DBA is a collaboration of Geoff Downes (Asia, Yes) and Chris Braide (producer for Lana Del Rey and David Guetta amongst others). If it owes something to the duo’s overt pop sensibilites as evidenced by Downes with The Buggles it never falls into pop mush. The production is wonderful, and the musical values exemplary. Throughout the album is a paean to changing times, lost loves, and passing years but nothing too abstract and ultimately the guys urge us ‘Live For The Moment and Let Go Of The Past.’
A 13-minute ‘Sunday News Suite’ is hardly the stuff of Radio 2 airplay (at least in its entire format) and a bold enough starter but it remains engaging throughout. It is in fact four tracks “Sunday News”, “Islands” , “Goodbye Johnny” and “Anywhere”.
The grafting of Braide’s modern pop vocals along with Downes typically rich and anthemic orchestrations works so well, it’s as if Geoff has allowed an evidently commercial (and successful) pop songwriter/producer to be perfectly grounded in a more sophisticated and therefore arguably more durable rock structure.
What does it sound like? As I listened to the album with its occasional ambient noises, high-quality production values and irresistible choruses, I thought of a more poppy Marillion but it also sits well with Downes’ other project with old-Buggles buddy Trevor Horn, The Producers and with the last Yes album ‘We Can Fly’. ‘Ride The Waves’ even echoes the ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’ opening motif.
Several years ago I raved about a band called Public Symphony and there are definite musical similarities not least in the energizing values of the lyrical content. Sadly that project never seemed sustainable and I would guess that it may be more due to circumstance – personalities and management – that failed to give the necessary push rather than any other deficiency.
Much will be made of DBA’s slightly eighties retro-feel but this perhaps only applies to the programmed drumming and essentially keyboard-led delivery. With Geoff Downes you are always in very safe, experienced and, moreover, tasteful hands. Chris Braile’s vocal is blatantly auto-tuned for additional effect as you hear on many “pop” albums so in that sense it sounds very commercial and contemporary although sadly that might grate on some listeners.
There are so many highlights on this album, you just need to start at the beginning and lose yourself in this sumptuous feast. You will feel elevated, and in a much better mood. But if time is poor ‘The Radiant Children’ and ‘Pictures Of You’ (the lyrics will instantly appeal to any ageing music lover) should be savoured, whilst ‘Road To Ruin’ and ‘Live For The Moment’ (echoes of a more impassioned Deacon Blue) sum up the album’s overall AOR values (as in adult-oriented rock).
The album, released in November 2012, may miss many folk’s ‘Best Of’ year selections, but it is right up there with the very best of them. Simply gorgeous. *****
Review by David Randall
David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 20 September 2020.
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