Robin Millar – Cat’s Eyes (Apcor Books)

Robin Millar entered Apple Studios in 1974 to record his debut LP for Atlantic Records. He was young, ambitious, and driven by the fact that he was going blind. Helping him commit these songs to wax was his brother in-law, Mick Taylor from The Rolling Stones, who produced and played guitar. He likely also helped Millar wrangle up Andy Johns to engineer the record (he’d already engineered albums by Zeppelin, The Stones and Humble Pie, among others); and an A-team of England’s hottest session musicians (Billy Preston, Bobby Keys and Nicky Hopkins). Millar seemed to be on the cusp of a breakthrough when the album wrapped in September of ’74; then in December, Taylor announced he was quitting the Rolling Stones, and without that big selling point, Atlantic lost interest in Millar and with the exception of a single that was released in France, they shelved the album.

Forty-five years later, Cat’s Eyes is finally getting its moment in the sun, with an exclusive release by the Beatles/Apple Records geeks over at Apcor Books. The album largely fits in with the softer side of the McCartney/Nilsson/Badfinger wing of the post-Beatles scene. Everything from the writing, to the musicianship, to the production is as professional as you would expect from the team behind Millar. Despite its power-pop leanings, the best songs on Cat’s Eyes are actually the ones that come closest to glam, at least in sound, if not style. “Catch As Catch Can” (which was the French single) is a potent mix of Stonesy grit and a little bit of Bowie’s “Watch That Man,” while “Hey Jo” and “Sunday” aren’t too far off from the sound of mid-’70s Roxy Music, but other songs don’t fair so well. “Remember,” “Sail Away,” and “The Melody Of Love” are all laughably overwrought tunes with lyrics Richard Marx would likely consider too sappy. Even worse, “By The Way” isn’t actually a bad song, but the song’s lyrics seem to be professing love for a fourteen year-old girl, which is creepy. Yes, those were different times, but still…

Postscript: Millar would eventually go blind and brush off his frustrations with the Cat’s Eyes experience; scoring huge hits as a producer for artists including Sade, The Fine Young Cannibals, and Big Country.