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American Tears - 1977 Powerhouse

ARTIST: American Tears
ALBUM: Powerhouse
LABEL: Columbia
SERIAL: FRCD 027, PC34676
YEAR: 1977
CD REISSUE: 1999, Frontiers (Italy), FRCD 027 * 2009, Sony (Japan), MICP-10799


LINEUP: Craig Evan Brooks - guitars, vocals * Mark Mangold - keyboards, vocals * Glenn Kithcart - drums, percussion * Kirk Powers - bass, vocals

TRACK LISTING: 01 Slow Train * 02 Promise To Be Free * 03 Listen (Can You Feel It) * 04 Lookin' For Love * 05 Can't Keep From Cryin' * 06 Don't Give It Away * 07 Say You'll Stay * 08 Last Chance For Love * 09 Born To Love

'Powerhouse' was the final and most satisfying of American Tears trio of albums principally because it was a prototype of the late, great, sorely lamented Touch (R.I.P.). As most of our readers are no doubt aware, Touch's debut is a defining moment of 80's Pomp/AOR which is still universally feted by the melodic rock community some 25 years after it's original release. American Tears debut 'Branded Bad' and it's follow up 'Tear Gas' were rather turgid examples of early 1970's progressive rock, which like a trip to the dentist are best avoided. Whereas fine wine or whiskey improves with the passage of time, the same cannot be said for these albums. They're best left languishing in the mid 1970's where they belong. American Tears had originally operated as a trio, and it wasn't until the band was re-vamped for 'Powerhouse', and in particular Craig Brooks augmented the line-up, that American Tears began to look like the finished article, hinting at future glories.

The Songs
Opener 'Slow Train' kicks off proceedings, being fairly indicative of mid/late 1970's hard rock and if you'll pardon the pun, chugs along in a fairly pedestrian manner. It's a pleasant enough listen, though hardly earth shattering, the sheer quality of the vocal harmonies between Messr's Brooks, Mangold and Powers, elevating it to above average status. The ballad 'Jesse Please' evokes comparison with 'Love Don't Fail Me Now' from Touch's debut, but if I'm being honest it lacks the crescendo of biting guitar and vocal pyrotechnics displayed by Craig Brooks on the latter. 'Listen Can You Feel It', however does not disappoint and is one of the best tracks on offer here. Weighing in at a hefty 7 minutes plus, it is slightly different in arrangement from the revamped Touch version however no less effective as a result. The subdued melancholic opening evolving into the kind of guitar/keyboard fuelled romp all Touch fans know and love. Side one closer 'Lookin' For Love' is full of late 1970's period charm exhibiting some nice guitar runs from Craig Brooks and oodles of atmospheric keyboards from Mark Mangold. Side two opens on a promising note with 'Can't Keep From Cryin' - the keyboard intro is lifted straight from the Angel song book and the song has a suitably overblown pompous chorus. This proves to be a false dawn though when followed by the uninspiring 'Don't Give It Away' - 'plodding' rather than 'exhilarating' is the first adjective that springs to mind. The hard driving 'Say You'll Stay' is infinitely better, it's polished harmonies contrasting nicely with the rough and ready guitar. Finally we're 'treated' (please note the use of irony here) to the original version of 'Last Chance For Love', which is laboured at best, the band sound like they performed this whilst under the influence of heavy sedation. Even allowing for the passage of time, it still fares badly alongside the turbo-charged Touch version.

In Summary
I was always a big fan of Craig Brooks rough'n'ready guitar sound which was the perfect foil for Mark Mangold's keyboard pyrotechnics. Brooks was also highly adept at trading lead and harmony vocals with Mangold and for these reasons it was a match made in (AOR) heaven. I don't think Mark Mangold was ever able to reproduce the same chemistry again, even with Al Fritsch in Drive She Said. With 'Powerhouse' It's therefore interesting to hear the fledging Brooks/Mangold partnership before it blossomed several years later. However, I suspect this album's appeal is limited to die-hard Touch fans who no doubt already have the CD re-release in their collections.

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#1 | Jez on January 27 2007 11:27:30
If your a Mark Mangold or Touch fan this is essential, as there are a couple of tracks that made it onto the infamous Touch s/t album. Worth getting for those alone. The rest of the album has it's moments too, so overall a worthwhile disc to track down.
#2 | rostoned on May 08 2008 14:58:41
The new japanese only edition of Touch 'The complete works' on Shanatriek comes with a DVD which features AMERICAN TEARS (not Touch) in studio in 1977 (without an audience) performing all the songs from 'Powerhouse'! Since the shooting was intended at the time as a promo material to showcase the band, and given the absence of videoclips as we know them today, unfortunately it's a full playback performance, not live.
#3 | Eric on July 27 2008 22:58:21
The best of the three American Tears albums, but how many times has this been reissued???
#4 | rostoned on July 28 2008 06:01:22
This has been reissued just once (on Frontiers), it's the TOUCH album which has had (maybe too) many reprints...
#5 | Eric on July 28 2008 13:50:01
Uh- I have the Japanese reissue too, plus I think there was another label other than Frontiers who picked it up...
#6 | rostoned on July 28 2008 16:14:31
This is surprising, I was damn sure that the japanese had rereleased just AT's debut (which I have) and not this. Never seen one, must be quite rare. And you might be correct Eric, it looks like there's another edition of 'Powerhouse' released in 1999 by Neh Records... I am writing to Mark Mangold for a complete breakdown on these since he directly licensed these titles.
#7 | Eric on July 28 2008 19:32:14
That was it- NEH! All three AT albums were released in Japan- I think.
#8 | rostoned on July 28 2008 20:30:21
Spot on Eric! I can now confirm that all 3 were previously issued on CD in Japan, Branded Bad as early as the beginning of the 90s (bought a copy there in 1993) and the other two later. On Amazon u can find scans of jap covers with OBI. The Neh editions were very probably the Frontiers one just distributed by them, if you check it NEH still has those 3 CDs for sale at a reasonable price. Mark Mangold himself wrote me today and he didnt have a clue about those jap editions... helpless
#9 | gdazegod on November 29 2009 07:34:19
I had a look on Musicstack. Certainly Frontiers reissued it in 1999, along with another label it would seem, a label called Orchard Records. Never heard of them. A newer Jap reissue was done just this year (2009), I don't have details of earlier Jap reissues, anyone with any details, I'll tag them on this review. Thanks.
#10 | super80boy on March 10 2013 15:19:10
This was a enjoyable listen. Picked it up at a local record store and remembered it was reviewed here. The original insert has a cool picture of Fritz Lang's Metropolis which fits the Powerhouse theme.

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