T.J. is a cool guy. I’ve known him for about 13 years now. He was one of my first online buds who turned into a real person by face-to-face interaction.
We have several overlaps of cultural affection, and one of them is rock ‘n’ roll. He’s a bit more into prog than I am, but we’ve always lined up pretty squarely on whether something just flat out sucks or not.
So earlier this week he starts yapping about how good this new Shaw-Blades album Influence is. (That’s Tommy Shaw, as in Styx, and Jack Blades, as in Night Ranger.) I yawned a bit. I was really into arena rock once upon a time, but that day is long past. Then he said it’s an album of covers, and I yawned again–wider.
Well, he loaned it to me today. I looked at the track listing and howled. Surely this is a well-executed joke. The opener is “Summer Breeze,” as in Seals & Crofts. Oh look: there’s “The Sound of Silence” (and “I Am a Rock”!). “For What It’s Worth”? “California Dreamin'”?!?
Sheesh, T.J.–it was a good run we had there, and I still gots mad love for you, but it’s clear you’ve finally lost your mind.
I just knew whatever heyday we had was over. It wouldn’t be Charles, him, and me trekking to Atlanta to see Saxon in a club, or me taking a turn at the wheel of his Jensen Interceptor anymore–it would be me feeding him his puréed spinach or some shit while he spit it all over his bib and babbled to the trees.
Guess what? This is an awesome album. I’m digging the hell out of this, and have ordered it for myself. Dip me a big ol’ helpin’ of that crow, Ma.
Some of them are straight covers (“Summer Breeze,” Steely Dan’s “Dirty Work.”) They experiment with others. Imagine “I Am a Rock” as a post-grunge rocker, or “Your Move” by Yes rendered exclusively in guitar. The vocals are stellar. For the most part they chose harmony-rich songs, and they nailed them all.
The early crown jewel for me is “For What It’s Worth.” I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with this song. I like the melody and lyrics, and the players do a fine job, but the whole thing is thoroughly done in by its tinny production. Now think of the song with a bit more edge to the guitar sound, and a lot of bottom. Mmmmm, good.
It’s easily the most unlikely success I’ve heard so far this year, and said success is unqualified. If you like classic rock, pick this record up.
I’m even warming to their version of “Dance With Me” by Orleans.