RIYL: Tears for Fears, Scandal, Matthew Sweet
When was the last time you heard a really good power pop record? When the last time recorded music compulsively dictated your feet to tap from the beginning of track one to the end of the last song? When was the last time you heard a disk that sounded fun, nearly flawless and still had enough of a left hook to knock you out? Boys and girls, that record has arrived and it is the brainchild of two music vets who absolutely and unapologetically have made a tremendous pop record.
Zack Smith is the founder of Scandal, which launched several tracks into the collective consciousness of the ’80s, including “Goodbye to You,” “Love’s Got a Line on You” and “The Warrior.” Cathy Richardson has released five studio discs, including the masterpieces Road To Bliss (2003), Delusions of Grandeur (2006) and Jefferson’s Tree of Liberty (2008) as part of Jefferson Starship. The collaboration here is nothing short of magically delicious (well, it may not be Lucky Charms but it is one hell of a record). Vocally, Richardson has always shifted in and out of styles gracefully with tremendous command and presence. The Other Side features her staying in the power pop realm from beginning to end. This is demanding material and she is up for the challenge. This statement is one that is difficult to make considering her tremendous reputation, but it needs to be said; this is her best vocal performance to date.
“Beautiful Girl” mixes two parts Beach Boys with two parts late-period Beatles with just a splash of Tears for Fears to create a powerful ambiance and a brilliant canvass for Richardson to blast out the dreamy lyrics. Much like the rest of the record, Smith and Richardson create arrangements that are devoured by the ear. “Everything” begins with a dreamy effects laced introduction before building into an arena-sized chorus and features some very clever guitar work. It is such a perfectly crafted song that it begs to be placed on permanent repeat status. The power ballad “If I Could” caresses your heart and kicks you in the gut at the same time. Studio vets Michael Lockwood and Jude Gold, along with Smith and Richardson, create enough guitar crunch to give the record the kick that provide the perfect complement to Richardson’s monstrous vocal talent. I am hoping that this is not a onetime project. This is a record that begs for a sequel. (Cash Rich 2010)