What do you do when you’ve created instantly recognisable era-defining sounds, worked with nearly all the stadium-filling names that matter, sold kerjillions of records, and you’re at a point in your career when you can pick and choose what to get involved in? Why, you form a bar band to play your favourite watering hole in Camden of course! Such was the modest game plan of Trevor Horn and 10cc’s Lol Creme back in 2006. Joined by guitarist Stephen Lipson, drummer Ash Soan and, initially, guitarist/ keyboard player Chris Braide, they knocked off a bunch of career-covering numbers, had themselves a good time, and decided it’d be a fun idea to record an album.
Six years later, with Braide now in guest-only mode, the completed album is every bit as meticulous as might be expected given the calibre of those involved. Though there’s not a note out of place, it must be said, there’s little in the way of surprises either, with much of the material sounding as though it’s just been disinterred from a time capsule marked ‘The 1980s’.
Yet, the quality shines through the retro gloss. Production geeks will find themselves swooning as heat-seeking beats kick in, bass lines thunder, and precision-guided strings hit the sweet spot at precisely the right point. These vets know a brilliant curtain-raiser when they come across it, and the turbo-charged Freeway, with its soothing Seal-like prelude, fulfils the role brilliantly. A dazzling burst of cinematic rock with sweeping orchestration, surging rhythms and catchy choruses aplenty, it’s without doubt a contender for the best track Yes never recorded. Only a set of ear-plugs would prevent you from being swept up in the ensuing drama.
That association with Yes could apply to Garden Of Flowers, whose pealing guitar intro and rippling mid-section solo provide an object lesson in how concision and economy can be the most effective part of the musician’s skill. Underpinned by tragic events in Horn’s personal life, there’s a cathartic transcendence with lyrics that evoke speed, light and constant motion. Hurtling over an ever-changing landscape of memories and emotions, he abruptly comes to a still, single point of yearning. Continuing the theme during Every Single Night Of Jamaica, Horn unflinchingly confronts that sense of pain and loss.
Aside from a couple of inconsequential though innocuous enough pot-boilers, Made In Basing Street, maps out an agreeably expansive space between memorable, classic pop, and prog-inclined AOR vistas. An eloquent celebration of good old-fashioned songwriting.