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John Waite
Downtown - Journey Of A Heart
Frontiers Records
FRCD293
Produced By: John Waite, Scott Bagget, Linda Blum Huntington

Running Time: 51.36

Release Date: July 7

Released:

Musical Style: AOR / Melodic Rock

Links: Frontiers
66%
Songs: 80%
Sound: 90%
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?
The Bottom Line
I don't hear or feel John's true essence on this record. Apart from the Dylan cover and St Patrick's Day, I think he is going through the motions. He sounds bored and personally I will stick with the original versions of all of these tracks. I don't think any of these are better than they once were.
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.
Discography / Previously Reviewed
Ignition
No Brakes
Mask Of Smiles
Rovers Return
Temple Bar
Falling Backwards - Best Of
When You Were Mine
Figure In A Landscape
The Hard Way
Downtown: Journey Of A Heart

Line Up:
Various
Essential For Fans Of:
John Waite
Track Listing
The Hard Way
In Dreams
Blue Venus
Missing You
Keys To Your Heart
New York City Girl
Highway 61
Isn't It Time
St. Patrick's Day *
Headfirst
Downtown
When I See You Smile
--*Best Tracks


06/08/06: pierre - toot@toto.fr
Rating: 50
I am from france and I've seen the two european dates of Waites tour in Holland.Like in his show,it seems that john has turned his back to the rock songs.Why not much of bad english(straight to your heart,love burns,get U back in my life..),much of super Waite (mr wonderfull,temptation,euroshima...
hard time for long time fans...

03/08/06: Tim - WaiteRocks@aol.com
Rating: 80
In the interest of full disclosure, I am a huge Waite fan, having most, if not all of the material he has ever released. With that backdrop, I just received the new album and here are some initial thoughts.

The "Missing You" duet with Alison Krauss is better than I had expected. I have no music business experience whatsoever but in my opinion if this isn't released to country radio then I think a huge opportunity is being overlooked. A great way to get John's voice out to the masses and a nice buildup to a future new album.

Other highlights include the remakes of "In Dreams", "Downtown", and "When I See You Smile" --- all very smooth and I especially like the country feel on "Downtown." Listening to "When I See You Smile" takes me back to the several acoustic live sets that I have seen John play over the past few years.

It was also nice to hear the rocker in John come out with revamped versions of "Isn't it Time" and "Headfirst." It is easy to imagine yourself at some small venue with Waite rockin' the house.

Nothing real special about "The Hard Way", "Keys to Your Heart", and "New York City Girl". Good songs but nothing to write home about with these versions.

The blusey Dylan "Highway 61" is probably a better song when played live. I just didn't get much out of this one.

Saving the best for last, I have to say that "St. Patrick's Day" is superb. Great lyrics, great vocals, and an overall great sound. Glen Burtnik and Waite collaborated on a true gem --- a classic JW song that demonstrates his true talent.

While I would have preferred an album of all new material, I think this release has some excellent elements, brings together some outstanding musicians and showcases the abilities of a singer/songwriter who continues to go underappreciated.

25/07/06: NIGE - nige@warh.freeserve.co.uk
Rating: 80
How do you get an average of 66% from Songs 80% and Sound 90%?
I agree that it's a bit of a ripoff but still far superior to a lot of the crap out there!
St.Patrick's Day is worth the admission price alone.The guy writes lyrics others can only dream about.I also particularly like the acoustic version of When I See You Smile.
All the best Nige.

18/07/06: Scott - grossout@tampabay.rr.com
Rating: 54
I echo much of the same that has been printed above... It seems that John is in a bad situation, business wise. I'm just guessing, but maybe his last two albums didn't get the distribution he was hoping for and there weren't enough units sold to make a complete new album worth the investment for a label like Frontiers... As far as the dedicated followers of Mr. Waite's career, the lack of new material is VERY frustrating. The thing that keeps me in the mix is that what new songs there are, they're GOOD!
The rumor has been that John has been planning on a live album next. I just don't know how much people want to pay for the same songs over again, live or otherwise. John an incredibly talented guy with great musical instincts. Hopefully, he can find a rich, creative vein and produce a full album of new material that a label would want to invest in. He's MUCH too talented not to be recording.

17/07/06: John - ryderrocks@yahoo.com
Rating: 35
I have been a John Waite fan since the third Babys record - I have seen him with the Babys opening for various bands - then solo on tour for Ignition, No Brakes , Mask of Smiles before semi dissappearing before Bad English who I got to see them opening for Whitesnake- always great (if not always a short performance) - Ive continued to be a die hard fan - driving from NY to Penn and NJ to see him over the past few years many many times - acoustic or full band always a delight(but short) - I would love to hear something new but this CD represents what The Hard Way did - a new tune and re hashes - WTF - The Hard Way was a great song and then you feel ripped off paying for a CD of the same stuff I already have - This CD what is he thinking???? I want to hear John play country and Dylan songs like I wanna hear Ozzy play Barry Manilow songs!!!! How many times are you gonna record and release Missing You??? Its a great great song but...????? What next an opera version??? Most everything on this cd is well not what you want from John Waite but I guess at this point he figures forget moving forward and just keep the same old songs over and over and over...yeah I bought it first day out cause he is my musical idol - Why cant he continue in the vein of Temple Bar, When You Were Mine - with some luck you have a chance of a song catching someones new ear and a new fan - this stands no chance of anything but milking the die hards - for the first time I dont think Ill go and see him live since I dont want to hear these versions of these great songs!!! What happened to a live rocking CD!!!! What happened to some new stuff - John your fans are not fans of Dylan or country twangy music - What are you doing??????? Over the past few years Ive turned so many people on to John - mostly my brother and his wife who always said "The Babys??? thats garbage...who calls a band the Babys" Needless to say Valentine was there wedding song and they drive hours to see and meet him over and over - they called me to say they bought this cd and are shocked at how off it sounds...other friends who became huge fans and remained and love Bar and Mine have begun to turn off from john due to nothing new and Dylan?????????????? Actually Id rather hear John play Manilow songs than Dylan - well as Union Jacks, No Brakes, Ignition, Bad English, Bar, and Mine have all remained in my car and continously played - this will stay home with Hard Way - the only difference is Hard Way has at least one good new John song (which i burned to a cd with the live cd) - This CD is so soft and mellonchaly (cant spell) that you wish it wasnt John Waite...yeah John i know your older and mellowed as i have but this...maybe grandma would like???? PLEASE John NEW MATERIAL NEW MATERIAL enough - I am Missing You please get Back on your Feet and Change!!!!!!!!!!! Then youll See Us Smile......


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