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19-11-2017 09:44
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Articles Home » 1979 Articles » Bliss Band - 1979 Neon Smiles
Bliss Band - 1979 Neon Smiles

ARTIST: Bliss Band
ALBUM: Neon Smiles
LABEL: Columbia
SERIAL: JC 36070
YEAR: 1979


LINEUP: Paul Bliss - vocals, keyboards * Andy Brown - bass, vocals * Phil Palmer - guitar, vocals * Alan Park - keyboards * Nigel Elliot - drums, percussion

Assisted By: Geoff Westley - keyboards, flute * Frank Ricotti - percussion * Raphael Ravesncroft - saxophones

TRACK LISTING: 01 Stagefright * 02 How Do I Survive? * 03 Hollywood * 04 Someone Elses Eyes * 05 Doctor * 06 Chicago * 07 We Never Had It So Good * 08 If It Takes Forever * 09 Something About You * 10 That's The Way That It Is

'Dinner With Raoul' was a decent enough debut, although because producer Jeff Baxter's (Steely Dan) influence permeated throughout, the band were guilty of being derivative rather than forging their own unique identity. Consequently, only a couple of tracks made any lasting impression on me, those being 'Slipaway' and the energetic hard rocking of 'Take It If You Need It'. There's no such problems second time around with the superior 'Neon Smiles' as all previous accusations of 'Steely Dan clones' are laid to waste. The first thing that strikes you about this album is it variation - something that was lacking in the debut. The emphasis is firmly on songs and this excellent band of musicians successfully traverse a range of musical styles.

The Songs
The band lead off with 'Stagefright' whose lyrics convey the insecurities suffered by many touring bands on their road to stardom - for example 'You've had all the run-throughs that you're gonna get. But can we ever hope the play the perfect set?' The song gradually gathers momentum with a soaring chorus, powerful guitar work from Phil Palmer and the band kicking up a storm on the fade out - glorious stuff. 'How Do I Survive?' is musically strident with delicious harmonies, though there's yet more angst in the lyric department - unfortunately creative types do tend to be a neurotic bunch.. 'Hollywood' as the title suggests is a side swipe at the movie industry and is highlighted by Phil Palmer's soaring guitar solo. Proceedings are then slowed down by the mellow and plaintive ballad 'Someone Else's Eyes'. The tempo is raised again for 'Doctor' whose pompous keyboards on the intro, suddenly take a left-field turn into what can only be described as a piano driven boogie tune. Potentially this could have sounded horrendous in lesser hands, but Paul Bliss manages to carry it off as an enjoyable light hearted romp. 'Chicago' is a laid back West Coast influenced number, which harks back to the debut and wouldn't have sounded out of place on a Doobie Brothers album. For me, 'We've Never Had It So Good' walks away with all the plaudits. It's a boisterous hard rock number with decidedly tongue in cheek lyrics that are guaranteed to offend reputable Accountants everywhere with its mention of cash in hand payments and tax havens. There's a brief musical interlude with the tasteful instrumental 'If It Takes Forever' and then it's the dramatic AOR of 'Something About You'. Paul Bliss's emotive vocal delivery being the icing on the proverbial cake. The album finishes strongly with 'That's The Way That It Is'. Whilst it's primarily driven by Paul Bliss's piano and Andy Brown's pumping bass guitar, there's no denying the latent power of this song and its haunting chorus - it was covered by Uriah Heep several years later on their 'Abominog' album.

In Summary
Despite falling on deaf ears from the record buying public at large when it was originally released, 'Neon Smiles' has subsequently garnished a deserved reputation as a minor classic amongst AOR aficionados. Furthermore, Paul Bliss's obvious talents as a songwriter have at least been recognised by his musical peers - a number of well-known artists such as Olivia Newton John, Janet Jackson, Al Jarreau and Celion Dion have covered his songs over the years.

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#1 | super80boy on January 01 2015 22:44:45
The superior of the two albums since it ventured away from the Steely Dan and Doobie Brothers influences…for the most part and embraced more creativity in the AOR spectrum. Strong musicianship and smooth AOR melodies, like in the West Coast vibes of 'Chicago', the pompy standout 'We Never Had It So Good and the Toto sounding 'Something About You'. The fast paced 'Doctor' was tapped as an album single by Columbia. The closer 'That's The Way That It Is' is a gem. There's much to like on this platter.
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