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McIan, Peter - 1980 Playing Near The Edge

ARTIST: Peter McIan
ALBUM: Playing Near The Edge
LABEL: Arc Records
SERIAL: JC 36190
YEAR: 1980

LINEUP: Peter McIan - lead vocals, keyboards, production * Billy Steel, Earl Slick, Steve Lukather - guitars * Erik Scott, Eric Nelson - bass * Craig Krampf - drums * James Newton Howard - piano * Scott Wilk, Duane Hitchins - synthesizer * David Luell - sax * Lenny Castro - percussion * Roy Phillipe - strings arrangement * Max Gronenthal, John Townsend, Frannie Golde, Paulette Brown, Venetta Fields, Jon Lind, Richard Hovey, Chuck Ray, Emmitt Siniard, Steve Diamond - backing vocals

TRACK LISTING: 01 Playin' Near The Edge * 02 Light In Your Eyes * 03 With Every Beat Of My Heart * 04 It's Only Love * 05 Solitaire * 06 True Believer * 07 Runnin' * 08 Listen To Your Heart * 09 Clear Sailin'

So who is Peter McIan? his name has come up a number of times over the years here at Glorydazemusic, and each time I keep thinking I must put together an article. To many of us it the name of Peter McIan, points to when he was a fully paid up member of the group The City, where as well as playing keyboards he also acted as the producer for the 'Foundation' album to be found in the 1986 selection of articles. Of course preceding this he was the producer for many Men At Work recordings. In fact, performer, songwriter, producer, engineer and author it seems Mr McIan is one talented person and then drop in the likes of Pat Benatar, Angel City and even Barbra Streisand who have all benefitted from his songs.

The Songs
Only 9 tracks on this album but it contains two real thoroughbred AOR tunes with the likes of 'Light In Your Eyes' and 'Only Love' by the way the rest of them are pretty good too. Just as Rock Candy seems to be looking at releasing some classic AOR albums from the past, some of which have never been released on CD before, then this one should be also be part of that unique selling point, which I thought was the original idea behind the label. There is a long list of session musicians, McIan obviously had a far reaching field to call upon, the likes of Max Gronenthal, Steve Lukather, James Newton Howard, while someone's closer to home being A McIan is listed as the co-writer of many tracks, brother, wife?

The opening and title track has segments which sound like Mr Roboto's older brother communicating in the land of Styx, mid-way there are Saga blocks of riffs, before saxophone swiftly to Supertramp, before pulling on Kansas violin strings. It's quite a sedate opening, beautiful tempo, classic AOR, I have been flicking through my collection to try and provide a useful guiding reference, sometimes pausing at Steve Walsh, sometimes it's like Walsh singing the John Elefante era of tunes, but really I still can't pin him down, so take that with a pinch of salt. 'Light In Your Eyes' is excellent, it has everything, I love the orchestra, which is sort of disco like, then chunky riffs and with a melody that Donnie Iris would have been pleased to write, but McIan executes in his own supreme way. 'Every beat Of My Heart', so its ballad time, this has a rich hook in the chorus, piano led, the type Mickie Bolton in his rock years would had happily had a go at.

In general McIan makes the best use of his voice; maybe the beard gives it a bit of depth, no idea what that means, just think of Michael McDonald and how his beard helps his vocals!! With 'It's Only Love', I was filled with thoughts that if Survivor had this then they would have had a hit single that was not related to a film soundtrack, swept up initially with the Kiss helicopter effect similar to 'I Was Made For Lovin You', flying overhead with sinister crashing riffs, real menace. Don't think I have heard this for a while, how some of the riffs are quite menacing for an AOR album. Sometimes it's like Vinnie Vincent has left his pink Jackson guitar in the studio. The track sinks slowly into a mild piece of rock, shifting to the powerful rock chorus and it contains this throughout. Yes a touch of Balance. 'Solitaire', takes me to the Todd Hobin Band, again swathes of female backing vocals during the chorus and an effect not always found on the standard template of AOR unless you are Desmond Child and Rouge. Saxophone solo of course has the heart beating of Michael Stanley Band, just an obvious ability to write clever catchy chorus hooks.

A couple of the tunes have a westcoast temperament. 'True Believer' is musically set in the world of Toto, and the more westcoast aspects would be Pages, this would not look out of place in the next volume of Too Slow Too Disco selections. 'Runnin', what AOR album would be complete without a song about running. AOR classic setting in the verses, although the chorus is quite the opposite bearing laid back, understated but very good, like B E Taylor Group. 'Listen To Your Heart', like Robert Fleischman without the high pitch; this is another one of those special AOR true finds. Again nothing scientific about writing a complete AOR, but boy do many bands find it so difficult to do this, McIan is a master, and he knows what elements are needed. I'm surprised the likes of Starship didn't invade this album and take and cover the best bits, along with the likes of those bands who really shifting to AOR to get a hit, like 38 Special in the 'Strength In Numbers' era.

In Summary
Numerous copies of this album can be found on Discogs, in fact a UK seller has this listed for as little as £2 so no real excuse to locating a copy. This seems to have been released in the US and Netherlands (?) as per Discogs, my copy was released on ARC a division of Columbia/CBS and has on the back corner the golden stamp of promotion only. To me the stand out track on The City album was 'Parallel Lines', in my view it's only that track on that album could possibly make it on this album, that is how high I regard this release. While researching I have seen an interview with McIan on American Bandstand at the time of release, frustrately you gather that he actually performs both 'Solitaire' and 'Light In Your Eyes' either side of the interview however the clip doesn't show the songs just the dated presenter who only seems to be interested in himself. From the interview it was hoped big things would develop for McIan in his own right but that didn't seem to be the case, so back to his bread and butter of studio expert and composer.

Peter McIan - 1980 Playing Near The Edge

Peter McIan - 1980 Solitaire

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#1 | gdazegod on April 15 2018 04:00:02
I understand Peter is working in the software development industry these days. Plus he's written a few books as well.
#2 | melodiapositiva on April 15 2018 15:35:15
I had this vinyl for years ,it´s a very nice album with a strange cover ,isn´t it?

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