Donnie Iris And The Cruisers - 2006 Ellwood City

edited February 9 in year-2006

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ARTIST: Donnie Iris And The Cruisers
ALBUM: Ellwood City
LABEL: Primary Records
SERIAL: PRI416
YEAR: 2006
SPONSOR: Donnie Iris Mgmt

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: image
LINEUP: Donnie Iris - vocals, guitars * Mark Avsec - keyboards * Marty Lee - guitars * Paul Goll - bass * Kevin Valentine - drums * Brice Foster - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Little Black Dress * 02 Soul Man * 03 Let's Go * 04 Rivers Of Love * 05 Just Go Tango * 06 Rocque Fantastique * 07 Ellwood City * 08 Love Me With The Light On * 09 No Rest For The Wicked * 10 Love Messiah * 11 You Got My Body (You Don't Have My Soul) * 12 Tuesday Morning * 13 Just Go Tango * 14 With This Ring

RATING: image
WEBLINKS: Site Link

Background

It's impossible to keep old rockers down and Donnie Iris and co are back for their first album in nine years, reputedly a 'major' return to form. Anyone expecting another 'King Cool' AOR extravaganza will come away disappointed, but that's usually par for the course these days.

To their credit The Cruisers have retained the trademark harmonies and dynamic melodic approach, naturally in an updated form befitting the year we live in. Most of the usual crew are on hand, and honestly that has been one of the bands main assets over the last quarter of a century, with the type of lineup stability few bands could hope for.

The band spent a long period working on this album and at fourteen tracks there's a lot to digest and admittedly it didn't all click on initial listens, as with 1997's 'Pole Town' there is a variety of styles on display, some quirky tracks, some straight forward hard rock, but all identifiably The Cruisers.

The Songs

Sensibly a rocker kicks things off, 'Little Black Book' among the heaviest tracks of the bands career, with a reliance on riffing rather than the much missed keyboards that the band utilised so heavily once. All the massive harmonies are intact, the chorus sticks instantly, a promising beginning.

One of the highlights is 'No Rest For The Wicked' an 80's throwback in every sense, synthesizer and melody wise, an an easy fit for any of The Cruisers classic catalogue from 1980 to 85. This sadly is a rarity among the album as a whole.

The title track is a worthy ballad, reflective and gentle, but not going anywhere in particular melody wise unfortunately. A cover of Sam And Dave's 'Soul Man' seems unnecessary in the overall scheme, and followed by a slice of modern rock in 'Let's Go', the band is throwing every direction in they can muster.

'Just Go Tango' sees Iris at his vocal best, although this is too melancholic for the Cruisers, with a symphonic backing that overshadows the guitar work. 'Love Me With The Lights On' is older styled to an extent, but lacking the relevance of essential Donnie Iris, there aren't any passages with melodic punch to refer to of note.

Moving to the pop end of things is 'Love Messiah', with its organ dominated atmosphere, while at the other end 'Rocque Fantastique' is funky to the end, with the best harmonies of the album, vintage Cruisers. It's hard to get past the reserved likes of 'Let's Go', annoyingly light and not what you want from this great band through the course of an entire album almost.

In Summary

This is nothing like the Donnie Iris of old, but for 2006 it's not shabby either. With such a mammoth AOR back catalogue it's natural to pine for material geared to that era when The Cruisers were in their prime, but let's face it, those days are long gone and like others they have just adapted to the current time and place.

The main drawback is the lack of harder edged tunes replaced by some barren, introspective modern rock tracks that tend to overshadow the bands natural tendencies to a degree.

This shouldn't deter longtime fans from avoiding 'Ellwood City', Iris' distinctive vocals maintain the identity easily, so maybe I'm over analysing the whole affair. One for the dedicated fan that through persistence will find much to savour.


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