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Sykes, John - 1997 Loveland

ARTIST: Sykes, John
ALBUM: Loveland
LABEL: Mercury (Japan)
YEAR: 1997
CD REISSUE: 2003, Pro Rock Productions, 639067200124


LINEUP: John Sykes - vocals, guitars * Philip Lynott - vocal on 'Please Don't Leave Me' * Alex Alessandroni, Jamie Muhoberac - keyboards, piano * Marco Mendoza, Reggie Hamilton - bass * Abe Laboriel Jr - drums, percussion * Curt Bisquera - drums * Jim Sitterly - 1st violin concert master * Kavan - cello * Tommy O'Steen - drums on 'Haunted' * Additional musicians on 'Don't Say Goodbye', Tony Franklin and Nick Green

TRACK LISTING: 01 Everything I Need * 02 Didn't We Say * 03 Don't Hurt Me This Way (Please Don't Leave Me '97) * 04 Hold The Line * 05 Thank You For The Love * 06 Wuthering Heights * 07 Till The Day I Die * 08 Haunted * 09 I'll Be Waiting * 10 Don't Say Goodbye


The thought of an album being filled to the brim with ballads is probably my worst nightmare, it would be like being stuck in a room with George Osborne, discussing fiscal policy, i.e. I would talk and he would listen, because he would have nothing to add to a conversation that he knows nothing about! Tell your mate, us accountants know how to have a good time. Anyway even the title of the album sounds suspect doesn't it? Luvland.. hmmmm. Yes I am all for the odd power ballad, Journey with the epic 'Who's Crying Now', Saraya with 'Timeless Love' and even the English born Rod Stewart, with his amazing cover of 'You Keep Me Hangin On', but a whole album of lovey dovey nonsense, that foolishly sell by the bucket load sometime in the middle of February? The only valentine I'm interested in, is either a Dutch bloke called Robby and those Long Island guys with the Steve Perry imitation singing a tune called 'Never Said It Was Going To Be Easy'.. that's a ballad isn't it? So let's look at the numbers.. I forecast that on this album there is an 80% risk that they are all ballads, unsettling to a damp and grey overcast piece to say the least.

But is it all doom and gloom? After playing this album, being on my count one of, well nearly half a dozen solo albums, although putting a firm number of the total amount, it's easier to establish who is actually playing the instruments on Kiss albums, you see Mr Sykes career since Thin Lizzy and Whitesnake has never seemed that structured.. bar the old Japanese collection, centering on a track I will mention again later and live versions of old Tygers Of Pan Tang numbers. For a quick analysis, I am quite enjoying it, what John had on his mind to release such an album though, is anyone's guess. But I have my theories, of course I have, well you can imagine Mr Sykes rattling round a 24 bedroom country mansion, with his hand built recording studio looking over acres of well-cut lawns and various water features, together with a lot of time on his hands. Instead of pottering around his potting shed, he can spend his hours recording and refining the odd ditty. Actually it seems he currently resides in Los Angeles, but you get my drift. You see even though this album was never going to sell a million, or tens of thousands, it is probably the best album he has done to show off his immense songwriter talents, add to that guitarist, producer and yes, singer. Someone else needs to take one of these songs and record it, and use it for the next James Bond theme tune. Although this album just smells of a Japanese import, it was released on Prorock Production in 2003, in the UK (no never heard of them either). So let's talk about Love, sorry the songs.. what about the love, I mean what about the songs?

The Songs
Rather sedately we begin with 'Everything I Need', not your big booming ballad by any means, and have already references to 'Please Don't Leave Me', while that albatross will be discussed separately; of course the Lizzy vibe is present plus the unmistakable guitar solo.

'Didn't We Say' is pretty close to Steve Lukather with added strings, which assist to the beautiful melodic lines, we could be talking here, an extra bonus track on the 'Toto IV', deluxe version if it ever existed, so a big America sized ballad. The added Beatles touch is like someone in the skies painting diamonds in the clouds which flows to another solo, as the curtain rises and a 24 piece orchestra is exposed, nice backing band John. Give it to someone like, Robbie Williams and he could help him lose a couple of pounds in weight and gain some pounds to his bank balance at the same time.

See, didn't have to wait too long, and you can't pull the wool over my eyes with the title of the next songs being 'Don't Hurt Me This Way' any ideas yet?, well underneath it adds '(Please Don't Leave Me '97)', unfinished business?, look it's a nice albatross around your neck and finally I feel it can be let free with this version. I have the John original interpretation from way back in 1992, when it appeared on the Jap Import album, named after the said song, and I have played both versions back to back and concluded that the 97 version improves it no end. There is a crispness and clearness, Phil Lynott sounds so fresh, he's not gone he's just in the recording studio next door. Whether it's more modern technology being the key, it just seems everything about the version is better, the drums, the guitars, so John, now just stop there, let go, it's perfect.

