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Articles Home » 1985 Articles » Shaw, Tommy - 1985 What If
Shaw, Tommy - 1985 What If

ARTIST: Shaw, Tommy
ALBUM: What If
SERIAL: 395-097-2
YEAR: 1985
CD REISSUE: 1996, Absolute Records (USA), ABS-105 * 2000, Spitfire (USA), 15168


LINEUP: Tommy Shaw - vocals, guitars, keyboards * Richie Cannata - saxophone, keyboards * Brian Stanley - bass * Steve Holley - drums, percussion

Additional Musicians: Mark Marshall - drums (track 9) * Phenix Horns * Jobell Yonely, Kim Criswell - backing vocals * Gary Myrick - guitar (tracks 7 & 10)

TRACK LISTING: 01 Jealousy * 02 Remo's Theme (What If) * 03 Reach For The Bottle * 04 This Is Not A Test * 05 See Me Now * 06 True Confessions * 07 Count On You * 08 Nature Of The Beast * 09 Bad Times * 10 Friendly Advice


I remember many years ago, reviewing Tommy Shaw's 'Girls With Guns' LP for a little known hard rock fanzine back in New Zealand. I wasn't that taken with the album way back then, though my attitude may have slightly softened from my initial hard-ball stance. It was for that reason that I gave his second LP 'What If' a wide berth, not so Shaw's classic third album 'Ambition'. For this album, it certainly leans more toward the 'Girls With Guns' sound, considering the players on the album are essentially the same. There are a bunch of tracks that work well, and some that don't. Again, like most albums from this timeframe, the production values of the time basically renders these as 'dated', long before their use by date.

The Songs
'Jealousy' is the entree to the album, an undercover lover styled AOR tune where the alleyway meets the boulevard with everyone wearing trenchcoats. You get the picture? - great.. The standout track of the album is the title track 'Remos Theme (What If)', which was used for the movie 'Remo Williams Adventure Begins'. I know very little about the movie, perhaps a search on might shed some light. 'Reach For The Bottle' has a dark somber edge, sort of like Robbie Robertson doing hard rock. The keyboards run amok on 'This Is Not A Test', thankfully Tommy slices and dices his guitar to roughen up the sound. More keyboards parp away on 'See Me Now', an AOR tune in the purest sense, with some incredible harmony vocals - for me, one of the best tracks on the album. 'True Confessions' isn't a track I'm that keen on, sort of like a cheesy version of Billy Joel. Let's give the insipid ballad 'Count On You' a miss shall we, don't want people falling asleep on the job. Moving right along, 'Nature Of The Beast' is the most mis-titled song I've come across in ages (as in.. 'nothing of the sort'). It plods rather than prowls. 'Bad Times' isn't the best song I've heard Tommy sing and play, though it probably is representative of his Alabama roots and early legacy, so deserves a place here. Texan rocker and friend Gary Myrick makes an appearance on the closing 'Friendly Advice', a track that seems to go to all points of the musical compass. Tommy sings as if he has a lisp on this one, must be the microphone huh?

In Summary
'What If' apart from two exceptional tracks ('Remos Theme' and 'See Me Now') is a bit of a musical wipeout in my opinion. I'm certain A&M must have been pretty disappointed in their investment up to this point, and decided to pull up stakes and cast Tommy adrift after the failure of this album in the market. Tommy would join Atlantic for the superb 'Ambition', and though universally recognised as a great album, the lack of success in the market would continue to stalk Tommy's solo career, things not being corrected until his Damn Yankees tenure. However, if you must seek out this album, the two tracks mentioned earlier are truly worth the price of admission alone. The rest.. so-so..

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#1 | Eric on December 19 2009 05:05:35
Nothing Shaw has done outside of prime time Styx has impressed me. All three albums reviewed here have one or two cuts that stand out and the rest just seem to be half baked ideas, snatches of potentially great tunes and all around mediocrity. Damn Yankees I could have cared less about and I'd like to forget I ever heard that Shaw/ Blades disc.

All the bitching Shaw and James Young have done about Dennis over the years, and yet, it seems his influence brought out the best in both of 'em.
#2 | gdazegod on December 19 2009 05:20:21
I agree 110% Eric! Thumbs Up
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