Review Summary: Glass Tiger's Alan Frew puts his own spin on the 80's with "80290 Rewind".
I’ll admit it was difficult for me to get excited about this CD. Not only was I hoping for a release of all new original material, Alan Frew decided he wasn’t going to leave any surprises for listeners when he chose to broadcast the entire CD on Periscope over the summer. In other words, if you tuned in for each Periscope broadcast, you’ve already heard this entire CD.
For those not familiar with Alan Frew, he is the lead singer of 80’s Canadian pop group Glass Tiger. Frew is not unknown to solo works. In 1994 he released his debut solo CD “Hold On” and followed that up in 2000 with “Wonderland”. Both were CDs with original material released in Canada. Fifteen years after his last release Frew has decided to take the easy route with “80290 Rewind”, a CD of 80’s covers.
The CD opens with “Don’t You Forget About Me”, a song written by Keith Forsey and Steve Schiff for the John Hughes’ 1985 film classic “The Breakfast Club”. Simple Minds would become the group infamous for singing this title track. The song has also been covered by Victoria Justice, American Idol winner David Cook, “Breakfast Club” cast member Molly Ringwald and now Alan Frew.
Vocally Frew does a good job, fluctuating the lyrics in the right places, tossing in a feel of Glass Tiger’s “Animal Heart” and “Rhythm of Your Love” here and there. My biggest problem with this song is the fact that there is way too much piano and not enough guitar. I know the music was recorded in Nashville, but c’mon. It also sounds off key in places.
Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis’ song “Human” is well done with smooth lead and backing vocals and a nice use of brass instruments. As mellow as the original is, Frew’s version reminds me of something I’d hear in a dentist’s office or an elevator.
“Everytime You Go Away” was written by Daryl Hall and is not new to the world of covers. Although British singer Paul Young made it popular, the song has been sung by everyone from Hall and Oates to Linus of Hollywood. Frew’s spin is on cue. With fine harmonizing, this song is the perfect song for him to sing.
The Madonna and Patrick Leonard hit “Live To Tell” intros with a nice use of sax. Other than that, the vocals are ordinary, sound better coming from a female and personally, I think the song should have been left alone.
Written by Roland Orzabal, Ian Stanley and Chris Hughes, “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” became Tears For Fears’ first number one hit in the United States in 1985. Musically the remake is fantastic. Although the lyrics seem to run on in the original, they still flow, unlike in this cover where the vocals seem “choppy” in places.
Nothing can get easier for an artist than to perform a cover of their own song. Or so you would think. Not so with Frew’s cover of Glass Tiger’s own 1986 hit “Someday”. Although it is well played out with acoustic piano, Frew took a bouncy classic pop tune and turned it into a dragged out country heartbreak song. The most memorable part is the high note Frew hits at the end. At least he proves that although his decision to slow this song down to a crawl was botched, he can still crack glass.
“Hold Me Now” will always resonate with me as being the first cover song I ever heard Alan Frew perform live. And he does it extremely well. So well I prefer it live over this CD version. Although I feel there is too much synthesizer, it does add to the 80’s feel of the song.
Prince’s song “Nothing Compares 2 U” never did anything for me. Even more so since Sinead O’Connor sang the song. So when I learned Alan Frew was going to be singing this song, I rolled my eyes. I was pleasantly surprised with the results. Frew’s version has a nice, bluesy feel to it, complete with organ and a well-done piano solo. Frew performs with strong, even vocals and, at least for me, has turned a song I once could not stand into something tolerable.
Frew does one up on Peter Gabriel’s haunting “In Your Eyes”. He takes us away from the song that peaked at #26 in 1986 and became synonymous with the John Cusack film “Say Anything” in 1989. If there is any song on “80290 Rewind” that Frew truly makes his “own”, it is “In Your Eyes”. Just the fact that he sings better than Gabriel is a bonus. Add the fact that he vocalizes well and the background pipes are well mixed, and you have gold.
I feel “Missing You” is probably the best cover on the CD vocally. Written by John Waite, Mark Leonard and Chas Sandford and originally performed by Waite, Frew does a smash-up job of matching vocal styles. He manages to add his own touch with a modern country sound.
Cyndi Lauper’s first U. S. #1 was “Time After Time”, a song she co-wrote with Hooter Rob Hyman. It was released in 1984. Although it has been performed by Lauper along with everyone from Sarah McLachlan to Lil’ Kim, “Time After Time”, like “Live To Tell” and “Someday”, should not have been touched. Although I will give Frew credit for doing a better job on this one than what he did with Madonna. There is a nice vocalization mix going on.
In 1983 if you told me that in 2015 I was going to hear “Owner of a Lonely Heart” by Yes, except it was going to be sung by Alan Frew, I would’ve been running for the hills. Not because Alan Frew is singing. It’s because I just cannot stand “Owner of a Lonely Heart”. I don’t care if Elvis was singing it. It would still suck. I really can see why Clive Davis didn’t think it would become a hit. I can also see why Yes never had any other hits. There really isn’t too much I can say about this one other than ugh. Just overall UGH.
At least Frew saved the worst for last.