Max Bacon: From the Banks of the River Irwell

[Purchase CD]

As a fan of the Buggles, Asia, Geoffrey Downes and GTR, I was eager to hear more from the same area of the musical world. I greatly enjoyed Max Bacon’s vocals on the GTR album; he has a fantastic, well-controlled high tenor voice that blends well with backing vocals and the music they accompany.

Hearing Bacon’s version of “Tears” (a great song in and of itself) on Downes’ Vox Humana album impressed me even more (John Payne, formerly of Asia, did a less-than-stellar version on Asia’s Archiva 1), and a different arrangement of that song is included here (retitled “Tears In My Eyes”).

Put simply, this album is GREAT. Bacon shines in every song, and his energy is addictive. I’ll admit something before continuing: I don’t like John Payne’s voice. At all. I stopped listening to Asia’s later material because his voice irritated me so much. I mention this because, in addition to “Tears [In My Eyes]”, there are a few songs on this album that I’d first heard with Payne’s vocals. I used to really hate “The Higher You Climb”, but after hearing Bacon’s version of that song, I now not only like it, I LOVE it. Bacon also does a version of “Who Will Stop The Rain” that really blows Payne’s version out of the water. I tolerated Payne’s version because it’s an incredible song, but Bacon does so much for it that I can’t stop humming it to myself now.

I’m surprised some of the other songs on here didn’t become major hits. “Hold Me Close”, with its solid hook and up-tempo rhythm, completely blew me away on the very first listen, and not many songs have such an impact on me. Likewise, “Carrie” (not to be confused with a similarly-titled Asia tune featured on the Live In Moscow album) really grabs you and makes you feel like dancing. The melody is simple but engaging and Bacon really tackles it with gusto. There are also two mid-tempo songs, “Earth Moving” and “Everybody Needs Somebody”, that combine catchy choruses and tight harmonies to create fine melodies that I can’t get enough of.

Downes himself provides keyboards on a few of the tracks (appropriate, since he wrote or co-wrote much of the material that appears on this album), though interestingly a different keyboard player handles “Moon Under The Water”, another tune included on both Archiva and Vox Humana. Archiva‘s version was sung by Payne and Vox Humana‘s version by Steve Overland (who, while better than Payne, has an irritating way of releasing his breath at the end of every line), and Bacon outdoes them both. His version of the song works very well, even if it IS obvious Downes isn’t at the keyboard, because Bacon is the real star of the recording.

If you enjoy solid, well-crafted and marvelously performed rock music, definitely give this album a listen. I hope we get the opportunity to hear more from Max Bacon. He’s good.

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