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Articles Home » 1980 Articles » Thorpe, Billy - 1980 21st Century Man
Thorpe, Billy - 1980 21st Century Man

ARTIST: Thorpe, Billy
ALBUM: 21st Century Man
LABEL: Elektra
SERIAL: 6E-294
YEAR: 1980
CD REISSUE: 1993, Mushroom (Australia), D 19768


LINEUP: Billy Thorpe - vocals, guitars, keyboards * Leland Sklar - bass * Gil Matthews - drums * Larry Brown - percussion, piano * Gary Herbig - flutes * Mike Sanders - synthesizer programming * Randy Bishop, Devin Payne, Ronn Price - background vocals

TRACK LISTING: 01 1991 * 02 Solar Dawn * 03 We Were Watching You * 04 21st Century Man * 05 She's Alive * 06 Rise * 07 In My Room


Fresh off a successful U.S. tour with Rush, Australian Billy Thorpe and his album 'Children Of The Sun' was the surprise hit of 1979, but it wasn't the first time Thorpe had hit the charts, In fact he was quite the superstar in Australia with his previous band Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs scoring a number of hit singles. Moving to the States in 1976 led to the 'Children Of The Sun' album, picking up in my opinion where Gary Wright left off, even more so on the follow-up '21st Century Man' where Thorpe can be seen on the inside sleeve looking like a cosmic courier in space suit with laser beam effects. More than likely a record company choice and not his, but was it a case of image taken too far or did Thorpe play it up to the hilt?

The Songs
One look at the lyrics will tell the tale of this album. Space ships, galactic wars, distant worlds, children of the future, a better tomorrow.. you know the rest. The search for a rock 'n' roll Utopia. This album was definitely geared towards the disappearing progressive rock market five years too late. It's a keyboard heavy record reminiscent of fellow Australian's Cybotron, Hawkwind and space cadet Gary Wright's pop and funk sounds. Side one is a concept piece that swirls around at near psychedelic levels, as side two offers more pop with the title track aping Devo-like new wave and in turn is very annoying. 'Rise' borrows heavily from the 'Children Of The Sun' formula but loses much of that hit singles drama, yet the strangest track here is the closing 'In My Room' which is straight rock and nothing to do with the album's concept, sounding almost tacked on by the record company (the space suit wasn't enough?) bringing Thorpe back down to Earth.

In Summary
'21st Century Man' is an uneven, but interesting album that I am sure fans of the commercial side of the progressive scene will find to their liking. Thorpe would release a couple more albums before going into film and commercial work, but unfortunately passed away early in 2007 of a heart attack. A shame and while I have never been a big fan of his music, he had a unique vision and apparently legends of fans for whom I am sure he is greatly missed.

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