It's amazing what time can do for a reputation. These days fondly remembered for epitomising the positive side of the punk ethic, Wreckless Eric not only struggled to sell records in what passes for his heyday but was also dismissed by the music press. There again, as a component of the Stiff package tour, he had stiff competition (ouch). Elvis Costello was IT in those days and taken seriously. Eric, by comparison, was the black sheep, the shambolic musical vagrant of the label. And with Ian Dury (his hero and there are similarities in style here and there) making rapid progress, Eric was some way down the pecking order. Even Nick Lowe and The Damned were making more headway.
But a friend of mine took the plunge and bought his second album. When he lent it to me I was pleasantly surprised. It was erratic but there were some gems. I kept listening in particular to 'The Final Taxi', strangely compelled by Eric's casual but pointed message about death. While those late 1970s albums were fitful, this CD gathers up the best of the material into one marvellous bonanza.
The first four tracks establish what made him worth listening to. Occasional later tracks, such as 'A Pop Song', sound a little more like other artists, a bit too straight. It's the ragged Eric who combs the seedy back streets of music while retaining a catchy melody and a sense of humour that works best. After 'A Pop Song', this contrast is most evident with 'Personal Hygiene' ('Who's that pimple in the mirror?'). Very wholesome. There are only a few tracks here that disappoint ('Waxworks' definitely and to a lesser extent 'Grown Ups' and 'Out Of The Blue'). Even the straighter stuff is commendable and the rest is superb.
A highly enjoyable collection.