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Articles Home » 2008 Articles » Spina And Sullivan - 2008 12 By 8 By 2
Spina And Sullivan - 2008 12 By 8 By 2

ARTIST: Spina & Sullivan
ALBUM: 12 By 8 By 2
LABEL: Retrospect Records
YEAR: 2008


LINEUP: Rich Spina and Billy Sullivan - all Instruments, vocals * Guests - Bill Pettijohn, Kim Rittwage, Jeff Varga, Sean Sweeney, John Dean

TRACK LISTING: 01 Kimberly I'm Callin' * 02 I Can't Wait * 03 Take All The Pain (Multiply By Ten) * 04 The Look In Your Eyes * 05 Waking Up Without You * 06 Nowhere Fast * 07 (You Gotta) Lonely Night * 08 Nikki's Got A Girlfriend * 09 Passing Strangers * 10 No Place Left To Hide * 11 Dream With You * 12 Kalispell/Is It Love?


This album was originally released in 1992, but has only recently been made available again through Retrospect Records. While one half of the duo in Billy Sullivan being a new name for me the other half, Rich Spina may be a little familiar. Actually he had somewhat been lost in my memory, even though I have a couple of albums he appeared on already in my collection. Rich was centre stage with the group Love Affair/L.A who released a couple of albums in the early eighties on Radio Records. I understand these two and the third unreleased have all now been released on CD by the aforementioned Retrospect. My earlier ignorance of Rich goes someway of what I felt about the two Love Affair albums, I rarely played them and on closer inspection recently they don't come close in terms of quality of this release; however I do appreciate the debut more than I once did. I'm sure Love Affair will be covered at some point in the future but I am going to concentrate on this fine collaboration.

The Songs
This release does show a change of direction from the Love Affair albums with a number of excellent AOR tunes. The first of which is 'Kimberly' that has a close liaison with Shooting Star, not the pomp era of this group but more of the AOR that they were peddling on 'Silent Scream'. So not surprisingly the vocals here are close to Gary West. It is quite a remarkable AOR number; this girl's name has the exact number of syllables. This can be coupled with 'I Can't Wait' with its increase tempo provides what could be used as a film soundtrack, in the vision of Stan Bush and Robert Tepper. They provide a great selection of tunes for anyone who enjoys lightweight, happy AOR tunes. Before I mention the other storming tracks and ones that provide differing styles, it's not all plain sailing. There are at least 3 tracks that don't quite work for me. 'Take All The Pain' comes across as a poor REO Speedwagon inspired ballad, no soaring passions on display here. I found this to be similar to 'I Need You So' from the 'Doyawanna' album. It seems very tepid throughout and you find you are waiting for the killer punch, but it is never thrown, choosing to keep behind a safe rear guard. Much can be said about the tracks that have the introduction of guest vocalists. 'Lonely Night' introduces Bill Pettijohn, while being an up tempo number that mixes Billy Idol with 38 Special which results in an odd alliance and 'Dream With You' we are joined by Kim Rittwage, with both songs, the use of these vocalists don't seem to gel and hence the album loses momentum. The performances on the later track remind me of an end of a pier seaside variety show, something I have never been keen on. It's a shame because 'Dream With You' continues the Shooting Star theme but falls from the sky in a big heap.

'The Look In Your Eyes' is playing the same field as Alias and RTZ, another quality tune, mid tempo melodic rocker. Each verse just alters enough to carry on the right course. In fact you can anticipate how the song is going to develop, it's text book aor. What is interesting about this one and 'Passing Strangers' which is another belter, is that they have a common thread running through them being that both have an avalanche of Boston inspired guitars falling from the speakers, it's actually quite refreshing to hear and really a nice tribute to these pioneers of AOR. 'Waking Up Without You' has a Steve Perry beginning, like he is crying over spilt milk (or maybe he has stubbed his toe on a door!). Anyway, it forms another lightweight AOR number with trimmings of Zappacosta, with a fine sprinkling of keyboards. Excellent. This album continues to surprise me, firstly with 'Nowhere Fast' which has a real Britpop feel to it, taking aspects from The LA's and Cast. Add to it some jangling guitars and dual vocals, it also delves into REM, just with softer vocals. Secondly with 'Nikki's Got A Girlfriend', even though I am a tad undecided about this one as initially I found it abit wimpy, together with it's the lyrical content. However even though it is more in a pop direction you are reminded of the Danish band Michael Learns To Rock, so it can't all be bad. Actually both tunes are very simple pop songs and another example of the quality of this album. My last comments are left for 'No Place Left To Hide' in that it is a stunning melodic tune and I would suggest if any rock band are looking for a song to cover then here we are.

In Summary
Well both of these guys have been kept busy in recent years and are still going strong at the moment. On the whole this album has many plus points and benefits from being available again. There are a number of differing styles on offer but rather than breaking up the continuity it actually adds value to the recording. It shows the quality of the song writing and performances by this duo and shows how capable they are that they can lend their hands to all styles and still succeed. Very much a chance discovery for me and one that I have enjoyed immensely over the last couple of weeks. When a review mentions such established greats as Shooting Star, Stan Bush and Alias it must have some exceptional qualities to match these collected talents. Even with a couple of suspect tunes the only problem I have is how an earth am I going to get it into my top ten of 2009. I call for a steward's enquiry.

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