Most people know the American musician Tom Brislin for his work with Yes, Meat Loaf, Debbie Harry (Blondie), Camel, Renaissance and his own band Spiraling. Besides being a keyboardist, vocalist, songwriter and producer, he's also the author of 30-Day Keyboard Workout and a senior correspondent for Keyboard Magazine. And finally he recently managed to release his first solo effort Hurry Up And Smell The Roses.
On this album he appeared to be a multi-instrumentalist as well since he sang the lead vocals and played the piano, synthesizer, Clavinet, organ, drums, percussion, glockenspiel, guitar and bass! Moreover, he produced, wrote, mixed and arranged everything. So this is what you might call a true solo album, although he had some friends who collaborated on a couple of tracks like Annie Haslam (Renaissance), who does some backing vocals on I Hold A Candle. Clint Lagerberg plays the acoustic guitar on Your Favorite Day and Shueh-li Ong can be heard on the Theremin on Stuff You Would Understand and on additional synths on Industry In The Distance.
I had more or less expected an album that would contain music related to the music he performed on stage with Yes, Camel and Renaissance, but after listening to the eleven compositions I noticed that this wasn't the case. His way of writing music completely differs from the bands he worked with. Having said that it's nice to know to what extent his music can be called progressive rock. Well, throughout the album there are certainly some interfaces with this type of music, although the compositions are more song-orientated, less bombastic, with less difficult time signatures and above all no showcase of instrumental musicianship. Sure, occasionally he plays a strong synthesizer solo, but emotion and melody are the most important characteristics of his songs.
The atmosphere on the album is mostly mellow; the acoustic piano is the key instrument in Brislin's compositions in which I noticed that he must have been influenced by keyboard players as Tony Banks (Genesis) and John Tout (ex-Renaissance). However, Tom Brislin also loves ambient and new age kind of stuff which is revealed on the instrumental track The Outskirts, although he either could have showed his appreciation for the music of Vangelis. Many times I also got the impression that I was listening to an album recorded by Mickey Simmonds, a great keyboardist who worked with many other progressive rock artists like Fish, Camel and Renaissance, just to name a few.
Hurry Up And Smell The Roses proves that Tom Brislin is able to write great pieces of music and that he's a great singer as well. He never really had the urge to show off. People who have seen him perform know what he's capable of. This album lent itself admirably to spend a romantic evening with the one you love: so dim the lights, have a good glass of wine and get together on the couch!
***+ Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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