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Brannen, John - 1988 Mystery Street

ARTIST: Brannen, John
ALBUM: Mystery Street
LABEL: Apache Records
SERIAL: D2-71650-2
YEAR: 1988


LINEUP: John Brannen - vocals, guitars * Kenny Greenberg, Warner Hodges - guitars * Dave Kiswiney, Mike Porcaro - bass * Tom Gray - keyboards * Clyde Brooks - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Desolation Angel * 02 Primitive Emotion * 03 The Drifter * 04 Shadows In The Night * 05 Paradise Highway * 06 Dreaming Girl * 07 Mystery Street * 08 The Wild One * 09 Searching For Satisfaction * 10 Twilight Is Over * 11 Running With The Storm


John Brannen is a not so well known figure in melodic rock. Perhaps better known in indie country rock circles in the current day environment, but wind the clock back to 1988 and John was caught up in the glossy over-produced synth riddled world of corporate rock. To some it comes natural, to others, it's like asking to be a chameleon for a short while. Count John Brannen in that group. Born in South Carolina, John loved to travel and play music, and managed to combine a lifestyle of the two, travelling around, pulling up at coastal ports and playing local bars. Sounds to me like John could be the 80's equivalent of Jimmy Buffet.. a musician with a love for the coastal life, all the while being a singer of songs and a teller of tales. On his return to his hometown Charleston, John joined the country band Wheat Ridge and became immersed in that genre. He later signed a recording contract with Capitol Records, and prepared to release this his debut album 'Mystery Street' on Capitol subsidiary Apache Records. The album is a glossy affair strangely enough, taking a leaf out of the pages written by Jimmy Davis and other country-rock crossover acts of time. Vocally, there's a bit of Jeff Paris, Paul Laine and Jon Bon Jovi, but really John can sing to suit the occasion. He has even been compared to Roy Orbison and Bruce Springsteen and some of the dizzying heights they were capable of.

The Songs
John kicks off with the melancholy 'Desolation Angel'. Leading with a spoken word intro, the music builds patiently into a climatic affair that touches on sultry. The big eighties production is noticeable on 'Primitive Emotion' pairing up big drums with raucous guitars. The vocal delivery on 'The Drifter' is impressive, where John displays versatility and emotion amid a backdrop of mid-west sounding hard rock. I swear I can see a wavering horizon and smell the bitumen melting on the road as I listen to 'Paradise Highway'. The sweltering hard rock is enough to head for the nearest fridge! The vocal virtuoso provides further proof of his diverse range on 'Dreaming Girl', the Orbison comparison a good fit really! The title track 'Mystery Street' is one of two AOR sounding tracks onboard - the overall vibe is smooth with keyboards and guitars spiking things up nicely. 'Twilight Is Over' is the other, this one a victim of the glossy eighties sound and sounding slightly nondescript by comparison. The album finishes up with the bouncy 'Running With The Storm'. This track is very similar to material off The Believers 'Extraordinary Life' album, thereby giving you more reference points to work off from.

In Summary
The relationship with Capitol/Apache was short-lived, folding within a year of the release. However, producer David Malloy once again reacquainted himself with John five years later, and helped produced his first big album in 1993 on Mercury Records. Since then, John has released a pair of albums on smaller labels: 'Scarecrow' (Corazon 2000) and 'The Good Thief' (Sly Dog 2004) and is still active within the business. Nice to hear.

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#1 | swazi on January 18 2010 14:52:13
Ha! This is actually one of the AOR/MR releases that got me hooked to this music and CD collecting! And I still love it! Nice review, btw.
His 'The good Thief' release is also very good in my humble opinion.

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