and considering his well-deserved status as a legendary studio hand, it's surprising to report that he inarguably drops the ball. Kooper appears to have relied on an especially cheesy-sounding synthesizer setup to provide much of the accompaniment on these sessions (including some egregiously clanky electronic percussion), and this album doesn't sound like a throwback to the 1950s or an effort to bring Gracie into the 21st century — For the Love of Charlie most closely recalls a set of demos cut in the mid-'80s, a sound that does Gracie no favors at all. On the tracks where Gracie sounds like he's working with a real band (particularly the last two songs, produced by Quentin Jones and Tom "T-Bone" Edmonds), he delivers the goods as an aging but eager rock & roller who still has some good miles left in him, and they make one wish that someone else had been behind the boards for the rest of these sessions. Despite the presence of some other high-profile Gracie fans (including Graham Nash, former Herman's Hermits leader Peter Noone, and Jimmy Vivino, the leader of Conan O'Brien's band), For the Love of Charlie doesn't give this veteran rocker (who was 75 when this the album was released) the showcase he deserves; let's hope he ends up in the studio with more sympathetic handlers before he wears out his rock & roll shoes.


Born: May 14, 1936 in Philadelphia, PA

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '00s

Charlie Gracie was Philadelphia's first rock & roll star, the first successful artist on that city's famed Cameo Records, an early regular on American Bandstand, and a skilled rockabilly-style guitarist. He is best known for the 1957 hit single "Butterfly," which rose to number one on the Billboard charts. His popularity was also significant in the U.K. and his lingering influence there is such that his praises have been sung by the likes of Paul McCartney (who covered "Fabulous," one of Gracie's...
Full Bio
For the Love of Charlie, Charlie Gracie
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