Lee Brilleaux - Rock ’N’ Roll Gentleman album review

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Cover art for Lee Brilleaux - Rock ’N’ Roll Gentleman album

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The name of this band is Dr Feelgood. Lee Brilleaux was their singer from their early- 70s Canvey Island beginnings to their demise in 1994 after his death. And this four-CD anthology takes its title from a recent book about the gentleman. So hey.

Like all the best groups, Dr Feelgood were more than the sum of their parts. For the first few years, they were nearly twice that as guitarist Wilko Johnson cannoned off Brilleaux, with his urgent vocals, matching harmonica and a driving rhythm section. The eight tracks from their 1975 debut Down By The Jetty show their uncompromising stance in mono.

Malpractice later that year plundered the R&B catalogue that had inspired the Stones and their ilk a decade earlier. It all came together on 1976’s live Stupidity, which for many remains the band’s peak, highlighted by the title track and Johnson’s Back In The Night. But temperamental differences were driving Brilleaux and Johnson apart and after 1977’s Sneakin’ Suspicion, Johnson split.

So that’s the first CD and there’s no way the other three can compete. After a shaky start, new guitarist John Mayo settles in and enjoys the radio friendly renaissance producer Richard Gottehrer brought on 1978’s Private Practice album. But they weren’t made for the 80s and by the start of the third disc, Mayo is gone and the band are struggling.

After the rhythm section quit, Brilleaux got back to what he knew best on 1984’s Doctors Orders and they’re almost full circle by the fourth disc, which ends with Brilleaux’s final gig.

Hugh Fielder

Hugh Fielder has been writing about music for 47 years. Actually 58 if you include the essay he wrote about the Rolling Stones in exchange for taking time off school to see them at the Ipswich Gaumont in 1964. He was news editor of Sounds magazine from 1975 to 1992 and editor of Tower Records Top magazine from 1992 to 2001. Since then he has been freelance. He has interviewed the great, the good and the not so good and written books about some of them. His favourite possession is a piece of columnar basalt he brought back from Iceland.