On The Western Skyline/Every Little Kiss/Mandolin Rain/The Long Race/The Way It Is/Down The Road Tonight/The Wild Frontier/The River Runs Low/The Red Plains
Simply a lovely debut album from Bruce Hornsby & The Range. Released in 1986, I love this album dearly. Even if I don't listen to it all the time these days, every time I give it a whirl, it cannot help but lift the spirits - Hornsby's instantly recognisable, melodious piano, his yearning vocals and his often inspiring, evocative, emotional and pertinent lyrics are all ingredients to what is a fine piece of work.
Every Little Kiss is an upbeat radio friendly romantic number and Mandolin Rain is a copper-bottomed Hornsby classic, full of wonderful piano and a moving vocal delivery of lyrics packed with pathos. Hornsby's yearning voice can give a celebratory song a sadness.
Then there is The Way It Is, in many ways the song that made Bruce Hornsby, the trademark piano riff used again and again to provide the soundtrack for TV features even sports highlights and so on.
The Wild Frontier is another more rock influenced song, with some slightly funky guitar and wild violin break, while The River Runs Low is a beautiful, piano-driven ballad. The album ends with The Red Plains which manages to combine a tender slow number with some tough rock passages and a "na na na" chorus part to boot.
All in all, this was an excellent debut album from a most underrated band.
Jacob's Ladder/The Way It Is/The Long Race/Mandolin Rain/Extended Piano Solo/The Red Plains/I Know You Rider/Every Little Kiss/The River Runs Low/The Wild Frontier/On The Western Skyline/Till The Dreaming's Done/Down The Road Tonight
This is a rare Bruce Hornsby live album. It is one of those "official" bootleg releases take from radio broadcasts and now made available for release. For me, the sound is slightly superior to most bootlegs, no doubt because it is sourced from the radio broadcast. Personally, I find it perfectly listenable.
Hornsby and the band are on top form, and they play the whole of the The Way It Is album, plus Jacob's Ladder and Till The Dreaming's Done from the forthcoming Scenes From The Southside album. There is also the previously unreleased I Know You Rider (which does suffer a brief sound dropout). Personal favourites are Mandolin Rain, Every Little Kiss and the rocking closer, Down The Road Tonight.
Look, if you are an "audiophile" you will find things to gripe about regarding the sound. If, like me, you are just happy to hear some Hornsby live material from this period then you will enjoy this. I saw them live in 1988 and they were great, so it brings back good memories.
Look Out Any Window/The Valley Road/I Will Walk With You/The Road Not Taken/The Show Goes On/The Old Playground/Defenders Of The Flag/Jacob's Ladder/When The Dreaming's Done
There are some albums for which, however many years pass since their recording, always remain close to my heart. This is one of them. Despite being in dire need of a remastering, having a bit of a bright, tinny, late eighties sound, it is simply a wonderful collection of melodic, piano-driven, emotive songs.
Bruce Hornsby’s lyrics are perceptive, moving, worldly-wise, mournful and yet uplifting all at the same time. His ear for a catchy tune is superb and his piano-playing is unique and instantly recognisable. I read someone compare it at times to Rachmaninov. I wouldn’t know but it certainly is integral to the perfect soundscape of this album.
I Will Walk With You opens with the most delicious piece of piano before Hornsby’s sad, yearning, evocative voice comes in. It just moves me so much. Beautiful. Lovely lyrics and delivery. Just perfect.
A few comparative rockers are also in Hornsby’s canon here - the nostalgic The Old Playground where he vaguely remembers his childhood amongst wiser, older emotions; the blues-harmonica enhanced Defenders Of The Flag - a song whose meaning I have never been quite sure, but it comes across as a wryly cynical one. Jacob's Ladder is a corker, a full on potent rock song with a great opening line - “I met a fan dancer in downtown Birmingham..”.
Just when you think that is that for wistful, poignant love songs we are treated to the treasure that is When The Dreaming's Done. Some Parisian-style accordion drives this entrancing song along. For anyone who is or has been head over heels in love with someone this is for you. One of my favourite songs of all time from one of my favourite albums of all time.
A Night On The Town (1990)
A Night On The Town/Carry The Water/Fire On the Cross/Barren Ground/Across The River/Stranded On Easy Street/Stander On The Mountain/Lost Soul/Another Day/Special Night/These Arms Of Mine
This was the third and final album accredited to Bruce Hornsby & The Range and it has always been one that has never quite done it for me, despite a few high points. Hornsby's trademark piano licks are noticeably thinner on the ground, as are the killer melodies and it is a far more rock-powered album, which was a bit of a shame in comparison with its two predecessors. Hornsby was always a great lyricist, though, and his skill is still apparent on many of the songs here.
It is also long overdue a remastering, as its sound is still a bit tinny. A sonic makeover would improve the album considerably.
A Night On The Town is a solid, chunky opener, with a firm bass sound and an insistent, grinding melody. Hornsby's evocative voice is instantly recognisable. Carry The Water utilises that most eighties-nineties thing - the accursed programmed drum sound. When you have a drummer as competent as John Molo, why not just have "proper" drums? Whatever, it is still a reasonable track, with a great hook and a welcome typical piano solo.
Fire On The Cross is a hard-hitting song about the Ku Klux Klan, backed by an appealing country-style mandolin.
By far my favourite track on the album is the moving Barren Ground, a slow number delivered in Hornsby's pathos-evoking voice as he tells us how good seeds don't grow on barren ground. Bruce Springsteen wrote great hard times songs in this mould and, at times, Hornsby is right up there with him. I love this song dearly and have done for thirty years. Shawn Colvin provides excellent backing vocals, by the way.
The lively Across The River is another top notch track, unfortunately blighted by dodgy sound in places, but not enough to detract from its appeal. although Stranded On Easy Street has a typically eighties-nineties synth riff, it is a mightily enjoyable song.
Stander On The Mountain is the album's big, robust production number featuring more impressive vocals, lyrics and a tinkling piano passage. Shawn Colin contributes a great vocal on the album's last real Hornsby classic in the emotional and touching Lost Soul.
Another Day is a rollicking piano-driven rocker and the riffy, slightly swampy Special Night rocks more than I recall from when I first heard the album. I have rediscovered a liking for the track. There is some great guitar and piano interplay near the end. These Arms Of Mine is more dignified and soulful. I hope I have reassessed this album positively, although I still have slight problems with the sound.
Harbor Lights/Talk Of The Town/Long Tall Cool One/China Doll/Fields Of Grey/Rainbow's Cadillac/Passing Through/The Tide Will Rise/What A Time/Pastures Of Plenty
This was Bruce Hornsby's first "solo" recording, without The Range, although long-time drummer John Molo was still with him. It is still full of piano-driven, melodious AOR-style rock, with sensitive, observant lyrics, although this album has far more jazzy tinges than previous offerings.
Long Tall Cool One is a Steely Dan-esque melodious number about a mysterious character. The saxophone in the background, from the instantly recognisable Branford Marsalis, is intoxicating.
Rainbow's Cadillac is incredibly catchy with another piano-drive jazzy refrain. Great stuff. Probably the best cut on the album.
What A Time is just sumptuous, featuring some top notch piano from Hornsby. Another great track. Pastures Of Plenty is a more sombre, slow tempo rock number, with some great guitar breaks, to end what is a very enjoyable, moving and uplifting album. Highly recommended.