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Shaw Blades - Influence Review

by Morley Seaver

What can be better than this? Twelve classic songs, all out and out masterpieces, given a respectful once over by two guys who know a thing or two about writing a great song: Tommy Shaw of Styx and Jack Blades of Night Ranger (both of Damn Yankees).

Following their impossibly irresistible 1995 gem Hallucination (which was very Beatles-esque), the pair are back with a CD that displays how seamlessly their voices blend together. They don't really try to change much from the original versions, preferring instead to let their impressive vocals carry the day.

Starting off the set is one of my favorite songs "Summer Breeze" by Seals & Crofts. The boys give the song a bit more of a brighter sound and as he does on several cuts, Tommy does some interesting background vocal lines. Jack sings lead, as he does on most cuts, and the pair sounds just awesome on the chorus.

The Zombies' classic "Time of the Season" is equal to the task, coming out terrifically with Jack again on lead. There's a tasty solo near the end as well. Mr. Shaw brings in the higher register for Yes' "Your Move" which has some terrific faithful instrumentation.

"I Am a Rock" brings in a bit of the guitar muscle to really spark this song and "Lucky Man" by Emerson, Lake & Palmer sounds close to the original except for the guitar in place of Keith Emerson's moog solo.

The jewel of the record is an absolutely stunning version of Simon & Garfunkel's "The Sound of Silence". One could say, it's kind of hard to mess up a song that is as exquisitely composed as this? However, Shaw and Blades more than do it justice. In truth, they actually make the song sparkle because they are able to accurately convey the emotion from the original and make it sound even warmer. Now this is partially due to production and the reality of recording a song today rather than the mid '60s when this was written. Still, they add their own intangibles.

Man, one by one they keep coming. Next up is "California Dreaming", the flagship piece from The Mamas and Papas and they just kill it. I mean that in the good sense. Even the guitar solo doesn't detract from the original or stand out oddly. The guys even manage to record the background vocals which are such a pillar on the song in such a way that it sounds similar to the original.

"On a Carousel" by The Hollies is solid as is Steely Dan's "Dirty Work" and Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth" retains the atmosphere of Stills' version. The guys give a bit of a treatment to Orleans' "Dance With Me" that augments the original.

For those that are familiar with these songs, this is an awesome collection. For younger listeners, this record is a great chance to get an overview of some of the most important songs of the '60s and '70s. Influence reproduces the songs accurately but without disrupting the original ingredients, the boys manage to inject a bit of intangible something to polish up these already gleaming jewels.

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Shaw Blades - Influence

Label:VH1 Classic Records

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