He was described as being ‘too cool’ back in the mid 80’s, but there was more to Texan boy Charlie Sexton than brooding good looks and a swish hair-do.
Written by: gdmonline
ARTIST: Charlie Sexton
ALBUM: Charlie Sexton
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
LINEUP: Charlie Sexton – vocals, guitars * Tony Berg – keyboards, guitars, bass, production * Carmine Rojas – bass * Patrick Warren – chamberlin * Larry Fast – synthesizer * Lenny Pickett – tenor sax * Lino Gomez – baritone sax * Gary Ferguson – drums * David van Tieghem – percussion * Diva Gray, Lani Groves, Robin Clark, Bryan Adams, Tonio K, Rick Danko, Jasmine Villette – backing vocals
TRACK LISTING: 01 Don’t Look Back * 02 Seems So Wrong * 03 Blowing Up Detroit * 04 I Can’t Cry * 05 While You Sleep * 06 For All We Know * 07 Battle Hymn Of The Republic * 08 Question This * 09 Save Yourself * 10 Cry Little Sister
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He was described as being ‘too cool’ back in the mid 80’s, but there was more to Texan boy Charlie Sexton than brooding good looks and a swish hair-do. Sexton presented an unusual set of references for a Texan, given that the media had him worked out as a David Bowie disciple, based on his music before this 1988 album turned up. Having appeared in a video with the Thin White Duke during 1987 probably helped cement that claim.
Not having properly heard and assessed his two prior albums (‘Pictures For Pleasure’ – 1985 self released, ‘Mixed Impressions’ – 1986 MCA Mini album), I can’t really put a label on him, though his big 1986 hit ‘Beat’s So Lonely’ could’ve been Billy Idol without the bleached hair. Certainly the music that you hear from the Austin native on this album is less about traditional Texan rock n roll and more about synth driven pop rock wrapped up in the typical 80’s overblown production values of the era.
‘Don’t Look Back’ is a likeable kickstarter and scenesetter. If you like guys like Glen Burtnick, Tom Kimmel and similar 80’s contemporaries, then you’ll likely find a place for this. ‘Blowing Up Detroit’ will be familiar to trainspotters of all things Crack The Sky and its songwriter John Palumbo. In keeping with the original, this version from Charlie is pretty cranky too.
‘I Can’t Cry’ took some 90 seconds to kick into gear, the driving backbeat keeps things ticking over, plus a fiery guitar solo provides an interesting turn. ‘While You Sleep’ is the obligatory mid-tempo track probably pitched at radio, but not unique nor interesting enough for radio audiences I would suggest. ‘For All We Know’ is much better and operates at a good clip. The track is a co-write with Danny Wilde and Arthur Barrow.
‘Battle Hymn Of The Republic’ is definitely the most interesting track on the album. It’s propelled by lashings of melody and played in a similar vein to Billy Idol and fellow MCA labelmate David Drew. ‘Question This’ was a co-write with power-pop exponent Scott Wilk, a guy we’ve featured here at Glory Daze before. The song itself is quite mellow with a load of shimmering guitars (thank you vibrato pedal effects). You can imagine a band like Crowded House covering this.
Save Yourself’ returns Charlie Sexton to something you’d ordinarily listen to on a bonafide Texan radio station, though it’s not pure Lone Star rock n roll. The last song ‘Cry Little Sister’ comes off like a sweeping anthem, embellished by all those backing vocals. It gets heavier toward the end, but the song feels strangely out of place on this album despite the synth pop/rock overload. It was actually a track found on the ‘Lost Boys’ soundtrack from 1987, and was originally written by Gérard McMahon and Mike Mainieri.
Sexton would go on to release one more mini-album for MCA during 1990 called ‘King Elvis’ which included three 1989 recorded live tracks among the six on offer. Two more private album’s came out in 2005 (Cruel And Gentle Things) and 2006 (Southside Sessions) but nothing of a solo presence beyond that.
However Charlie had been super busy over the years, releasing several albums with the Austin TX band The Arc Angels, several 1995 recordings with the Charlie Sexton Sextet including ‘Under The Wishing Tree’, a lengthy stint as Bob Dylan‘s guitarist which continues to this day.
Charlie is also a member of The Nauts featuring his brother Will Sexton and prominent solo artist Dave Matthews, of which there appears to be no recorded output by the looks of things. Charlie’s solo albums might have some appeal to 80’s fans, but as mentioned above its not typical Texas rock n roll at all, something he would revert to during the 90’s decade.
Don’t Look Back
While You Sleep