Best known now as the host of a long-running music show on British television, the flamboyant pianist — a cigar-chomping hustler able to energize even the most blasé audience — provided much of the zest on Squeeze’s first three albums. For his solo debut, Jools adopted a less contemporary stance, playing old-fashioned bar-room romps with energy and panache. Produced by Glyn Johns, the record contains one classic oldie (“Bumble Boogie”) and rollicking originals, some co-written with Chris Difford.
Leaving his Millionaires behind, Rock’a’Boogie Billy reunites Holland with once-and-future Squeeze drummer Gilson Lavis; otherwise, the self-produced album was recorded solo “at the back room of Holland’s home (which accounts for the authentic sound).” The eight tracks, including four Difford collaborations and the old “Flip, Flop & Fly,” offer more rustic uptempo friskiness soaked with American barrelhouse and ragtime atmosphere — imagine a young Jerry Lee Lewis in prime condition with no religious hangups. Turn it up and hoist a few!
When Squeeze reformed in 1985, Holland was back in the piano seat, and stayed through the group’s ’89 tour documented on A Round and a Bout. With instrumental assists from his ex-bandmates and numerous other artisans, World of His Own provides an impressive sampling of Holland’s various talents. There’s Squeezy synth-pop, plenty of boogie-woogie, some horn-fed R&B, even a New Orleans-cum-ska version of the Lee Dorsey-Allen Toussaint classic “Holy Cow.” To top it off, Holland throws in a bizarre but captivating modern instrumental number featuring keyboards, pedal steel and harp (the stringed kind). Really wild, Jools! Unlike Holland’s past albums, which always had something of a novelty feel, World of His Own is serious fun, and by far his best solo record yet.