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Nantucket - 1985 V



ARTIST: Nantucket
ALBUM: V
LABEL: Executive
SERIAL: NV 8500
YEAR: 1985
CD REISSUE: 2007, Retrospect Records, RR-253

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

LINEUP: Larry Uzzell - vocals * Alan Thornton - guitars * Tommy Redd - guitars * Eddie Blair - keyboards, sax * David 'Thumbs' Johnson - bass * Rick Gates - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Pretty Legs * 02 Ain't It A Shame * 03 Made For You * 04 Looking You Up * 05 Drivin' Me Crazy * 06 Out Of Control * 07 Can't Stop Rockin' * 08 Horizontal * 09 Weekend * 10 Freedom

WEBLINKS: www.2112online.com/nantucket/index.shtml


Background
By 1985, Nantucket had been let go by RCA despite 1983's 'No Direction Home' having been a strong AOR effort. It didn't set the album or singles charts on fire, but then again it got zero marketing budget and it's unclear if a video was ever shot for 'Hiding From Love'. Nantucket found a new home at Executive Records, an indie label in their hometown Raleigh, North Carolina, and stayed right there to record the album at Videofonics Studios. The band photo on the back cover finds them clad in period AOR styled clothing similar to the photo on the back of Shooting Star 'Silent Scream' from the same year. This immediately raised my hopes for the album, and I wasn't disappointed.


The Songs
'Pretty Legs' ushers in the fifth and final Nantucket studio album in a wash of synth driven hi-tech AOR, miles from the Southern leanings of their debut. In fact, the electronic enhancement on the drums and reduced 'supporting role' given to the guitar parts take a little getting used to, but it's worth the effort thanks to really strong and smooth vocal melodies at times, great understated hooks and a powerful recurring bridge, even some flowing Van McLain type licks in the main solo - it may come across a little disjointed at first, but there's plenty of AOR reward for the patient listener. 'Ain't It A Shame' is a more simple affair, returning to a more Southern feel but only a hint this time - there's Harlequin/Toto styled staccato piano bits in the chorus, and plenty of 38 Special (80's era) influence in the stylish verses - another winner. 'Made For You' is a defining moment on the album, penned by new member Thornton, it's one of the best AOR anthems ever to reach my ears and worth the price of this LP by itself. An Uptempo 4/4 backbeat provides the foundation for unearthly guitar and keyboard hooks, with Uzzell's vocals matured so well from their raspy past you're convinced they got Shooting Star's Gary West into the vocal booth. The bridge is one of those great momentum building 'descending hook' affairs reminiscent of the bridge on Zebra's AOR classic 'Better Not Call', all of which would be for nothing without a killer bee chorus - and boy do they deliver, think Journey in soaring top form, nothing less. The passion only intensifies toward the end, convincing me it's worthy of a top 5 place in any list of 1985 AOR tracks. Following up isn't easy but 'Looking You Up' brings out the Foreigner power ballad approach and pulls it off - using a similar synth dominated hook, guitars are not really in evidence until the solo but the vocals are so strong you hardly notice! 'Drivin' Me Crazy' returns to the more raspy Uzzell vocal, but the bouncy backbeat and guitar/keyboard hook interplay ensure a passing grade - it's one of those choruses where there's one line sung in one note, but it's the AOR magic happening underneath that makes it work.

Side two kicks off in unusual style with 'Out Of Control', essentially a minute long bass solo! Odd, but an entertaining enough intro to 'Can't Stop Rockin', somewhat frenetic in pace and fairly raspy/brass-laden in the verses but the chorus delivers some anthemic AOR chanting and Neal Schon styled licks, altogether uplifting and a great example of a song's AOR qualities lifting it above whatever small flaws it may have. The same applies with 'Horizontal Weekend', where some harmonica bits and another of those 'one line one note' vocal choruses try to spoil the AOR party but fail - Shooting Star inspired midtempo verses and more hook laden magic underneath the aforementioned chorus ensure another passing grade, in fact this one grows on you considerably. 'Freedom', another Thornton penned track, is almost the equivalent on side two of 'Made For You' ... Survivor's 'Eye Of The Tiger' immediately comes to mind, the tempo and riff both fuelling the comparison. Verse time is especially rewarding with full backing vocals on every second line, really nailing a sumptuous melody cascading into a chorus similar to 707's 'We Will Last', where the singer carries it off alone. There's even some fierce riffing from the Loverboy school to enjoy in the mid-song breakdown, and an uptempo coda to end another AOR classic. Since 'Party'n In The Cars' turns out to be a racy Southern tear up, 'Freedom' is also the last AOR classic they recorded.


In Summary
Overall this is a very strong, bordering on classic AOR record. Perhaps not quite up to the celestial level of Shooting Star's 'Silent Scream', but pretty close on several tracks. There are numerous AOR standouts on display and most of the remaining tracks have several very pleasing melodic features. Special mention must be made of Larry Uzzell's vocal transformation on much of this album, and the considerable songwriting contribution made by Alan Thornton, but they all played their part. Like it's predecessor 'No Direction Home', 'V' is not available on CD as yet. There's no clear indication as to who has the rights or when it'll ever come out, and unlike 'No Direction Home', vinyl copies are pretty scarce - happy hunting, it's well worth the trouble and the money! (This was finally released in 2007 by Retrospect Records.. Ed)


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