This is Stewart's follow up to the mainstream success of his previous album "Bombs Away Dream Babies" (1979).
Stewart had been in the music business for some twenty years, and had fame as a member of The Kingston Trio. But their career waned in the mid-60s and he had been solo since 1968 without mainstream acceptance.
"Mainstream" is the keyword. Stewart always had his audience, his hard core fans, but I suspect mainstream acceptance, or at least a mainstream hit, puts more people in your audience and more money in your bank account.
"Bombs Away Dream Babies" went to #10 in 1979 in the US and three singles made the Top 40, the highest, "Gold" reaching #5.
So, in true music fashion, and what makes perfect common sense anyway, you follow the hit with something that sounds the same.
And, if that wasn't enough, whether it was Stewart or the record label (I suspect the label), the title of this album refers back to the earlier hit and the cover of this album is not dissimilar to the earlier, with the same colour tones and motif in the rose.
The music here is all written and recorded by Stewart post the "Bombs Away" album but the sound is much the same.
In relation to "Bombs Away" I said this, Lindsay Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac "co-produced this album (with Stewart) and called upon many of his L.A. friends (including Stevie Nicks) to come and help. There is a tension throughout the album between Buckingham's slick pop and the ragged, plain sounding honesty of Stewart's voice but it works beautifully if for no other reason than it distinguishes the album from Fleetwood Mac and from all the other soft rock soft cocks who were emulating Fleetwood Mac".
Stewart produces here and tries to do the same here, though without Buckingham (or Nicks) but with more or less the same musicians and some great backing vocalists including Phil Everly, Nicolette Larson, Linda Ronstadt, and Wendy Waldman who were all successful recording artists.
The album tanked.
It reached #85 in the US and produced no hit singles. It was Stewart's last chart placing of his career despite releasing another thirty or so albums.
But, like a lot of albums that slip under the radar because of poor chart performance, this album has more than its fair share of joys on it. This may be singer-songwriter folk with a heavy pop bent but Stewart is aware of that and knows how to keep it from becoming too slick. The era was right as well. As the eighties progressed the pop sounds became slicker, thinner and generally inappropriate for artists like Stewart. Here they are still organic.
What stands out, though, is Stewart's song writing. The guy was prolific which means there were hits and filler. But, even the filler, has a way of fitting in a piece of the whole. Each individual song, regardless of whether it is ultimately a good song or not, has something to say, and that is more than most singer-songwriters achieve. Of course, when he gets it right, as he often does, his songs soar.
Tracks (best in italics)
- Hollywood Dreams – A bouncy rock song with a cynical lyric about the "Hollywood Dream".
- Wind on The River – dreamy folk pop
- Wheels of Thunder – a straight rock song which is convincing and pleasant, and could be a Springsteen outtake.
- Monterey – a beautiful song that starts slow but has a haunting melody.
- (Odin) Spirit of The Water – lots of drama and energetic backing vocals on this one
- Lady of Fame – a good song about beating the "lady of fame"
- The Raven – dramatic but catchy.
- Love Has Tied My Wings – a nice clip clop of a song with some folky country overtones.
- Nightman – keyboards similar to those on "Gold" and with a similar vocal based around short, sharp lines. This isn't as catchy. The electric guitar intrudes a little bit.
- Moonlight Rider – A folky hoedown of a song and pre-empting and anticipating the indie folk of the mid-80s
Underrated and undervalued … I'm keeping it.
- Musicians: Guitars : John Stewart Drums : Russ Kunkel & David Plotshon Bass : Chris Whelen Keyboards : Joey Carbone Percussion : Russ Kunkel, John Stewart & Steve Ross Additional Vocals : Henry Diltz, Phil Everly, Sidney Fox, JoAnn Harris, Nicolette Larson, Linda Ronstadt, Blaise Tosti, Wendy Waldman & Chris Whelen