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JOHN WAITE
FIGURE IN A LANDSCAPE

Gold Circle Records
Produced by: John Waite & Ed Thacker

Released: August 21 / Website
Relatives: Temple Bar, When You Were Mine
GENRE: AOR
OVERALL: 63%

  1. Keys To Your Heart
  2. Always Be Your Man
  3. Thinking 'Bout You
  4. NYC Girl
  5. Fly
  6. New Thing
  7. Special One
  8. Whenever You Come Around
  9. Touch
  10. Godhead
  11. Masterpiece Of Loneliness

The great thing about John's last two albums was that they both had a collective thread. They had a style, a theme and a personal passion that bound each of the albums together.
Both Temple Bar and When You Were Mine met with mixed reviews from fans and critics alike, but I loved them both. Temple Bar was my favourite of the two. It was a rare personal expose of a man searching for a reason.
When You Were Mine was that man in a happier state of mind, but still searching.
On Figure In A Landscape, John Waite is again searching, but this time for a suitable musical style to call his own, leaving no doubt that he has thrown his arena rock past well and truly behind.
In the end, this leaves the listener somewhat confused and unsatisfied.
Quite a turn around for someone that previously recorded some of the most captivating and lyrically haunting work of any melodic rock artist.
After several years wait, the crux of the matter is that this album feels a little flat.
The more John Mellencamp styled direction that John has chosen doesn't really suit him. The sales for Temple Bar and When You Were Mine may have been disappointing, but at those albums contained a undetractable spirit.
The songs on those two albums were also a lot more personal and attractive to listen to. John's a great storyteller and there are a few fine examples here again, but I find that other parts of this album are unconvincing.
The production style is definitely a major hindrance. On the last 2 albums John employed a 'less is more' style, which worked perfectly with his delivery. On these songs, there seems to be too much musical backing and not as much raw energy and passion.
Keys To Your Heart opens the album in an upbeat happy go lucky fashion. The track is the first single released and is very similar to the first track launched off John's last album, When You Were Mine. It's a upbeat, pop rocker with a sweet Waite vocal, catchy chorus and a mix of both electric and acoustic guitars driving the rhythm.
A change of approach for track two - Always Be Your Man. This track is a great little heartfelt pop ballad that features some guitar and piano work uncannily like old band mates Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain. It's earthy quality, rather than an AOR style, is the only thing separating it from being a classic Bad English ballad.
Track 3 in my humble opinion would have been a much better first single. At least they have a chance to release it as a single now in conjunction with the album's release, because I think it would definitely pick up some airplay and bring some much needed attention to John. Thinking 'Bout You is a cleaver little pop rocker with a modern rock production and a beat not unfamiliar to other mainstream rock acts breaking the Hot 100 in the US. An intelligent rock song and excellent inclusion in the album, hence my surprise it wasn't the first track promoted.
It's also the catchiest and most up-tempo track I have heard John sing since Rover's Return.
The style changes again for NYC Girl, a track that sees the much loved pairing of John with Glen Burtnick again. I would think this song was probably written at the same time these guys wrote the best song from John's Temple Bar - Downtown.
This song mirrors the feel of that track and would have been right at home on Temple Bar. A classy track, although not quite as so as Downtown, but raw and emotion filled nevertheless.
Fly is another song that John has been previewing in his brief live set supporting Journey recently. The song itself is slow to mid tempo and has another earthy Midwestern feel and modern radio friendly production. Generally speaking, it is a stripped back rock ballad with a strong vocal and orchestral backing through the middle and end of the track. A pretty good mid-tempo rock track, but possibly lacking that spark I keep referring to.
New Thing is one of those tracks that doesn't really go anywhere. I hate saying it, as John has never received this complaint from me before. There is just no real interest gained in listening to the song over and over.
Special One is much better. This is an uptempo rock track in the stripped back earthy feel and a happy go lucky chorus and hook that will keep most fans of JW quite content. However, I must add that I had the privilege of hearing the original demo version of this track.
Originally it had a more moody AOR feel, instead of this Midwestern rock style, with considerably more heart and passion. The production style of this album seems to have taken that aspect out of John's voice and the songs themselves. The female backing vocal in the chorus takes away from the song rather than adding to it.
Whenever You Come Around continues the theme of the softer tracks on the album. A little acoustic, a little country feel, a lot of 'soft twang' in the tone. No wonder - the song is written by Vince Gill.
Touch is even softer and more country influenced than Whenever You Come Around! However, in the tradition of tracks from Temple Bar and When You Were Mine, I like this song a lot. Given that some of the other tracks match the tempo of this, it might get lost, but seek it out. A great soft acoustic ballad.
The album's current tempo is turned on it head with the arrival of Godhead. This is a big brash rock track in a style that John hasn't done before. Definitely a hard edged John Mellencamp sound to this song. Great to hear an uptempo track at this point, but it really doesn't do a thing for me at all. In fact, I really don't like the track much at all. The female vocals are somewhat abrasive to my ears.
And before you know it, the album is at it's last track, Masterpiece Of Loneliness. The song contains the lyrics that the album's title was chosen from and is really a masterful song of haunting lyrical content. Another track that would have fit perfectly on Temple Bar, aside from the slightly different production sound.
BOTTOM LINE: Another album that I have been looking forward to for several months only to be let down with the result.
In the face of some indifferent press with the release of his last album, I supported hit wholeheartedly and still do.
With Figure In A Landscape I am less enthusiastic and think it is now time for John to re-think who he wants to appeal to - devoted fans of his classic era material and sound, or a new mature pop audience that may or may not be there?
With the exception of a couple of absolute gems we know John is capable of in his gifted way, the album isn't as inspired as it could have been.
The next album needs a lift in songwriting and unfortunately also in it's delivery.
PRODUCTION: 50% SONGS: 70% VIBE: 60%ATTITUDE: 65%
ESSENTIAL FOR: All John Waite die-hards, but the verdict will be mixed!
DISCOGRAPHY:Ignition . No Brakes . Mask Of Smiles . Rovers Return . Temple Bar . Falling Backwards - Best Of . When You Were Mine . Figure In A Landscape


