Frontiers [Release Date 24.02.17]
It’s been six long years since Unruly Child made a triumphant comeback with their original line up featuring Marcie Free, as she now is, releasing the excellent ‘Worlds Collide’ album and headlining Firefest that year.
Opening track ‘The Only One’ marks their return in promising style with a good hook and layered vocals, albeit masked by a rather cluttered instrumental production. The arrangements are more spacious on the rest of the album, but it takes a downward turn with a series of bland, mellow and directionless numbers that remind me at times of Mike and the Mechanics and others guitarist Bruce Gowdy and keyboardist Guy Allison’s band World Trade.
‘She Can’t Go Home’ is a fine, atmospheric ballad, but too often the album descends into a yacht rock blandness, accentuated by the album cover and nautical metaphors (‘See If She Floats’). While technically sound, the album seems to lack passion and even Marcie’s fine voice, which in the days of Signal and the Mark Free solo album conveyed heartbreaking emotion, struggles to invest the songs with any fervour.
Belatedly things look up with the hi-tech prog of ‘Sunlit Sky’, which closes with fine guitar and synth solos, and ‘Someday Somehow’ which is an uptempo AOR anthem, only spoiled by inexplicable fake crowd noise.
I may be doing the album a disservice, but its mellowness will come as a disappointment to those expecting a repeat of Unruly Child’s 1992 debut or even ‘Worlds Collide’. ** 1/2
Review by Andy Nathan
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