Following two releases for Columbia, Stealin' Home is somewhat of a return to form for Ian Matthews. Recorded for Rockburgh Records in the U.K., and co-produced by Matthews, along with label owner and former cohort Sandy Roberton, the album veers away from the tepid jazz-tinged pop of its predecessor, continuing what seemed to be a natural progression that was hinted at with Some Days You Eat the Bear in 1974, and then to a greater degree with the lackluster Go for Broke two years later. The pop and light R&B of Go for Broke is more fully realized here, showing Matthews in a much more flattering light. Once again he chooses a handful of good covers, including songs by Robert Palmer, John Martyn, and Terence Boylan, to round out and complement his own material. It's a nice, pure pop treatment of Boylan's "Shake It," that gave Matthews his first Top 40 hit in over seven years (number 13), but it's a pair of pre-rock & roll numbers that are responsible for two of Stealin' Home's most inspired moments. A warm a cappela arrangement of Rogers and Hammerstein's "Carefully Taught," from the musical South Pacific, evokes both the beauty and depth of the song, while the interpolation of Richard Stekol's contemporary "Yank and Mary" with the old standard "Smile," has a sort of melancholy sweetness. Elsewhere, cuts such as Palmer's "Gimme an Inch," Boylan's "Don't Hang Up Your Dancing Shoes," and Martyn's "Man in the Station" are appealing enough, but seem a bit diluted when placed next to the original versions. Released by Mushroom Records in North America, Stealin' Home is still worth a listen.
Ian Matthews (vocals, guitar) / Jim Russell (guitar) / Duffy Power (harmonica) / Mel Collins, Joel Tepp (saxophone) / Wynder K. Frogg (organ) / Pete Wingfield (keyboards) / Rick Kemp, Bryn Haworth (bass guitar) / Phil Palmer (drums) / Simon Morton (percussion)
Gimme an Inch Girl / Don't Hang up Your Dancing Shoes 8/ King of the Night / Man in the Station / Let There Be Blues / Carefully Taught / Stealin' Home / Shake It / Yank and Mary (Smile) / Slip Away / Sail My Soul