30/05/04: Chewsmoka - chewsmoka@yahoo.com
Rating: 70
It's strange how many times John has changed styles over the last 10 years. My girlfriend thought this whole CD was a new country artist! Can't blame her, seeing Vince Gill shared a hand in this.I did not like it that much but it was surely better than the dreadful "When You Were Mine". "Keys To Your Heart","Fly",and "Godhead" save this CD, and the only reason it gets an 70 is those 3 songs never get old, no matter how many times I play it.Recommended if you are a die hard fan only, or love "new" country/

07/09/03: jay - imarockjunkie@aol.com
Rating: 85
I'm new here at MR, but, I've read many reviews of albums that I have (or at least have heard.) And if the review is not spot on, it's very close or at least fair and I can understand where it comes from. However, this is the first review I'm inclined to disagree with. This a a great CD. I never was a big John Waite fan; I knew his radio work. However, when I saw him open for Journey a few years ago, that changed. He blew me away, not only with classics, but his new songs. I went home and ordered the album. And , while not matching Vince's version, he admirably covers one of the BEST Vince Gill songs EVER!

30/09/02: REGISBOYLEJR - Regisboylejr2aol>com
Rating: 75
This is not the same Babys/Bad English John Waite. It is more mellow & vocally oriented. It is still very good though. It's cool that he covered a Vince Gill song. Gill is a stunning song writer & it was a wise choice to cover a Gill masterpiece. I also noticed Waite teamed with Gill co-writer Pete Wasner to write the haunting "Masterpiece of Loneliness".

06/05/02: samp - samp@marillion.net
Rating: 80
This is a very good album. period.

25/04/02: freddy de keyzer - freddydekeyzer@hotmail.com
Rating: 55
I feel obliged to give my opinion about the record from one of my all time fave singers. And to put it simple, this is so disappointing ! I hate to say it, but the style John has choosen is laid back pop, not a sign of rock here, and the man has such a brilliant AOR voice (think of the classic Bad English records)!
What a waste of talent ! The songs aren't that bad, but they lack power and passion. It's so safe. If that's John's choice I'm afraid he's lost for the AOR/rock world. Sad but true !

