Nicky Hopkins was a virtuoso pianist/keyboard player who accompanied the very best bands of the 1960’s and 70’s. Rolling Stones Exile on Main Street; you’ll see him credited there. With the Beatles on “Revolution,” he’s the keyboard guy. Hopkins sat in with the Kinks in 1966, was onstage with the Jefferson Airplane at Woodstock, and worked with artists as diverse as Qucksilver Messenger Service, Harry Nilsson and Carly Simon.
When I was in college I picked up a copy of Hopkins’ 1975 No More Changes cut-out at Peaches records out on 56th and Pacific Ave. in Tacoma. I’d heard of him and wanted to give his work a try, and considering it was only $1.99, what the heck. Ah, those were the days.
It was terrible. Hopkins was a very weak vocalist, and the album featured mostly him. It became a no-go that languished in my Peaches crate for years and eventually left home with my son, or the Goodwill man, or some equally terrible fate.
But I ran across another entry for Hopkins in Allmusic.com, The Tin Man Was a Dreamer, that received generally favorable reviews. I ordered it from a Discog seller last week and it arrived in the mail today. I gave it a listen.
Generally it’s a pretty interesting record because Hopkins gets lots of help from his friends. George Harrison sits in on guitar, credited as George O’Hara. Artist/bassist Klaus Voorman adds some depth to the songs.
Generally Hopkins does best when the song features his piano or organ work. The instrumental “Edward” and the rocking “Pig’s Lament” are quite good. When his singing requires more precision or strength, that’s when things fall apart. His voice is often pitchy and thin. Even so, the haunting ballad “Dolly” is the strongest song on the album, and is quite good. Really an enjoyable record and I’ll definitely give it another listen.
According to his Allmusic.com biography, Hopkins was reluctant to tour, preferring work in the studio. Wikipedia shares that Hopkins suffered from Crohn’s Disease, and his early death resulted from complications from surgery related to that condition. He died at age 50 in 1994.
The Tin Man Was a Dreamer is not a brilliant album, but it certainly has its very good moments, and offers a deeper look inside an important musician’s considerable talents