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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Michael Thompson Band – Future Past album review

Michael Thompson Band – Future Past album review
Released through: Frontiers Records. Release date: Available now.

Michael Thompson is one of those truly talented musicians who got a couple of lucky - deserved! - breaks, after starting out studying at Berklee College of Music, alongside jazz fusion star Pat Metheny.
The breaks came by securing major touring gigs with Joe Cocker and Cher, before then really focusing on his own solo career.
His 1989 Geffen records Michael Thompson Band release 'How Long,' was an album that pulled in a few serious players from the AOR world, including vocalists Bobby Kimball (Toto) and John Elefante (Kansas) and also drummers Terry Bozzio (Missing Persons, Frank Zappa) and Pat Torpey (Mr Big) and other special guests too.
It was a classy AOR album, if mostly restrained and not too rocky an affair, but still very good nonetheless.
Since that release, he became an artist very much in demand playing alongside the likes of Cher (Again), Michael Bolton, Madonna, Toni Braxton, Mariah Carey, Shania Twain and many, many more, but sadly more or should I say less of the rock material …, until now!
Sure, he has released a couple of other solo albums in ‘The World According to M.T.’ and ‘M.T. Speaks,’ but both of those tend to follow the more soulful, even funky and jazz directions he’s taken at times, no less musical though.

There’s no doubt in my opinion though, that the man is back to his finest AOR ever, with this new album.
‘Future Past’ is for me, a very, very slick AOR album and with vocalist Larry King (Soleil Moon) and no, I’m not talking about the TV guy, but instead he’s a vocalist that has elements of many name vocalists and I didn’t want to draw comparisons, but at times he does sound like a rockier Chris Thompson (Manfred Mann’s Earth Band), perhaps even a little like Stan Bush too, maybe hints of Jimi Jamison (Survivor) too. Backed by Khari Parker on drums and Alan Berliant on bass who both play their parts so well here!  

This new album opens with ‘High Times,’ which is without doubt a tasty AOR slice of melodic rock! Brilliant, slick vocals, nice hooks and a great solo here too.
Good opener for me, without any doubt.

‘Can’t Be Right’ starts with an interesting riff and then it seems to ease back through the verses, before most certainly picking up the tempo and edge – Yes, edge! – in the choruses and then the solo rips things up nicely too. Brilliant stuff!

The title track ‘Future Past’ is next and it’s again, perfect AOR, Michael Thompson’s overall sound often reminds me at times of Steve Lukather (Toto), perhaps not as jazzy on this album, but some signature time changes do make for variety here.
This is class, without doubt.

‘When You Love Someone’ is an excellent power ballad, what more need I say, seriously, nothing says more and the song really speaks for itself. Excellent!

‘Here I Am’ has moments of being one of those songs that really reminds you of something else, so without doubt it has that big, catchy feel in the chorus about it that just grabs you again and again. You'll be singing this one, again for sure!  

To be honest, I hate to say this but ‘Beautiful Mystery’ does the same for me, as I think of Tears For Fears meets Mike and the Mechanics. A slick and smooth AOR hit single or should be for sure and then it gets an up tempo Toto like feel about it. Love it!

‘Break Me Down’ opens not unlike something by Journey initially and then it’s almost Richard Marx like, as laid back acoustic guitars kick in for the initial verse and then it picks up to give us a nice mid paced pop rocker, in the best AOR way possible.

The laid back intro to ‘End Game’ is a little misleading, before picking up in the pre-chorus and chorus, then eases back through the verses. It’s multi layered bliss, again not unlike Toto. Nice stuff indeed.

‘Gypsy Road’ next starts acoustically and then picks up a little more and then just grows more and more, loads of vocal harmonies and then hits a flourish of instrumentation, with a lovely guitar solo to sweep you off your feet. Great song!

A haunting intro that leads into a funky riff, introduces ‘Can’t Miss,’ which then just completely grows into AOR magical bliss once more!
Great harmonies and a hook-line that’s killer, so good, it’s like one of those gems Russ Ballard would write and the guitar work here just grows and grows.
Seriously, throughout the album the guitar work is stunning. Seriously, well played Michael!
‘Fight For Your Life’ is certainly an emotional closer, strong lead and harmony vocals really raise the standard on this immense power ballad to wrap things up.
This is such a well-crafted album, a musical gem if you ask me, excellent vocals throughout, both lead and harmony, with instrumentation that is so slick, it’s magical.
I really can’t say a bad thing about this release at all, perhaps maybe just a little more punch would've been nice at times, but otherwise, it’s just great!
Does every song have an absolutely killer catchy chorus, not always and maybe not instantaneously, but there is nothing here I don’t like and after a few plays, you’ll hear something else to make you think, yes, that’s class!
Rating: 4.75 out of 5

Official weblinks: - Not updated in a while

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