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In black and white terms, there are two types of X Factor / American Idol artist - those who hit, and those who miss. Adam Lambert - runner-up on the 2009 series of American Idol, has the temerity to dance in the greyscale between those extremes.

At the time of writing, Lambert's largely unproven in the UK, but seems doggedly determined to circumnavigate the compositional clichés of most Simon Cowell-affiliated acts. Ergo: if it’s lung-busting ballads and high-tempo R'n'B you’re after, listen elsewhere.

For Your Entertainment - a No.3 album in the US, and expanded with five additional tracks for UK release - finds the patently gifted vocalist collaborating with an assembled cast guaranteed to make every other reality show starlet green with envy.

Rob Cavallo acts as producer on several songs - that’s Rob Cavallo of Paramore, Green Day, and Avril Lavinge fame (and *ahem*, Paris Hilton) - and writers include Matt Bellamy of Muse, Pink, Linda Perry, Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic, Rivers Cuomo of Weezer, Justin Hawkins (The Darkness, remember?), and Lady Gaga (yep, the most notorious pop sensation since Madonna contributes "Fever", all sass an' fizz and pop an' sizzle, like Mika taken hostage by the Scissor Sisters and given a dressing up).

The Tedder-penned tracks are obvious from their processed drum beats, but there’s a solidity to "Sleepwalker" that’s comparable to Keane’s commendable consistency, while Lambert co-write "Aftermath" is a gently rousing rocker that Tom Chaplin would be proud to call his own.

Similarly eager to tightrope-walk across the blurry rock/pop divide is boisterous bonus number "Time for Miracles" - think a post-op Leona Lewis possessed by the spirit of Bon Scott - and "Music Again", which features the unmistakeable glam-stomp touch of Hawkins.

Although it hovers around Queen’s histrionics, the Bellamy-written "Soaked" drives straight into the heart of a Freddie Mercury show-stopper, with Eastern vibes and dramatic strings that wouldn’t sound out-of-place on Muse’s latest opus of interstellar indulgence. And "Broken Open" is a glitch-riddled closer that comes across like an effective American Idol adaptation of Thom Yorke.

For Your Entertainment has its moments of misery too - "Sure Fire Winners" is an uncomfortable slice of misjudged braggadocio, and "Master Plan" sounds like the soundtrack to a cola ad - but for the most part the album is a trove of surprises. That nothing sounds like an obvious hit single only adds to its appeal.

Rated: no rating
by Reviewer: BBC Music

Posted: Sunday 23rd Jul 2017 1:08 PM
Recent album review
Spirit - Feedback (1972)

Even overlooking the band line-up listed on the album sleeve, the first few seconds of Feedback is sufficient to tell this isn't the Spirit of previous albums. Texas accent? Uncomplicated guitar playing? Female backing singers? What's going on here?

The fact was, the previous album Twelve Dreams had not been an immediate success, and the band came apart in its wake ... California left to pursue a solo career, and Ferguson and Andes formed Jo Jo Gunne to pursue harder rock. Thus - left without guitar and bass - remaining members Locke and Cassidy welcomed aboard a pair of Texan brothers, Al and Christian Staehely.

As a consequence of that, a band whose identity had been built on eclecticism became mostly wedded to a single genre - blues/rock. One can understand the attraction of the Staehely brothers - they played the right instruments pretty well, Al could write songs, and they already understood each other’s style.

Al’s lyrics are surprisingly varied as well. The opening “Chelsea Girls” is about NYC’s Hotel Chelsea, and contains references to Dylan Thomas and Andy Warhol, so - no cultural tunnel-vision there. There's even a satire of the New South in “Cadillac Cowboys”, which mocks white-collar cowboys.

Beyond that however, the songs deal more with the usual you-look-so-fine-babe subject matter that most Hard Rock bands addressed in the 1970's - the titles betray that - “Ripe and Ready” / “Earth Shaker” / “Witch” - with “Earth Shaker” taking the prize for Sweet bread baker - bake my cake, and you’ll make a sale, although it isn't too bad otherwise. Every time Christian solos on guitar though, the ghost of Randy California lingers, causing me to wonder what might have been.

The other musical factor is Locke, whose detailed and prominent keyboard parts makes the band sound like Nicky Hopkins sitting in with the James Gang , especially on “Darkness”. Also, his two decent instrumental tracks - “Puesta Del Scam” and “Trancas Fog-Out” - retain Spirit’s old magic by melding jazz and rock. However, those songs seem at odds with the unironic rock of the Staehelys, who nonetheless acquit themselves well in each area.

In the end, even though David Briggs’ production is fine and the album sounds good, it all washes out as fungible 70's rock.

Rated: album ratingalbum ratingalbum ratingalbum ratingalbum ratingalbum ratingalbum rating
by Reviewer: Obscurity

Posted: Sunday 23rd Jul 2017 9:02 PM
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