Something Else! sneak peek: Denny Laine, “Last Laugh” (2013)

What ever happened, you say, to Denny Laine — the guy who helped found two instantly recognizable bands, the Moody Blues and then Wings, before virtually disappearing? Good question.

He was, after all, the voice of the Moodys’ breakthrough 1964 hit “Go Now.” He appeared on every album ever issued by Paul McCartney’s post-Beatles band, co-writing Wings’ 1977 smash “Mull of Kintyre” — the first-ever two-million-selling UK single. Then, poof. Laine’s name has popped up, here and there, at Beatles-related conventions and such. There has also been a seemingly endless recycling of music from his time with McCartney, including a solo tribute album — but even that was in 1999. Laine’s last original project dates back to the year before, Artic Song.

Since, there’s been nothing to build upon a legacy that includes Wings originals like 1973’s “No Words”; 1976’s “Time to Hide”; five tracks on 1978’s London Town, including the title song; and 1979’s “Again and Again and Again” — not to mention stirring vocal turns on 1965’s The Magnificent Moodies and Wings tunes like 1975’s “Spirits of Ancient Egypt” and 1976’s “Note You Never Wrote.”

That could be changing, though. There has been talk of a new Laine studio album, to be called Valley of Dreams, going at least as far back as 2010. At last, it seems, sounds from this on-going project are emerging: “Last Laugh,” posted yesterday, finds Laine in a ruminative moment, performing at first with not much more than a quiet and plaintive piano figure. But this isn’t a sad recrimination, or even an obvious moment of nostalgia.

Laine instead traverses a series of writerly, well-constructed memories amid gently swelling strings, only giving way for a series of tasteful, contained guitar asides. The results smartly sidestep the treacly, conveying a complex moment of longing — one colored by a mature sense of what’s been left behind.

And they make clear the talent that still remains, despite Laine’s lengthy absence from a larger stage. If “Last Laugh” is indicative of what’s in store on his long-awaited new solo project, this looks like a complete return to form.

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Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.