Addicted To Vinyl Musical thoughts from the open road, with headphones on

19Jul/1124

CD Review: The Outfield, ‘Replay’

Has it really been 25 years since 'Play Deep,' the debut album from British power pop trio, The Outfield? Or 22 years since the last new material that founding members John Spinks (guitars), Tony Lewis (bass) and Alan Jackman (drums) have recorded together—the buoyant 'Voices of Babylon?'

It has. And while I feel old typing that, rarely have I felt so young at once. Why? The group’s brand new effort 'Replay' makes good on all the youthful summertime vibes that earmarked their early work. In fact, it’s the kind of album that makes you feel 1985 again, even when “there’s a clock on the wall… and a mirror reflecting it all” telling you otherwise.

The Outfield took to the airwaves in 1985 with their multiplatinum debut. During the next four summers, the group dominated pop radio and summer concert sheds with a sound so minty fresh, so without airs, and yet so undeniably shrewd, engaging and cotton-candy crafty—not even to mention incredibly American sounding—that MTV audiences couldn’t help but sit up and take notice.

The love affair didn’t last forever, at least with radio followers. But it did for me.

By the time 1989’s 'Voices' arrived, things were steering toward urban contemporary and rap, with sign posts suggesting the alt-revolution was to come. Nonetheless, the group (sans Jackman) soldiered on to ten Billboard chart hits and millions of record sales across the globe.

All that to say, 'Replay' is like Bryan Singer’s reboot of the 'Superman' movie franchise a few years ago: it virtually ignores that anything happened after 'Babylon,' while maintaining a true and defining line to the songcraft and production structure of those first three records. 'Replay' has everything in its right place.

The first single 'California Sun' might as well have been a 'Babylon' b-side. Ditto the sprightly 'Aladdin’s Cave,' 'New York City' and 'Disraeli Years.' Lush vocals abound, with the dual-channel Lewis-Spinks harmonies recalling simpler times, sunnier days and influential classic rock and pop bands at once.

Yes, there are ballads. Natch! It’s The Outfield, after all… but they’re done with a keen eye on the current surroundings and an ear on everything that made (and makes) The Outfield pure magic.

Those poppy brushstrokes, balmy harmonies and chiming guitar lines layer 'Replay'—written, produced, done-and-dusted by Spinks, who owns the masters according to the liners. Dunno what that all means, but if he had to get all overlord to make this record and restore the act’s legacy, it worked.

'Replay' is a time machine designed to suspend disbelief that embraces and rejects time passing. I played this outside in my backyard on a Sunday with a cold Sunkist soda in my hand and my feet in my kids’ wading pool—praise be, of course, to Sir Matt of Wardlaw.

And for a closed-eye moment, I was a skinny (ok, skinnier) 13-year-old at my neighborhood pool waiting for rest period’s end and that night’s softball game and hot dogs on the nearby diamond.

Maybe that means I’ve given up on “what’s next,” but I’d like to think that it means for me what it means for Spinks: that the past was pretty good, the future’s always bright, that you can go home again with the right songs in your heart… and yes, summertime rolls.

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  • AlienTimeTravler

    Good prog rock lives forever. I don’t really care how many times people chant the word “old” at me. It’s been golden since bands like YES and LOVE first hit the scene back in the late 60’s. The Outfield will always be, to coin a new phrase “Epic” as far as I’m concearned. The most surprising thing is that most of the Prog rockers are still “alive and kicking”.

  • Stealth97

    Voices of Babylon is still one of the best songs, and videos, of the Rock Era

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