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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



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