I Can Dream
Fanfare Records / Sony
Max Merritt is remembered for his anthem, Slipping Away. The 1975 Kiwi hit would have been enough to have him remembered forever, it continues to pop up in film and TV soundtracks, and in bars when last drinks are called. But there was a career either side of that. He was a rock’n’roller turned soul man, and a move to Australia in the late 60s had him establish an audience there ahead of another move – to America – in the early 1980s.
He slipped away from us late last year aged 79.
I Can Dream is the first posthumous release, his final studio album. It arrives with full family blessing and captures the final songs he had worked up over the last two decades. Five of the songs come from sessions that took place between 2014 and 2020 – there are two songs from Colin Hay’s studio (including one co-write) in 2018 and the material goes as far back as 2002. The ten songs here are all written by or co-written by Merritt.
He’s in great voice and it’s the sort of blues-tinged pop you have heard in recent years from Eric Clapton and Robbie Robertson.
The opening, title track, sets a tone – a wistful vocal that has some of John Hiatt’s growl to it and balladry that won’t surprise you as coming from the same pen and voice as Slipping Away (Stay With Me offering essentially the alternate take).
Medicine Man and Failing Light have a bit of Midge Marsden to them, the latter most definitely wouldn’t be out of place on a Robbie Robertson album.
Sunbury, the co-write with Hay, looks back to the Australian pop festival of the 70s and captures faded memories. It actually feels like a Pete Townshend song from recent Who records, all underpinning acoustic guitar and proud vocal.
I’m not in love with this album at all – but it’s nice. Really nice. Nice is a shit word, some people think but sometimes it’s the very best word. This is as nice (and good) as a final Max Merritt record could be. It shows the man forever in good voice with a tune in his heart always. That’s fitting.
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