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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Neal Smith

Pop 85-95

Review by Gary Hill

This collection has some real strong points. There was a certain sound that was prevalent in the 80s, and it's pretty well represented on a lot of these songs, lending a bit of a dated feeling to it a lot of the time. Still, it all manages to hold up pretty well. Neal Smith is probably best known as the drummer for the original Alice Cooper band, but he's done quite a bit of stuff since then, including being part of the band Billion Dollar Babies and playing with the Plasmatics, in addition to his solo work.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2021  Volume 4. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2021.

Track by Track Review
If I Only Had You
There is a real 80s groove as this gets underway. The rhythm section seems pretty dated, but the rocking music and vocal delivery have a more timeless rock quality to them.
Dying To Love You
More of a slow moving, nearly balladic tune, this has some of that 80s music vibe, too. The cut works pretty well. While there is some of that dated element, it's less obvious than on the previous tune.
Secret Eyes
I love the soaring guitar solo on this tune. While the sound on this number is still very much trademark 80s music, the piece is more mature and effective than the two openers.
Love Sets The Night On Fire
A keyboard-dominated arrangement opens this. The vocals come in over that as the main part of the backdrop. This makes me think of some of the 80s metal ballads, but there is a bit of an awkward vibe to it. It also works to a rockabilly kind of thing at times. The guitar takes a more prominent role later in the number. The more rocking it gets, the less awkward it feels.
Distant Drum
Another that starts with a keyboard based element, this works better in the opening movement than the last track did. This number stays more in one zone, as compared the previous piece, though. I don't think that overall it works as well as that one.
I Wanna Be Good, But I Don't Know How
Now, this energetic rocker is much stronger. It has some real hooks. I'm reminded just a little something Billy Idol might do. It's a one of the highlights of this set. The instrumental movement is more melodic and reflective and even leans toward progressive rock.
Love Can Run, Love Can Hide
A driving rocker, this has solid hooks along with a raw, unpolished edge. I can make out hints of the keyboard-laden era of Van Halen along with more of that Billy Idol thing.
In A Heartbeat
There is an edgy kind of pop rocking texture to this. It's not a big change from the rest here, but has some charms. The sound is definitely on the dated side, though, largely from the keyboards over the top of the whole thing.
Fly Home Sweet Angel
I dig the hard rocking, yet slow moving, grind of this tune. Well, it's perhaps less slow as it is mid-tempo. There are hints of 1950s rock along with some definite hair metal edges. This one of the best tunes here.
I Love You To Death
Old school rock and roll merges with a punky edge on this energetic rocker. It's got some catchy hooks and is another highlight of the set.
All My Eyes Can
I dig the piano on this cut, and the whole arrangement has some real magic in it. There is a dated edge, but overall this holds up pretty well. It has some of those old-school rock and roll vibes to it in some ways. It's more of a powered up ballad. I don't think it's a highlight of the set, but it's solid.
 
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