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Secret Steps - 1985 Confidential



ARTIST: Secret Steps
ALBUM: Confidential
LABEL: Impaxx
SERIAL: IPX 777-1155
YEAR: 1985

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

LINEUP: Ronnie Sena - guitar * Bobby Gordon - drums, backing vocals * Brian Stabile - vocals, keyboards * Michael Corsi - guitar, backing vocals * Mark Lederer - bass

TRACK LISTING: 01 Lie To Myself * 02 Confidential * 03 Not Tonight * 04 Going Nowhere Fast * 05 Separate Ways * 06 Adventure * 07 I Can't Wait Anymore * 08 Don't Say A Word


Background
Recently Eric updated us on the myth that surrounded the Wisconsin band White Lie, with the 1980 release 'True Confessions', actually instead of being an AOR classic it was merely cheap bar band rock, while Secret Steps is not a similar sounding album, I too was also fooled. Not for the first time I might add, by a description of this being 'really catchy AOR ala Cinema, Avenue and rare'. Well let's look at the evidence, very much an AOR cover, private label, song titles like 'Separate Ways' and 'Not Tonight' all the hallmarks of a great find, getting excited!, well sorry to disappoint. What we have here is an album that has more in common with Duran Duran than Danger Danger (tried to keep the double DD connection). The back cover shots show us the culprits, actually they are probably bemused by the coverage but seem to have spent more time over their haircuts and hair colouring than providing AOR melodies. As the five of them are pictured peering through the same wire fence last seen in Kim Wilde's, 'Kids In America' and Toto's 'Rosanna'. They actually sway more to the new wave style, never really even reaching the hi-tech AOR genre. So bearing all the above in mind, let's investigate what we actually have the (mis)fortune to hear.


The Songs
We kick off with 'Lie to Myself' which is a relatively good start; with its pulsating crunching riff it has shades of early U2 and The Cult. The chorus is also fairly pleasing to the ear although maybe too close to the Generation X classic, 'Dancing With Myself'. Also you can mention The Bravery who released a very fine album a couple of years again as a good reference point.

The title track, 'Confidential' follows and the keyboard introduction has been ripped from the pages of Duran Duran, with footnotes from Billy Idol. It's a satisfying song. If you were to put Secret Steps on the New Romantic spectrum they would be heading more to the technical and accomplished bands rather than the 'pop' standard. It finishes with a nice guitar solo rather than a saxophone solo which reaffirms their position on the line.

'Hot Tonight' and the guitar takes a major presence, the vocals have a slight drawl to them, although more electronic drums than thundering bass drums.

'Going Nowhere Fast', with constant Billy Idol impressions, but the vocalist hasn't got the brashness to raise a curled lip. Brian Stabile is well short of the necessary menace. It's not for the want of trying as Ronnie Sena is forever fighting against the unimaginative keyboards and the drum machine influence; it is obvious that Ronnie had some talent for the 6 string.

With side two, I was hoping of an album of two halves, I regret the second is very much like the first.

Opening with 'Separate Ways', actually I'll take the chance here to let you know that Brian and Mike Corse re-surfaced under the name of The Secrets, I have checked a couple of their tunes on MySpace and they have more in common with Elvis Costello and The Kinks, although intriguely one of their MySpace friends is no other than Steve Augeri, once of Journey. However that's the only link to Journey as this 'Separate Ways' (in fact The Secrets have also gone their separate ways) is a self composition. It is back to the drum machine styling and is probably the weakest song on offer. It really makes the point of where their influences lie, in 80's pop. It would probably sound not out of place on one of those dodgy Beverly Hills movies.

'Adventure' is where the group actually stretch themselves and amazingly become more adventurous (you knew that was coming!). It is a very capable tune with clever lyrics, catchy chorus and Andy Summers (The Police) chords every now and then. This is also a chance for Brian to shine and to give his best performance and if The Bravery ever needed a cover tune as an encore, this would be it.

So after the initial storm of 'Adventure' the record starts to peter out with the arrival of 'I Can't Wait Anymore'. This has a much more pop input and hints of Elvis Costello, especially in Brian's phrasing of some of the lyrics, even a touch of Buddy Holly.

We finish with 'Don't Say A Word', which is basically an instrumental of the title track, with the odd mention of confidential. More than just filling in time it does come across similar to Wang Chung, maybe from a deleted scene from the 'To Live and Die In L.A' film, hence the Wang Chung connection and does provide a credible closing list of credits to this album.


In Summary
I remember buying the album at a record fair, I had initially returned home without it and spent some time going through endless catalogues to trace it being mentioned, which I found, being the quote earlier in the review. This meant a quick return up the dual carriageway (no 8 line freeways here ), 30 mile round trip (remember this is England, which is small!), parking on double yellow lines, with a 1 month baby in tow, rushed in and made my purchase, just as the record fair was closing. This could be behind my reasoning to why I wasn't that impressed on my first listen. Hopefully I haven't knocked it too much, it remains a great curiosity and I would not part it from my collection. Actually after my initial disappointment I have grown to like it as long as you accept it for what it is. Well hopefully this album no longer stays confidential and the secret is out and with the recent announcement of the reforming of Spandau Ballet and the recent success of the retro sounding White Lies (notice I'm sort of where I started, although I am referring to the new UK group) you never know it might spark some interest in the Secret Steps camp to perhaps have another go..


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Comments
#1 | super80boy on May 21 2013 03:04:13
Granted it's not melodic AOR rock, but if you like to dabble in the new wave synth rock genre, then this is a cool little private press obscurity with generous helpings of catchy arrangements and tons of of energy. The standout track would be the melancholic title track. And the jacket artwork gets a gold star.
 
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