04/02/02: Dag - dejen@c2i.net
Rating: 85

Good to hear John back on the right track.
This albums will satisfy most of his fans.Sure i would love to hear a little more rock ala Bad English,but the songs are great and no way that the production sucks Andrew ,its good ,better than most of todays melodic rock releases.
Giet it

Dag

21/12/01: Susumu - sfuku@d7.dion.ne.jp
Rating: 81
Hey, don't write it off just because he doesn't rock hard as Bad English or previous solo efforts. The album is Inside Job(Don Henley) meets Out of Order(Rod Stewert). It is a fine album
though not as great as Bad English releases. But if you like vocal featured rock such as Rod Stewert, Don Henley, Richard Marx
,Eric Clapton you will love this CD for sure. My #1 favorite is "Always Be Your Man" standout track from this album and Billboard #1 hit caliber. This is one of my best songs of the year. "Fly" now featured on radio is fine as well. "Godhead" "NYC Girl" will find adult contemporary stations' heavy rotation. It is very sentimental album overall and takes time to come into your spine. Upbeat tracks "Key To Your Heart" "Thinking About You" "Special One" are so-so tracks.
First time I heard "Missing You" I didn't feel this song was so much special. It is not as catchy as my fave rock hits at the time Eye Of The Tiger or Jump but as I repeatedly heard this song on the radio I found myself hooked to the song and it eventually became #1. Listenig to these songs in this album just made me remember when I first recognized John Waite.

04/11/01: JOHN - METALMA@AOL.COM
Rating: 0
hello,i think the new john waite is very good.his last cd had nothing to move you like the new cd,some of the songs really grab you close,and you want to keep playing them. thanks

04/10/01: mike - mdulrich@prodigy.net
Rating: 85
I CANT BELIEVE HOW POORLY RATED THIS CD WAS I WONDER IF PART OF AJM'S FRUSTRATION OF NOT BEING ABLE TO GET ANY CONTACT FROM JOHN HAS TO DO WITH THIS WHEN DID JOHN SAY HE WAS GOING TO DO A HARD ROCK ALBUM ,- NEVER HAPPENED ,STRANGE I HEARD FOR MONTHS THAT BON JOVI WAS GOING TO GO BACK TO THERE SLIPPERY DAYS ON THEIR NEW ONE -WHAT A LET DOWN THAT WAS THERE CD WAS ANOTHER OF THE CD BEFORE YET THEY STILL GOT A PRETTY GOOD RATING THIS CD IS FULL OF CATCHY POP HITS FM OR AM AND IF YOU DONT LIKE IT THE FIRST TIME LISTEN TO IT AGAIN IT WILL IMMEADIATLY GROW ON YOU ---YOU CANT RATE MUSIC ON WHAT YOU WANT IT TO BE YOU HAVE TO RATE IT FOR WHAT IT IS THIS IS TRUE JOHN WAITE- STRIPPED DOWN OR NOT THIS IS WHAT HE HAS BEEN DOING FOR YEARS LETS FACE IT MISSING YOU IS HIS BIGGEST HIT AND IT IS NOT ANYTHING CLOSE TO A ROCKER ITS JUST A GREAT BALLED THIS NEW CD HAS PLENTY OF GREAT MUSIC ON IT AND IF JOHN WAITE FEELS HE WANTS TO STAY TRUE TO HIMSELF THEN SO BE IT THIS IS A GREAT CD TO ADD TO ANYONES COLLECTION A CLASSIC YOU MAY NOT PLAY AIR GUITAR TO IT BUT YOU WILL FIND YOURSELF REMEMBERING ALL THE WORDS TO THESE GREAT MELODIES GO OUT AND GET THIS CD YOU WILL BE GLAD YOU DID!

