RECORD WORLD April 10, 1976

Club Review

Dirk Hamilton: Impressive Imagery

LOS ANGELES — A self-described former San Jose hippie, who is apparently still in touch with his roots, Dirk Hamilton (ABC) is probably the most impressive artist to emerge from this year's crop of new singer/songwriters. His use of imagery in his lyrics and the infectious melodies in which he frames them put him well up there in a league that would also include such eccentrics as Tom Waits, John Prine and Loudon Wainwright. In his first engagement at the Roxy, as an opening act for Ace, Hamilton's mood shifted like a schizoid's from droll facetiousness to riveting intensity. He had little problem in stealing the show outright.

Seated on a stool for the greater part of his set and brandishing an acoustic guitar, Hamilton devoted most of his between-song patter to grousing over pet peeves that included such tried and true whipping posts as glitter rock and the Maharaj-Ji ("Remember him?" asked Hamilton, "he's the fifteen year old Indian guru who grew up and moved to Malibu.") But if some of his targets are not original, the ambiguous, frequently opaque shades of his lyrical barbs never lapsed into cliche; Hamilton has an amazing facility for turning a phrase in the context of his music.

Musically, Hamilton balances the wordiness of his songs with some healthy rock 'n roll, moving the set along at a brisk pace that was remarkably devoid of slow spots. Accompanied by a tight 4-piece section that consisted of Ron Fransen on keyboards, bassist James Rolleston, drummer Ron Aston and Don Evans, an excellent lead guitarist, Hamilton showed his own voice to be an impressive rock 'n roll instrument. Featured in the set, but not exclusively, were cuts from his debut LP, "You Can Sing on the Left or Bark on the Right," which was produced, appropriately enough, by Steely Dan producer Gary Katz and is a major work by what will probably soon be a major artist.

At the close of his initial engagement, Hamilton was held over by the club for an additional two nights as opener for Elliott Murphy.

Ace (Anchor) had recently undergone a changes of personnel and turned in a basically lackluster set that was made only occasionally interesting by their performance of their familiar hit single, "How Long" and a finale titled "Easy." Oddly enough, the band sounds peculiarly Californian for a British band but seems to suffer from the common delusion that being laid-back is in and of itself a virtue.

— Eliot Sekuler