Monday, February 25, 2013
It's All About The Frontman
Following two fantastic releases, "Diamond Head," his solo debut and "801 Live," the punk/prog masterpiece, Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera parlayed his new band 801 into a much bigger though not necessarily better project, the studio release "Listen Now."
All of the parts are there. The great drummers Dave Mattacks and Simon Phillips, Tim Finn & Eddie Rayner of Split Enz (who Manzanera would go on to produce), 5cc (Lol Creme & Kevin Godley), Roxy alum Brian Eno & Eddie Jobson, and of course Manzanera's nifty guitar work and unique musical mix that is equal parts rock, glam, funk, punk, classical, prog and jazz. (No really.) One problem--Simon Ainley, a lead vocalist with about as much flavor and pizzazz as a mouthful of beach sand.
On 1975's "Diamond Head," Manzanera handed vocal duties over to Brian Eno, John Wetton and Robert Wyatt, three very distinct voices. On "Listen Now," it's all up to Ainley, with the superior singers Godley, Creme, and Finn relegated to background. (Ol' Phil must have heard what we heard and bumped up Tim Finn to lead for the next record "K-Scope.")
Musically, there is a lot to get excited about on "Listen Now," yet it too often gets sabotaged by the drab stylings of Ainley. But not the first single, "Flight 19." Released 35 years ago, and I am pretty sure that's how long it's been since I heard it, "Flight 19" should have been a hit. Maybe even for 10cc or Split Enz.