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Ousey, Chris - 2011 Rhyme & Reason

ARTIST: Ousey, Chris
ALBUM: Rhyme & Reason
LABEL: Escape Music
YEAR: 2011


LINEUP: Chris Ousey - lead and backing vocals * Mike Slamer - guitars, keyboards * Tommy Denander - guitars, keyboards * Neil Murray - bass * Gregg Bisonette - drums * Billy Trudel and Kristoffer Lagerstrom - backing vocals

TRACK LISTING: 01 The Mother Of Invention * 02 Bleeding Heart * 03 To Break A Heart * 04 Motivation * 05 A Chemical High * 06 Give Me Shelter * 07 The Reason Why * 08 On Any Other Day * 09 Don't Wanna Dance * 10 Watch This Space * 11 By Any Other Name * 12 A Natural Law


Pardon me for thinking that this was the Slamer & Denander Guitar Show, and not the solo album of Heartland golden throat Chris Ousey. Yep, it's taken a few decades for the Mancunian Wonder Voice to release his own album, three decades in fact, so kudos to Escape Music for recognising this as a highlight on the timeline of Mr Ousey. Grabbing hold of two of melodic rock's leading lights in Mike Slamer and Tommy Denander (who need no introduction on this website), Ousey and his team have crafted an album that is not a cookie-cutter template of AOR in todays parlance, some of which we've heard with the Frontiers roster for instance. It's certainly different, and unusual too when you hear Denander's rhythm work complimented by Slamer's lead work, and vice versa. If you close your eyes and imagine listening to anything by Denander's Radioactive or Slamer's Steelhouse Lane - better yet, the bastard child thereof, then the material of 'Rhyme & Reason' is the result. In some ways, I feel that both players dominate this CD more so than Ousey, I'm sure that wasn't mean't to be the case, but the guitar playing from both greats is spellbinding to say the least, so it's hardly surprising.

The Songs
You get this impression as soon as 'The Mother Of Invention' hits the grooves. Some starchy keyboards makes way for the double edged blade that is S&D. There are some neat passages on 'Bleeding Heart' that need further investigating. That bridge/pre-chorus is wickedly good, reminding me of a technical Toto at their best. Best described as a power-ballad, 'To Break A Heart' moves way beyond that description from its light acoustic beginning into something more dramatic and edgy, powered by some Denander six-string bluster. 'Motivation' comes across as Radioactive redux, Ousey working the boards like a pro. There's a whole bunch of fancy keyboards and clean strumming work a la Dann Huff that populates 'A Chemical High', quite a cool song with a funky aspect. 'Give Me Shelter' brings more exceptional six-string work to the fore. Ousey does his bit by wrapping his larynx around a decent rocker worthy of his talent. One of my favourite tunes is the pop/rock of 'The Reason Why'. It's quite light compared to the previous songs, no doubt due to the floating keyboard parts and restrained verses. This one has the hand of Denander all over it. Choice one Tommy. 'On Any Other Day' is more lyrical, Ousey adding more words than usual, the structure of the song slightly different, but the chorus brings it all together. 'Don't Wanna Dance' is the odd-man song on the CD. The pop grooves crossing over into a rock context is an interesting combination, certainly the bridge/chorus marries up well.. unusual but it works. 'Watch This Space' is another Denander influenced tune, part West Coast.. I'm sure those keyboard stabs were nicked from David Foster's Airplay!! 'By Any Other Name' heralds the reappearance of Slamer back into the ring, with his familiar guitar tone and style, while the closing power-ballad 'A Natural Law' is a statement of melodic intent, which restrains itself right till the end, a Denander solo unleashed to finish up the CD quite nicely.

In Summary
Of late, we've been spoilt by some astonishing releases. I was hoping that 'Rhyme & Reason' would be one of those. I'm sad to say that it isn't, not quite. Certainly some great tunes on here, but when you line it up against something like The Magnificent, Grand Illusion or Toby Hitchcock, it sits lower on the ladder. No two ways about it, Ousey is a pretty decent songwriter, and Denander and Slamer.. well I don't need to say anymore. There are hints of 80's styled melodia, but R&R is touched by more modern sounds and influences, which is a good thing in a way. As I said, it's not cookie-cutter material, so added points for that. Worth a listen, and as Ousey and Denander have penned all the material here, it will be only a matter of time before another Ousey project rears its head. Hopefully not in another decade or more!

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#1 | george_the_jack on December 08 2011 07:58:22
Chris Ousey is one of the best British vocalists ever in rock music IMO and a very very very favourite of mine! I feel he is the most overlooked and underated singer along with Tony Martin.However, I'd love to see him returning to rather more AOR paths...
#2 | Eric on December 10 2011 15:47:18
99% review rating at
#3 | gdazegod on December 10 2011 22:28:36
Definitely not a 99. Not even an 89.. Some of the songs are good on this, but some others just don't resonate.
#4 | roadrunner158 on December 12 2011 10:35:53
I'm not too fond of all this rating stuff - it's all subjecitve. All I can say is that I enjoy this CD very much, since it has some really great songs and a top notch production (unilke some other CDs like Toby Hitchcock, that suffer from mediocre production). It's certainly not perfect, but very refreshing to listen to.
#5 | gdazegod on December 12 2011 10:53:04
An enjoyable album is not solely based on a superior production. To each his own.
#6 | jeffrey343 on December 12 2011 16:34:39
I got this a couple of weeks ago, and I've given it a few spins. The sound and production are excellent, but I have to say that the songs are not "catchy" enough that I want to play it over and over. This will probably be one that grows on me if I give it a chance. I'm kinda surprised that George doesn't absolutely love this, to be honest, because upon first listen I though this would be at least a 9 and possibly a 9.5 or 10. I've had a hard time wanting to play this more than other new stuff I've gotten, and it's not "poppy" enough for the wife and kids when we're driving in the car (and all my wife wants to listen to at the moment is Christmas music anyway...).

I'll agree with George that a superior production does not make a great album. But a mediocre production can definitely ruin an otherwise great album.
#7 | jeffrey343 on November 14 2013 04:35:56
I mentioned about two years ago that this one could grow on me if given a chance. Well, in preparation of that great new Seventh Key album, I played a lot of material featuring Mike Slamer, and I brought this one out again. I gotta say that this is quite an excellent album, and I'm glad I revisited it. Two years ago, this was having to compete with a lot of less complex material (I remember getting the White Widdow album around the same time as this one). This isn't really one that I'd play when driving around with the family either. But after several listens the past couple of weeks, this one will likely be in heavy rotation for a while.

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