ARTIST: Outlaws, The
ALBUM: Soldiers Of Fortune
SERIAL: BF2 40512 (LP), PSH 450135-2 (CD)
CD REISSUE: 2004, Wounded Bird, WOU 512 * 2013, Rock Candy Records (UK), CANDY162
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
LINEUP: Henry Paul - guitar, vocals, background vocals * Hughie Thomasson - guitar, vocals, background vocals * Steve Grisham - guitar, vocals, background vocals * Chuck Glass - bass, keyboards, vocals, background vocals * David Dix - percussion, drums
Additional Musicians: Randy Bishop - keyboards, programming, backing vocals * Jon Butcher, Bart Bishop, John Townsend, Stacey Lyn Shaffer - backing vocals * Buster McNeil - guitar, backing vocals * Jimmy Glenn - drums
TRACK LISTING: 01 One Last Ride * 02 Soldiers Of Fortune * 03 Night Cries * 04 Outlaw * 05 Cold Harbor * 06 Whatcha Don't Do * 07 Just The Way I Like It * 08 Saved By The Bell * 09 Lady Luck * 10 Racin' For The Red Light
Much like Doc Holliday
's maligned 1983 effort 'Modern Medicine', southern rock compadres The Outlaws also opted for an overblown commercial keyboard laced affair for their 1986 album 'Soldier Of Fortune'. Their last proper studio album was the 1980 LP 'Ghost Riders', discounting their 1982 best of collection 'Los Hombres Malo', and it sounded nothing like this! By 1986, prodigal son Henry Paul had returned to the band, smoothing over the sound with lush melodic radio friendly elements. The keyboard sound is reminiscent of what we heard on the superb China Sky
album, though the overall direction of the songs remains rooted in southern rock, rather than commercial AOR. You could liken it to what Van Zant
were doing with their music, their LP from the previous year an absolute classic in melodic southern rock/AOR. I wouldn't quite put 'Soliders Of Fortune' in the same category, but for the readership of this site, this album is a good fit, and if (like me) you are a 38 Special
fan, then read on. The other notable thing to mention is that The Outlaws had signed to the Pasha label for this release. Considering Pasha were based in California and The Outlaws were in Florida, this made for an awkward arrangement. Remember this was the pre-Internet days too. Adding to the new family arrangement between band and label, Pasha resources such as Spencer Proffer
and Randy Bishop
also contributed to songwriting, further diluting the true southern sound the band were famous for. Not that I'm complaining, as I'm kinda fond of seeing the integration of melodic elements into a southern rock sound. The 80's saw many examples of this, many of which are documented here at GDAZE.
So what of the songs? I'm happy to say many of these are very appealing, but I would say that being a melodic rocker. Then again, the songs feel kind of shallow too. You can't win really. I'll also say that true die-hard southern Confederate fans used to hearing 70's classics such as 'Hurry Sundown' might not be feeling the same love as before. So we have divided camps, but I'm on the fence as both genres have proven to be winners for me over the years. Upon hearing the opening tones of 'One Last Ride', I remember saying 'crikey, this could be China Sky on any other day!'
. It's very AOR-like, not an ounce of traditional Outlaws influence to be found. The title track 'Soldier Of Fortune' tries to bring it back to the fold, but it's still far too commercial when matched up against the Outlaws yesteryear material. 'Night Cries' sneaks across the nocturnal environment, much like the wildlife creeping and crawling across the mesa at midnight. This is a better representation of their southern origins. What better way to appeal to the masses than a track named after yourselves. 'Outlaw' attempts to do just that, but it's far too homogenized. Ok, if you're a 38 Special
fan, but not the real deal from their Arista heyday. 'Cold Harbor' for me is the most interesting track. A war track based around the events of the U.S Civil War during 1864 and in particular the Battle of Cold Harbor (you can read about it here: click here..
). Henry Paul wraps a narrative in the form of a ballad. 'What'cha Don't Do' is mainstream rock, so too 'Just The Way I Like It' with a party vibe. The co-writes incidentally are Spencer Proffer
and Aussie rocker Billy Thorpe
, who was also involved with the label previously. Jon Butcher
also has a songwriting credit for 'Saved By The Bell' along with Randy Bishop
. So you can see this late in the album, the outside writing influence is starting to kick in. 'Lady Luck' rollicks along with not a hint of southern rock in the mix and by the end of the album, you're wondering if Dixie has a chance of rebirth and resurrection with 'Racin' For The Red Light'. Sadly, not a chance. The General Lee has stalled at the intersection!
The overly melodic and commercial direction of this album is admirable, but really the band should've taken matters into their own hands rather than be subjugated to other peoples material. The fact is, The Outlaws have a long and worthy history and should have written all the material on this album. Comparing this to their last studio effort 'Ghost Riders' is like lining up Secretariat to the farmers stable horse in the back paddock! Look, I'm a big fan of bands of this quality combining melodic rock elements, but not to the detriment of throwing their entire back-catalogue out the window in the process. As expected, this album went nowhere, a measly #172 in the Top 200 Billboard Album Charts. The band would disappear off the map until 1993's 'Hittin' The Road (Live)' CD. Thankfully, not all is lost, as the band have rediscovered their southern roots in the 21st century, and are planning a comeback. Let's wait and see.
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