Rock Survivor (Asia)

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aec.imt5070328.2
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Review Text This 17-song compilation of music from the founding member of the Moody Blues and participant in Wings/Ginger Baker's Air Force is actually quite pleasant and superior to the longer collections where some of this material was culled. Brian Hines, in his Denny Laine persona, is quite an enigma -- a superbly talented musician whose laziness kept him from achieving superstardom on his own. "On the Radio" has a tremendous hook, and substantial vocals, as does the track which precedes it, the opener "All I Want Is Freedom," and the song that follows, "Rescue My World." Record exec Don Rubin, who was instrumental in Ronnie Spector's '80s signing to Columbia, felt that Denny Laine was the only musician in the world who could equal Steve Winwood's comeback status around the time of his "Higher Love." His instincts here were accurate, but Laine was his own worst enemy. "Rescue My World" cries for a Russ Titelman to add more than the MIDI production which inhibits mass consumption. Yet another go at Bessie Bank's "Go Now," this version not as solid as those by Paul McCartney's Wings or the Moody Blues -- if you're going to go that route, why not rearrange or change the tempo, á la Neil Sedaka, Rob Grill, or Burton Cummings, breathing new life into old hits? Laine is content to rest on his laurels, no matter how time keeps chipping away what laurels he has left, and what could be a stunning work by a master craftsman is a decent outing by someone who owes the world a bit more enthusiasm. "I Would Always Smile" is early Wings from 1973 and the Japanese Tears/Weep For Love collections, featuring Paul & Linda McCartney, Denny Seiwell, and Henry McCullouch -- the tragedy here is that Laine didn't produce more great music like this for his many solo opportunities with Wings. If Pete Best is the unluckiest guy in rock music, Denny Laine would have to be the most ungrateful. Paul McCartney offered him a forum to present his voice to the world, and, instead, he opts for cheap compilations like Retro Music's 1995 CD Go Now, released the same year as this Griffin label's collection. Paul McCartney plays bass and co-writes the exquisite "Send Me the Heart," the third of four tracks from the Takoma/EMI release Japanese Tears. The moody (no pun intended) "Who Moved the World" is taken from 1982's Anyone Can Fly album, and has strings right from the Sound of Philadelphia. "Light on the Water" borrows heavily from "Say You Don't Mind," the Denny Laine composition which hit for Colin Blunstone, and it's not a bad sequel, though the electronics tend to bog it down. All the material on this compilation was taken from three albums, 1980s Weep for Love (released in the U.S. in 1983 as Japanese Tears), 1982's Anyone Can Fly, and the 1990 release from Belgium/Holland, All I Want Is Freedom. The tunes "Running Round in Circles," "Anyone Can Fly," and "Who Moved the World" are taken from Anyone Can Fly, while the four titles already mentioned, taken from Japanese Tears, would make the ten other tracks all from the rare All I Want Is Freedom disc. That being said, both the Rock Survivor, featuring Paul McCartney, and Go Now compilations fail to give decent liner notes, and suffer from poor tracking -- the material is totally scattered on Rock Survivor, sad to say, very much like Denny Laine's career. It is essential a Denny Laine boxed set find its way into release, which should include material from Balls, the band signed to Jimmy Miller's early-1970s label, Electric String Band, Wings, the Moody Blues, Air Force, and some of this solo material. No matter how he has mismanaged his career, the prostitution of his music on these small indy imprints, with little or no commentary, is outrageous, and needs to be corrected. Rock Survivor is a good album, but could have been so much more, and, this time, the fault was not with the artist. On a purely musical level, though, it is still entertaining. ~ Joe Viglione

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Release Date
12/19/05 

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