03/10/01: koogles - progrocknerd@aol.com
Rating: 88
John Waite is one of the few arena rockers of yore who is still refining his songwriting craft. Rather than re-hash old Babys riffs, John aims for maturity and depth. He finds both on "Figure in a Landscape" which bears all the consistency of the wonderous "Temple Bar", learning from the stylistically uneven "When You Were Mine". This is a great CD that gets better with repeated listens. John's voice is in fine form and the stripped down production suits the acoustic nature of the music herein. Just because it doesn't ROCK, don't write this gem off as a weak entry in the JW catalog.

07/09/01: Glen Odin - gmcmillan@vtown.com.au
Rating: 95
I have to strongly disagree with Andrews review of this album and say that it is easily John Waites most consistent solo album since Mask Of Smiles. Compared to the last 2 releases this one has better songs, production and a better more inspired vocal performance. Songs like Keys To Your Heart, Special One, Godhead and Fly are particularly impressive whilst Touch and New Thing are some of his best ballads yet. In a nutshell John Waite is still GOD!

31/08/01: Mike Leigh - rockkid@altavista.com
Rating: 90
I was really looking forward to Figure in a Landscape, after seeing JW with Journey this summer. As usual, JW doesn't disapoint on Figure. Much like his last 2 releases, John follows his stripped down, back to basics formula.

I hear LOTS of hits for American A/C radio on this new cd, most notably Keys To Your Heart,Special One,Thinking About You, NYC Girl & the awesome Fly.

The production is just a bit more "stripped down" then his previous 2 releases, but in some ways a good thing, as it shows what a truly gifted, emotional,& unique, singer that John is, with much less "effects" on the vocals, than his previous offerings.

This is a must have cd, for those that love Temple Bar, & When You Were Mine.

If there is any criticism to this cd, is that it lacks some rock & roll punch, that we have come to love from John. This record does lean to the softer US A/C radio side, but you don't really mind because JW's delivery is classic,inspiring, heartfelt, & real.

I can tell from just a few listenings,that this will be in my CD player for sometime to come!!

28/08/01: Robert - rstupay@hotmail.com
Rating: 90
I read the reviews of this latest John Waite CD and quite honestly, I'm shocked to say the least. This has got to be the finest work JW has released in years. What John has effectively done here,that he was not able to accomplish on the dreary and melancholy Temple Bar and When You Were Mine,is build a bridge between his AOR past and his folk rocking present. Figure In a Landscape does just that. John is not 25 anymore and we cannot expect 'Missing You' or 'When I See You Smile' everytime he makes an album. Most of Waites solo material lacks the "punch' that is talked about in these other reviews. However, I believe that this album evokes as much emotion and passion, if not more, than his previous two outings.

There are about four songs on each Temple Bar and When You Were Mine that I feel acheive what JW is capable of. The rest of those albums are filled with monotonous country tunes that I only enjoy because John is singing them. To be perfectly honest, I'd probably get emotional hearing him sing Happy Birthday, but I digress.

John offers us anthems such as Keys To Your Heart and Thinkin' Bout You. He gives us raw power ballad imagery in NYC Girl and Always Be Your Man (a Bad English-style ballad that is only missing Ron Nevison's production to make it just that). And for those that actually loved the stripped back passion of songs like Show Me How To Love You, Suicide Life, and In Dreams, John counters with Fly, Touch and Whenever You Come Around (a Vince Gill cover).

Vocally and lyrically, John Waite fans shouldn't be complaining. Song-by-song, this is quite possibly the best Waite has ever done. Many of his earlier works sound relatively dated with the exception of a few gems here and there. This album has the makings of a masterpiece from beginning to end.

If you cherish great vocals, superior songwriting, and beautiful melodies...or if you dare call yourself a real John Waite fan (yes, even The Babys!) then this disc is essential for your collection. Sorry to disagree with so many of you, but I'm willing to accept the criticism for a CD that I feel is well worth it.

28/08/01: michel - michel.roy3@freesbee.fr
Rating: 80
Figure is certainly one of the best solo's albums of JW. Mixing great ballads and mi-tempo with more rythm JW come back to a interesting sound.
Production is good with country, but also modern influence. A great album for the summer!

