Downtown - Journey Of A Heart
As most should know, John Waite is one of my all time favourite singers and songwriters. His music means more to me than most artists and I remain passionate about his best work.|
However, I am at a point where I am losing my patience with him as an artist.
Journey Of A Heart is an album of re-recorded Waite "highlights" and for the second time in a row, fans are served up an album that includes a meager 2 new tracks.
But that is not my only frustration. For the second album in a row, another new version of the classic, but over cooked Missing You is included. John has such a rich catalogue of inspiring rockers and heartfelt ballads, but it seems his legacy is being tied to this one track.
And for the second album in a row, one of the two new tracks is a Bob Dylan cover (John's third Dylan cover overall).
It has now been 5 years since the last all-new studio release Figure In A Landscape, itself not a classic, but at least it was all new music. Long time fans deserve something more fulfilling than this.
I honestly don't know who is going to buy this album. I suspect it's only real appeal will be among casual fans in Europe that have not had the desire or the ability to purchase last year's self-released The Hard Way record (which featured several remixes of the Figure In A Landscape album, 2 new tracks and a new acoustic version of Missing You), or the hard to find duo of Temple Bar (bankrupt label) and the original release of Figure In A Landscape (bankrupt label).
The bulk of the material for this release comes from those 3 albums, plus a couple of classic Babys tunes (Isn't It Time and Headfirst) and Bad English's When I See You Smile.
Die hard fans have all but 2 of these songs already, so in their case, they will be looking towards the substance of these new versions to see what spin John has put on them.
That unfortunately unfolds another problem. As the title suggests this is a collection of John's more laid back songs, more ballad friendly and peppered only with a couple of rockers – the two Babys tunes to be precise and the pop/rock of the opening track The Hard Way and the mid-album Keys To Your Heart.
The rest are all laid back ballads. On top of that is the stronger than usual country influence over the music.
You'll hear slide guitar and a country twang on several tracks, such as In Dreams, Downtown and the all-acoustic When I See You Smile.
Missing You in this instance is a duet with country crooner Alison Krausse and is all but a bonafide country ballad.
For long time die-hards fans like myself, there isn't much here that screams essential.
There isn't enough difference between the originals and what's included here - perhaps these are a little more organic and live to tape. The more uptempo conclusion to the classic Downtown is an interesting twist, but aside from that, it is all very straightforward.
Although I don't care for the Dylan cover Highway 61 it is genuinely authentic and Waite's vocal is one of passion and self belief. You can hear that he loves the song and the style of vocal. But I don't see the fans adopting Waite's enthusiasm for the track or the artist.
There remains one high point for me within this album. The other new track is an all new original from the writing partnership that brought you Downtown (perhaps John's best song ever?) and New York City Girl (another classic).
Yes, Glen Burtnik returns with another song and yet another classic from his work with John. St. Patrick's Day has all the passion and beauty of Downtown and is without doubt a stunning track that I believe all Waite fans will adore.
Why don't these two guys just make a record together already??
John Waite doesn't have to be the rocker for me to be satisfied. I just have to hear that voice of conviction and that haunting emotion that was so evident on Temple Bar and on parts of When You Were Mine. This album doesn't have any of that passion.
I mentioned breifly the choice of material. John has such a vast catalogue of unreleased material and I am totally confused as to why none of it has been tapped into. There is at least 15 tracks that are of the same style and feel as Temple Bar - a definite fan favourite. If John was not keen on writing new material for an album, why not tap into those treasures rather than dish up this all too familiar set of songs?
Additionally - if you are going to do a career retrospective, go the distance and fill up the CD. There's another 20 minute of spare time that could have been utilized here. There are only 11 tracks here, as a 35 second instrumental should never be classed as a song. 11 relatively laid back tracks just seems somewhat lazy.
As for the score - well, sound quality isn't in question; the songs themselves are all classics aren't they - but I think the song selection as such is very safe and there is no way I can give the overall album any better than I have, and I think most long time fans will agree.
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