Review by Paul H Birch.
Picture a widescreen lens panning down on Hollywood Boulevard as cars scream by slick city shops with beautiful people milling about before we start to focus on the lead character of some feel good 80s Cinderella-makeover blockbuster. Jimi Jamison’s opening track ‘Everybody’s Got a Broken Heart’ cues us in on how the movie’s next 90 minutes would play out. It’s got a piano-tinkling hook-line, guitar chords that chop with polite intensity and a masterfully gruff soul-soaked voice that tells a story we’re well familiar with by now; but my God, try stopping your foot tapping along.
Coming from a heavy metal background to hook up as front-man with Survivor was an astute financial move for the singer and it’s too late to break out of the mould now. Mind you, to these ears, this record has a lot more AOR variety than that band ever did. The Great Unknown is semi-dated Daddy-rock driving music with some pleasant counter melodies, whereas Never Too Late is definitely of a different time but builds up with thoughtful lyrics and an infectious rhythm rooted by a solid bottom-ended bass guitar and a too-brief sweet guitar solo. By the time it gets to the clap-along section and harmonies, I’m nearly embarrassed to admit how much I like this.
‘I Can’t Turn Back’ takes an introspective gospel approach, with a lot of melodramatic guitar chords in the chorus as Jameson phrases emotively not just precision. Give this to someone like Tina Turner and it would end up pretentiously overblown, but a hit.
Treated vocals and Fairlight synthesisers threaten to haunt us as ‘Street Survivor’ starts up but it suddenly straps in and hits out above its weight in a hardy rocker that wouldn’t have been out of place in Pete Goalby-era Uriah Heep. Be careful if you’re a house husband ironing along to this one you might end up burning yourself – not that I did, naturally.
‘The Air I Breathe’ as introspective ballad has Jamieson crooning away as chorus harmonies tread dangerously into Air Supply territory. The tale of blighted love and revenge that is ‘Not Tonight’ has a clever chorus but doesn’t rise above the occasion, coming across as a Michaels Bolton or McDonald penned number for Whitney Huston to warble away on. ‘Calling the Game’ is a return to album form, driven by a piano melody and Jameson singing clichés so heartily you’d love to hear him perform it live.
Next up we go widescreen with a sense of unrelenting urgency, the whole band rollicking and Jamieson hollering tunefully for all he’s worth. ‘Bullet in the Gun’ is the tale of some impending doom not made clear. Having played the song endlessly a week prior to the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, USA it now feel likes some dark prophecy.
‘Heaven Call Your Name’ follows aptly; a power ballad with existential lyricism and an extended tortured guitar solo squealing out before a brief poignant organ fadeout, while ‘Walk On (Wildest Dreams)’ is the big finish: stylish guitar chords getting progressively louder in a song of full-throated promise delivered by Jamison.
Aided and abetted Erik Mårtensson (Eclipse, W.E.T.) on production and guitars, if there’s a fault to Jimi Jamison’s Never Too Late it’s that it’s a little too polite and likeable and could ruin one’s rock credibility but then if you play it loud enough who cares!
8 out of 10
- Everybody’s got a Broken Heart
- The Great Unknown
- Never Too Late
- I Can’t Turn Back
- Street Survivor
- The Air I Breathe
- Not Tonight
- Calling the Game
- Bullet in the Gun
- Heaven Call Your Name
- Walk On (Wildest Dreams)