MICHAEL STANLEY – The Ride (2013)
Since the mid-seventies with the The Michael Stanley Band, singer & songwriter MICHAEL STANLEY has been firmly established in the US Classic Rock field. During the eighties the group turned musically more radio friendly, close to AOR with the LP ‘Inside Moves’, one that I play regularly.
When the MSB broke up in 1987, its leader was far from finished with music. He just seemed to get more productive as time went on, cranking out seven studio albums in the decade between 2000 and 2009.
Now he’s back with “The Ride”, showing that, although he may not headline big arenas anymore like he did in the ’80s, music is just not ever going to let go of him.
“The Ride” is pure Classic (US) Rock in all its essence. You have rockin’ moments, blues, Americana, soul, R&B and more, all exquisitely cooked with Stanley’s pristine style.
Although going under his own moniker as solo artist since many years, his reliable cast of musicians – including two MSB veterans drummer Tom Dobeck who has been with him since 1974 and keyboardist Bob Pelander who joined in 1975 – add that familiar, comfortable warmness and color typical of his tunes. Female vocalist Jennifer Lee, whether she’s singing backup or dueting with Michael has become quite integral to Stanley’s sound as well.
Michael Stanley mixes all the aforementioned styles with ease (and class), with occasional smooth horn sections and often throwing in a tasty guitar solo, or two, for good measure. From beginning to end this is, plain and simply, a damn good musical experience.
Opener “Shiny Things” has a R&B sound reminiscent of his favorite songs from the past, a groovy number that comes to life with the help of Jennifer Lee’s sassy (in a good way) backing vocals and red-hot guitar work by Danny Powers and Marc Lee Shannon.
“Anything Goes” is an all out bluesy rocker and one of the highlights, “Uptown” is another example of Stanley having fun and gets your toes-a-tapping, while “Lucky Again” just rocks.
There’’s a heavy-funk copious use of organ, sax, spark guitars and soul-style backup vocals on the midtempo “Take That Ride”, the pensive “Justine”, “Making Beds” and on “Shining Through”.
Two tracks which reveal the most about why Stanley’s music wears so well are his loving, deliberate take on the BeeGees’ classic “To Love Somebody”, one of my favorites here. What begins as a stripped down version of the song with just Michael and a guitar, builds into a dramatic piece with powerful backing vocals provided by Don Dixon, resulting in an instant classic cover of…well, a classic.
The other is the album’s closing track “When the Smoke Finally Clears”. While the sentiments in these tunes are routine, there’s something in his inflections and his phrasing that’s pitch-perfect in terms of emotional sincerity. You feel as if he has lived what he sings.
“The Ride” is a triumphant salute to the Classic Rock bred and raised in the USA. There’s a constant feel of ‘letting go and letting groove’ in Michael Stanley’s music, the man is mining his talent here and the vein is deep.
The musical and vocal performances on the album are stellar throughout, and the songwriting emotional, sensitive. “The Ride” was mixed and co-produced by Stanley’s good friend and producer extraordinaire (can you say The Who and the Eagles?) Bill Szymczyk. Suffice it to say, everything sounds great.
No matter how good the audio quality, however, it is the music that matters. And the music in “The Ride” is amazing.
Lovers of inspired, fleshy US Classic Rock, don’t miss this album.
01 – Shiny Things
02 – All I Want
03 – Take That Ride
04 – To Love Somebody
05 – Uptown
06 – If Anybody Could
07 – A Fool In Love
08 – Justine
09 – Lucky Again
10 – Making Beds (In A Burning House)
11 – Shining Thru
12 – Anything Goes
13 – I Can’t Wait
14 – When The Smoke It Finally Clears
Michael Stanley – Vocals, Bass, Guitar
Jennifer Lee, Don Dixon – Vocals
Danny Powers, Frankie Starr, Marc Lee Shannon – Guitar
Bob Pelander – Organ, Piano
Michael Gismondi, Eric Sosinski – Bass
Tommy Dobeck – Drums
Rodney Psyka – Percussion
Gary Jones – Keyboards
Paul Christensen – Saxophone
BUY IT !