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One week after the March release of Quiet Please . . . The New Best of Nick Lowe (Yep Roc), the British singer-songwriter whose "new best" the album summarizes turned 60. And few veteran performers have aged more gracefully.
He had a head start. After spending most of the 1970s as a member of the pub-rockers Brinsley Schwarz and as a producer for Stiff Records (where he helped launch Elvis Costello), Lowe was already relatively old for a pop star-30-when he notched his only U.S. top-40 hit, the characteristically catchy and clever "Cruel to Be Kind," in 1979.
Besides, he never dyed his prematurely graying mane, not even for MTV, on which by the mid-1980s he'd become a low-rotation staple thanks to the lively, cast-of-dozens videos that Columbia Records (his label at the time) bankrolled for such rambunctiously infectious near-misses as "Half a Boy and Half a Man" and the Huey Lewis--produced Brinsley Schwarz cover "I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock 'n' Roll)."
Those videos and seven others of similar vintage are included on the deluxe e-dition of Quiet Please (along with a 2007 concert in which Lowe wears his grandfatherly demeanor with an enviable elegance). But it's the 49 songs on the two audio discs that make even the regular edition a treat.
They also suggest that Half a Boy and Half a Man may have been a more accurate title. Organized chronologically, the music divides neatly between Lowe's rambunctious early years (Disc 1, solo and with Schwarz and Rockpile) and the period since 1990 (Disc 2, solo and with the one-off super group Little Village), when he reinvented himself as a roots-rock Sinatra, slowing down the tempos, lowering the volume, and speaking eloquently on behalf of anyone determined to put away childish things.