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Dave Ball: Don’t Forget Your Alligator

The man who ran away to join the army returns.

Referring to Dave Ball as the ‘ex-Procol Harum guitarist’ doesn’t really cover it. He served time with them at the start of the 70s but either side of that played with Big Bertha, Long John Baldry and Cozy Powell’s Bedlam, and on a wide range of Jonathan King sessions. Then he joined the army and lived everywhere from Riyadh to Australia.

Now returning to music, on the sleeve to his first solo album he asks, “A labour of love – or an act of desperation? A last-ditch effort before I get too old?” Suffice to say, he’s quite a character. That comes across on a set of songs which leap between jokey wordplay and serious meaning-of-life stuff.

Opener Code Blue is by far the best, with genuinely exhilarating guitar fills and Georgia Wood’s backing vocals colouring a dramatic death-ballad. The title track then lopes in like The Bonzos or The New Vaudeville Band covering Al Bowlly, a mode that is revisited later, perhaps a little too often.

The music’s more likeable when Ball takes himself seriously, as on the psychedelic, Beatles-tinged Dreams Are Free, which cuts the japery and approaches the elegiac. Very English-eccentric, then, and quite charming.