After separating from Capitol Records following the release of Tell The Truth in 1993, a relationship that had encompassed his entire solo career starting in 1980 with the release of Tale of the Tape and lasting for 8 albums, Billy rode off into the sunset and apparent retirement. That is until 1998 when out of the blue (pun intended) he released Happy Blue, an all acoustic independent disc. The end of the 1990’s saw the beginning of the still on going revival of all things 1980’s. But this album was quite a departure from the one time king of the arena rock movement. It is evident from the first track, “Happy Blues”, an acoustic blues romp. Casual Squier fans may not find this set of tunes to their liking if they are expecting Emotions In Motion era rock. For more hard-core Billy fans this disc was a wonderful surprise. Not that we didn’t already appreciate his ability to write quality songs that could shine through in this stripped down approach, perhaps it was more that the record was an unexpected gift from a seemingly retired rock idol. Songs like “If You Would Hate Me Less, I’d Love You More” were as good as any ballad that had appeared on earlier Squier offerings. He offers up an amazing cover of Joni Mitchell’s “River”. But my absolute favorite cut on this record is “More Than Words Can Say“, a beautiful acoustic offering that is a reminder that, despite speaker blaring classics like Everybody Wants You and Lonely Is The Night, Squier is a top shelf Johnny Walker Blue style songwriter (more than words can say or the sweetest song that I can play….more than words can say …try hard though I may…more than words can say…more than every passing day..more than words can say…I love you now). For most, and this is a hard one to argue, the gem of this album is “Stroke Me Blues” a bluesy acoustic reworking of Billy’s classic “The Stroke”, this alone is reason enough to pick up this disc. It has been 13 years since this was offered up and as a huge fan of Billy Squier, I hope that The Knight Rocker brings more new music soon. One can only hope.
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