Gowan – [Album]

Friday, 27 April 2012

Why is it that every time a profitable market trend hits the music business, a few old, totally inappropriate hands shoot in the air to announce, “Me too!” Over the last few years (three or four) the trend has been to reissue the back catalogues of established acts with fresh and new digital remastering treatments applied to spruce up the music. This trend has proven to be rewarding in a few cases; as the vaults have been pillaged (see the catalogues of Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Sebadoh and Queens Of The Stone Age) or new coats of digital paint have been dashed onto the work of venerable names (the reissued catalogues of The Beatles, John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd – to name a few). Both new and long-time fans have been afforded the opportunity to re-evaluate some of the passages in the classic songbook do discover just how well they hold up decades later against the new creative turns taken in the music world of the twenty-first century.

Yes, some of the reissues which have been released over the last couple of years have been impressive and thought provoking, but there was little doubt that a reissue would eventually appear which no one cared about, and now it has a name: the twenty-fifth anniversary reissue of Gowan's Great Dirty World.

Gowan, for those readers who are having difficulty placing the name, is a Canadian prog-rocker who has fronted Styx since 1999 but initially broke through as a solo artist in the Eighties. Great Dirty World was his third album, and arguably his most successful; it yielded three singles – one of which proved to be the highest-charting of his career (“Moonlight Desires” reached number 2 on the Canadian Adult Contemporary chart) – and really helped to establish the singer on the national stage.

While they might sound exciting on a resume, all of those achievements and accolades that Gowan enjoyed on the strength of Great Dirty World twenty-five years ago really don't mean much now and, unfortunately, the exact same thing could be said of the muse contained on the album. From the moment “Moonlight Desires” eorms its way into being with contempo-casual style and John Tesh-identified flare, Great Dirty World is launched off on its crooked trajectory. Right from the beginning, listeners will get the impression that something about what they're hearing is wrong (and they're right), but won't be able to put their finger on exactly what it is so they'll keep listening, if only out of some sense of perverse curiosity. Here, Gowan's guitar and vocals radiate pitch-perfect corporate product while the backing instrumentation (supplied by a small army of players including Tony Levin, Rob Brill and Bob Ezrin) drips saccharine and betrays no flaw which might imply a personality. Simply said, the whole record is just too easy to watch as it passes through and, while technically proficient, doesn't hook listeners to take them on a ride.

As if trying to hear this music again wasn't hard enough (it really is the dictionary definition of an anachronism) Lawrence Gowan has upped the stakes; in early 2012 the guitarist walked into a recording studio and re-recorded three of the songs from Great Dirty World – the title track, “Brief Shining Moment” and “Forever One” – with little more than some piano for accompaniment to prove the songs can still work. Do they? Of course not! With the new context and approach, these archetypal examples of Eighties pop-prog (which wasn't all that good to begin with) just sound like the muzak that one might expect to hear in an elevator or in a hotel piano bar. In that way, they're not even good distractions from a bad release; they simply drive the point further and illustrate that some moments in music history are best left forgotten.



The 25th Anniversary reissue of Great Dirty World by Gowan will be released on May 18, 2012 via Linus Entertainment. Pre-order it here on Amazon .

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