23/08/01: Dave O\'Leary - hgwy407@earthlink.net
Rating: 80
I have been a John Waite fan since 1979. I have been very dissapointed with his post Bad English work. As a general rule he has only been good for one to three good songs per album. This album I find to be a much better effort, however it still lacks in overall "punch." Gone, for the most part, are the slick uptempo pop and rock songs Waite had been known for. However, there are at least tow of those songs on this album, Special One and Thinking About You are reminiscent of the excellent Waite songs of the past. Keys To Your Heart, Masterpiece of Loneliness and the awesome Fly are well worth the price of admission. Always Be your man is a fairly good track as well, it would be an even better song if not for Waite's tendency to force to many words into a line. The rest of the disc is made up of sappy, uninspired filler. Overall a much better album than Waite has come up with since his Bad English days, now if we can only convince him to give us a decent rock/pop disc with only one or two ballads. Oh, well I can only dream.

22/08/01: Mr. C - cerollins@hotmail.com
Rating: 74
After having listened thru JW's last two albums, I had already accepted that at this stage in his career, he is more concerned with appealing to his own personal tastes than those of his "old school" fans (Babys, Bad English, early solo work, etc.),and as an artist that is certainly his perogative. That being said, I listened to this latest album with no expectation of a return to the more "rock oriented" material of earlier days, which I personally favor, but determined that I would judge it on it's own merit.

"Keys To Your Heart" opens the album with an upbeat pop tune that seems fairly average to me. "Always Be Your Man" is a distinctive ballad that does remind one of earlier classic JW compositions . "Thinking 'Bout You" is unquestionably the gem of the album, very memorable chorus and different upbeat modern rock/pop feel from what you typically hear JW doing, yet perfectly suited to his vocal style. It would make a great single (what is the record company thinking?) and it mixed very nicely into his live set when I saw JW opening for Journey. "NYC Girl" is good, but to me sounds like a couple hundred other JW ballads- a good song but nothing distinctive that adds anything new to the library. "Fly" is one of the better tracks on the album, a mid tempo rock ballad with a great vocal and musical performance and lyric. "New Thing" is the first of the throwaway songs on the album. An attempt to do something different, it fails to be interesting on any level. "Special One" is a good song, but again as with NYC Girl, doesn't leave a major new impression beyond that.
"Whenever You Come Around" is just another nice soft ballad that makes no major impression as a lyric or composition. "Touch" is the same type of song, but much better and more memeorable all around.
"Godhead" is the second of the throwaway songs on the album. Another attempt to do something different, the only good thing I can say for it is at least it picks up the tempo a bit, but JW this song is not well suited to JW vocal style- or to the rest of the album for that matter. The last track, "Masterpiece Of Loneliness" is a masterpiece piano ballad with strong lyric or composition and is the kind of serious, unhappy ballad that allows JW's style to really shine.

In conclusion, for fans of JW's last 2 albums,"Figure In A Landscape" continues in a similar style -stripped back, and leaning heavily on the mellow ballad material. Fortunately, JW has always been an excellent stylist who can put a song across with his distinctive delivery and emotion. Frankly, he does so here as well and I find no fault with his vocal performance. I also fail to understand objections to the production, at least from a quality standpoint. Granted it is a stripped back style, but no more so than the last album, but it is of a high standard and the instrumentation seems appropriate to the songs. The songs themselves are where I find myself most disappointed with the album. The material falls into the same "average" category that so many other albums suffer from. Out of 11 songs, 2-3 are great, 3-4 more are ok, and 2-3 are a waste. Aside from those 2-3 great new tunes, there's not much here to get really excited about.

PRODUCTION: 85% SONGS: 70% VIBE: 70% ATTITUDE: 70%

22/08/01: Kevin - kgp129@netzero.net
Rating: 75
Some fine tracks caught my attention on this one. Not as strong as his other post Bad English releases. "Fly", "Special One" and "Keys to your Heart" are great songs. I like the acoustic/electric guitar sound he has been incorporating in his music on the last few releases. He still has one of the finest voices in rock & roll.


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