Sting from The Police seems to have sneaked in onto John's vocal chords opening sojourn with 'Hold The Line'. No Marshall stacks, on display just woodwind, which I love anyway. Possibly an ode to Jeff Buckley?, the same flavour while the perfection offered is one of a beautiful tune, with the wind and rain streaming down the windows panes. Stirring stuff.

'Thank You'. Although a touch more up-tempo can also be described as very pop, 70's throwback initially, back then The Sweeney arrive with lots of pushing of villains up against metal fences as the broodiness takes over. Overblown pomp, it's like a Poodle turning into a Rottwieller. I've never heard a Christopher Cross song turn into a Whitesnake song, until now. Looking back it could easily pushed its way into the running order of '1987', although a touch wimpy for Davy C, hence the Chrissie Cross reference.

'Wuthering Heights' is an interesting read. Nothing to do with Kate Bush here. Sykes always seem to have an itching for 60's music; he covered The Small Faces wonderful 'Itchycoo Park' on the second Blue Murder album in 1993. Of course The Beatles jumped out at first and I would have kept that reference if I was lazy, but after consideration I have Colin Blunstone appearing in the melodic images. The tune provides a rest bite and change in direction and is pretty splendid. It's quite original, even its history is based in 60's pop music.

Its comfy slippers time again with 'Till The Day I Die', big grand piano, white of course, with a candelabra and a couple of dancers prancing around in black silhouettes. It's OK, but the whole ballad concept is getting a little bit tiresome. On the plus side, the structure is fine, the light verses and chorus with the usual climbing of emotion to give a bit more emphasis to the mood, but my fire is beginning to wane, along with whoever else Mr Sykes is trying to seduce with his sea of ballads. By this time you would imagine the said partner would have already dozed off, better luck next time John. It's no 'Is This Love', but it is from the same pocket of themes.

I would say someone like Glenn Hughes would be suited for 'Haunting'; he could probably knock a few doors down with the passion. It does give some extra rock pulse to keep you interested by the end and is stepping in the shoes of the Blue Murder debut. No need for the 'shiver me timbers' or throwback to Captain Pugwash costumes either that graced that album, maybe they were looking for a Count Of Monte Christo look, which obviously was lost on me.

'I'll Be Waiting', for a bus? For the post? English love queuing, so much they write tunes about them, anyway another quality ballad and would easily sit at the end of any melodic rock album, but here it doesn't have the same impact, because of the obvious problems of variety.

While Phil Lynott had 'Kings Call' as a tribute to Elvis, John has followed this up with 'Don't Say Goodbye' being his heartfelt tribute to John Lennon. Here he adds Lennon song titles to music and does have a 'realness' which some may feel uncomfortable by having actual news reports of the dreadful shooting. Just think how many songs could have been written, but will never be heard because of one person's actions.

In Summary
Whereas I couldn't wait to dispense of Mitch Malloy 'Ceilings And Walls' (which had me climbing the walls to be perfectly honest). I have no urge to let this one go so fast. It does get me interesting in picking up the rest of his solo stuff, but I've heard it is a bit of a mixed bag, and the current high prices doesn't make them any more appealing. Really it does comes across as a rich man's folly, but one worth building and to last once we have all been and gone. A professional recorded demo, not a garage demo, but a highly polished recording with orchestra (try fitting that bunch in a garage), it is so well recorded, and someone has very deep pockets, because as ever good as it is, it's never going to achieve a great rate of return. While listening, I keep getting the thought in my head, a real nagging, which was why an earth doesn't David Coverdale hook again with John Sykes? (probably because there are egos on both sides that get in the way.. Ed) Probably too much water under the bridge, but what a combination, which let's face it, they could both gain from. Because at times during these songs, you are just waiting for Big Dave to let go. Sykes should be congratulated on his vocal display, of course he already showed he was capable on the first Blue Murder, he is great all-rounder in an Ian Botham mould rather than a temperamental Stuart Broad. It's just too good to ignore, but if you are expecting a melodic rock by numbers then look elsewhere, like FM, Tyketto, Gary Hughes.. It's an album that has obviously been credited with a lot of love and attention on the part of Sykes, who is never one to fear expressing the fundamental methods to his genesis moments to his songs. The answer to that theory is based on two important musical strings in John Sykes past life, Thin Lizzy (Philip Lynott in particular, inspiration rather than just influence?) and to a lesser degree The Beatles, a launch pad anybody would find hard to criticize.

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