Rick Springfield: “Surviving the 80s”
Part Six: “Tao”
Having got the knack of releasing format albums, which could ideally fit in with the times and blend in in the company of his contemporaries, Rick Springfield decided to experiment once more. Truth be told it was indeed the time to try something new since it would have been inexcusably lux to keep churning out something similar to Success Hasn't Spoiled Me Yet
and Hard to Hold
that though relatively successful were lacking and pretty much inane. The world of music was ruled by synths as they spread over almost all popular genres, while new wave was breaking apart into pieces that crawled in different directions displaying here and there flashes of freshness and inspiration. That was the road Springfield set out on, grabbing his baggage of pop-rock skills along the way.
the musician wraps his time- and public-tested rock stuffing into layers of electronics sprinkling many of the tracks with synth flecks and rhythmical drum machines. However unlike rather bland Working Class Dog
and Success Hasn't Spoiled Me Yet
the LP mostly presents fairly good and very stylish material. In fact, Springfield circa the 1980s was more successful at experiments with sound and delivery than attempts to write good or even hit songs (the latter did tend to pop up from time to time). Whenever Springfield tries to focus not on individual songs but on an album as a collection of tracks stringed together in purpose, we get something worthy of closer attention than superficial “get through and forget” approach.
This more serious look is compelled by both the title and the cover with the neoromantic, brooding singer immersed in thought and contemplation of the Way (Tao). The Eastern influence is reflected in the contents, as some of the tracks bring to mind associations with hi-tech Chinatown of the future. A keen listener can detect rudimental industrial (with a “pop-” prefix obviously) in such songs as Dance This World Away
, Written in Rock
, Walk Like a Man
A dance element cannot go unnoticed (Celebrate Youth
, Walking on the Edge
) since it inevitably follows the addition of the synths. The charge of the album is enough to keep busy people in a fitness studio not unlike the one in the Call on Me
video. And given its 80s sound the material with its romantic energy can instantly connect modern audience to high-grade pop standards of that time.
One thing that somewhat slows down the LP flow is contemplative pieces The Power of Love (The Tao of Love)
and The Tao of Heaven
as well as final track My Father's Chair
which falls out of the musical context. Here a reprimand can be aimed at Springfield who, just like on Living in Oz
, failed to tie everything cohesively diluting the great track list with irrelevant and more conventional moves.
Nevertheless, in the end we get a solid release that can take the heat from the music fans. It blends in nicely with the electronic cocktail of the mid-80s adding a nice touch instead of simply copying the direction using cliché and conventions. This experiment has succeeded.