Rarely would advice be prudent for an established artist to stick closely to material from a new, mostly unheard album rather than forge ahead through a relatively obscure songbook that has garnered him, at the least, a cult following. But on recordings, Edwyn Collins, the Scottish singer-guitarist known for 1995’s hit “A Girl Like You,” has developed such an engrossing assimilation of mod effects and ’60s soul that the straight-ahead four-chord rock of his youth comes off less than fully realized.
Collins has a tremendous history to draw upon — four albums with his group Orange Juice (disbanded in ’85) and four solo discs — but Tuesday’s show emphasized not only his rugged side, but the ragged edges of his more finely polished work. Quite appropriately, show-opener “The Campaign for Real Rock” (from his Stateside debut “Gorgeous George”) set the tone for the entire evening — easily digestible, mid-’60s-inspired rock ‘n’ roll with piercing guitar solos pushed through a variety of effects.
Collins’ new Setanta/Epic disc “I’m Not Following You” is a delightful melange of groovy and groove, which, not surprisingly, found its way into the “Austin Powers” soundtrack. Disc’s first single, “The Magic Piper (of Love),” with its cleverly placed break and rippling flute stolen from Marvin Gaye’s “Hitchhike,” received a looser, garage-band attack at the Roxy; where there was once horns, there was now guitar. Other new numbers, even those with a beat based on modern hip-hop, were given raw treatments that belied the layered production found on disc.
Collins has long been inspired by ’60s acts that knew exactly how much pop sunshine to add to their rock, and as he opens his palette to include artier abstractions, he needs to bring those elements to the fore in concert as well as on disc.
Sleeve on the new record features a variety of snapshots — lava lamp, a disco 12-inch and a coffee mug bearing the image of legendary Brit producer and sound manipulator Joe Meek; his playful spirit abounds on “I’m Not Following You ,” yet barely reared its head at the Roxy.