Stephen Crane - 1984 Kicks

richardbrichardb Poole, Dorset
edited February 8 in year-1984

image
ARTIST: Stephen Crane
ALBUM: Kicks
LABEL: MCA
SERIAL: MCA 5498
YEAR: 1984
CD REISSUE: 2016, Sunset Dreams Records (France), SR02

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: image
LINEUP: Stephen Crane - lead and background vocals, bass

Additional Musicians: Duane Sciaqua, Ray Pannell, Steve Lukather, Joey Brasler - guitars * Jai Winding, James Newton Howard, Steve Porcaro - keyboards, synthesizers * Jody Cortez, Jeff Porcaro, Dave Crockett - drums * Richard Page, Tom Kelly Steve Lukather, Duane Sciaqua - backing vocals

TRACK LISTING: 01 Headed For A Heartbreak * 02 Joanne * 03 Kicks * 04 All My Love * 05 Victims Of Love * 06 I Can't Wait * 07 Back On My Feet Again * 08 I'll Take Care Of You * 09 Sooner Or Later * 10 Crying Don't Look Good On You

Background

This is a highly under-rated major label AOR release which includes a stellar cast and was produced by Toto's Steve Lukather, together with Jai Winding who twiddled the dials for Le Roux on their legendary 'Up' album.

Stephen Crane's first taste of musical fame was with Texas Boogie merchant's Baby who put out two albums in the mid 1970's, and perhaps were most notable for including respected blues guitarist Johnny Lee Schell in their line-up.

More intriguingly though, Baby once auditioned a certain Steve Walsh, (yes he of Kansas fame) but ultimately decided not to hire him as keyboard player (!)

Given Crane's previous track record then, one would have hardly predicted this change in musical direction, however, give the man a haircut, new stylist and the creme de la creme of LA's finest session players to play with and bingo - instant AOR classic!

The Songs

This album leans towards the heavier end of the AOR spectrum, guitars are dutifully served as the main course with keyboards more of a subtle garnish to the music. Stephen Crane's soulful, rasping vocals lend themselves well to the material and are in the Paul Sabu vein which is no bad thing in my book.

Opener 'Headed For A Heartbreak' is a fine mid tempo rocker driven along by Crane's pounding bass and embellished by Messrs Lukather, Pannell's and Sciacqua's layered guitars. Heavy duty riffing ensues with 'Joanne', though it's killer hook ensures it's very radio friendly nonetheless.

The tempo slows for the title cut which is a moody affair and is followed up by the obligatory power ballad 'All My Love'. Full marks here for Crane's impassioned vocals and Luke's top notch solo (as if we'd expect anything less from the man)

Side one closes with the high tempo urgency of 'Victims Of Love' featuring some truly brutal guitar work and punctuated by Lukather's frenetic display on the Farfisa organ. Joey Brasler delivers a blistering guitar solo midsection and you can almost picture Luke in the studio at the time nodding with approval at these antics.

Over on the flip, 'I Can't Wait' is equally dynamic, powered along by a triumvirate of guitar players and this time it's Duane Sciacqua who has a chance to display his dexterity with the guitar. For me though, the album's highlight is the slow-burning 'Back On My Feet Again' which is reminiscent of Toto in one of their more pompous moments and gives Lukather another opportunity to indulge in some frenzied fretboard action.

'I'll Take Care Of You' is another energetic workout in the vein of Van Stephenson and is followed by the swagger of 'Sooner Or Later'. The quality dips slightly for album closer the rather hackneyed power ballad 'Crying Don't Look Good On You'. Crane's vocal delivery sounds unconvincing for once - perhaps because he's been forced to sing such a cringe-inducing song title.

In Summary

I have to say I'm surprised there isn't more of a buzz about this album amongst the melodic rock community. Admittedly 1984 was a vintage year for melodic rock though to my ears at least this album stands tall among similar releases during the same time period.

In short it's a superb album which should be a compulsive addition for a fans of Keane, Toto and Van Stephenson et al.


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