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John Waite - Rovers Return

posted 22 Oct 2011, 13:50 by Tony Gaskin
Review By Brian McGowan

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Released in 1987, ‘Rovers Return’ was the last of the four solo albums that Waite sandwiched between his stints fronting proto melodic rock men, The Babys and “supergroup”, Bad English.

A generation later, the album has been remastered and reissued, by enterprising British label, BGO Records, a small label with a phenomenal track record.

Waites’ second solo effort, ‘No Brakes’ had yielded the massive worldwide hit single, ‘Missing You’, but the follow up album, ‘Mask Of Smiles’ yielded only one minor Top Forty incursion.

As a result, acknowledged hit writers, Desmond Child, Diane Warren and Rick Nowels were called in to contribute to ‘Rovers Return’.

Child was cresting a wave of popularity, with big hits written for Bon Jovi, Kiss, Cher and Aerosmith all charting around this time. So you could understand the desire to get him on board.

His fingerprints are all over opening track and first single ‘These Times Are Hard For Lovers’, mainlining us into an adrenaline rush of a chorus, anthemic and radio friendly. However, it doesn’t really work here. For me, Uber producer Frank Fillipetti seldom puts a foot wrong, but this track tends to bombast, and its slick, polished finish gives it a manufactured tone.

Warren and Nowells’ contributions, respectively, ‘Don’t Lose Any Sleep’ and ‘Big Time For Love’ are passably good melodic rock songs. The former’s lyrical topsy turvy is a neat trick that suits Waite’s tortured soul delivery.

Paradoxically though, the real standout tracks were either written solely by Waite (Act Of Love) or with long time collaborator, Ivan Kral (She’s The One).

When Waite is at his absolute best, there’s an honesty in his vocal delivery. He pulls off that difficult trick of making you care. Even when spinning the romanticism in ‘Act Of Love’, he employs remarkable restraint, ensuring the song’s sentiments don’t tip over into sentimentality.

And on ‘Wild One’, he is clearly reaching out for the unattainable, a restless spirit, trapped in circumstances, defined in stark relief by John McCurry’s freewheeling, razor sharp axework. This is Waite, Fillipetti and McCurry doing what they do best.

Album standout however, just has to be ‘She’s The One’. It has all the musical urgency and lyrical rhythm of great eighties’ AOR. The track may lack the artistic ambition of so much of Waite’s material, but it works like a dream, with keyboards, guitars and voice all propelled by a deceptively simple melodic imperative.

Elsewhere, ‘Woman’s Touch’ and ‘Encircled’ are edgier, grittier affairs and were maybe just too much of a contrast to the other material on ‘Rovers Return’ for the casual fan of the time.

The album wasn’t a commercial success and Waite went on to form Bad English.

But today, 24 years on, you can see that is clearly an accomplished piece of work, filled with superb melodies and inspired moments, with a remastering job that makes the music sound dynamic, clear and pin sharp, unwrapping the album’s full potential.

A worthy investment. Don’t wait.