When Styx officially reunited with Tommy Shaw a couple years ago, Glen Burtnik was officially out of a job. Burtnik, who'd put out a couple of largely unnoticed solo LPs on A&M Records in the late '80s, signed onto the Chicago hitmaker's train to fill in for Shaw on the 1990 Edge of the Century album. In the early '90s, it seemed Burtnik had finally come into his own as a songwriter. He co-wrote a Top 30 single with Styx in "Love At First Sight," and when Styx went dormant again, he spent some time writing with Patty Smyth for her self-titled solo album, resulting in another hit, this time a smash top 10 single in 1992's "Sometimes Love Just Ain't Enough." In 1995, Burtnik was still selling songs to other artists (his list includes Alias, Marshall Crenshaw, John Waite, Neal Schon, Jan Hammer, Tonio K, Brenda Russell and Lea Salonga from "Miss Saigon") when Tommy Shaw officially rejoined Styx, ensuring that Burtnik wouldn't be back onstage with Dennis DeYoung & Co. anytime soon. Still, two new Burtnik-penned numbers, "Little Suzie" and "It Takes Love," made it to last year's Styx Greatest Hits 2. And this year, while Styx has been out touring, Burtnik has been promoting his own solo effort, Palookaville, which includes his original version of the pounding rock song "Little Suzie," (before Shaw's chorus enhancement it was known as "Little Lucie's Blues.")
It's a shame that Palookaville is on an independent label that likely won't be heard by many who aren't already rabid fans; this is, without a doubt, Burtnik's best solo work and includes some perfect radio hits in the laidback guitar wah of "Learning To Crawl," the funky pop slide of "Hold That Thought" and the acoustic relationship psychoanalysis of "My Crowning Achievement." The gentle acoustic ballad "Spirit of a Boy, Wisdom of a Man," is one of the best pop song framings of the difficulties behind decisions that cross the line of lusts and love. And "The Liars Club," in its bar piano and cool walking guitar meld, recalls the late '70s Southern California sound of the Eagles and Warren Zevon. Burtnik offers some inspired lyrics on Palookaville ("The Liars Club" turns every negative bar stereotype on its ear to create a place where supposedly everyone is faithful and friendly) and a passel of singalong melodies.
Search this one out.
(For order info on Palookaville, contact Mike Cleary c/o Deko Music 2 Engle St Tenafly, NJ 07670 (201-541-0967))
While on a Styx-related tangent, the band's opening act this summer has been CMC labelmate Pat Benatar, who has a new disc out of her own. Innamorata goes a long way to prove that the acoustic guitar can be used as a bash and rock instrument.
Unlike her last, underappreciated rock disc for Chrysalis, Gravity's Rainbow, Innamorata focuses more on acoustic rock arrangements. The opener, "Only You," includes a fiddle line that sounds as if Benatar copped John Mellencamp's backup band. "River of Love" follows, with a "whoa-whoa" vocal and a low horn honk that makes great use of Benatar's bluesy growl.
"I Don't Want To Be Your Friend" takes a trip south of the border for a song of betrayed love that reaches its zenith in a trademark Benatar-belted chorus. The single, "Strawberry Wine" (which has gotten some play on cable channel VH-1) is actually not one of the disc's best songs, but it does give an indication of the album's direction; it relies on nostalgic lyrics and acoustic guitars against pounding drums for its power. Those guitars get their best work in the album's gentlest track, the quiet, painful "Papa's Roses." These songs do not rank among Benatar's best, but it's good to hear her voice wailing across new material again .
The soundtrack to the latest comic book-to-silver screen adaptation, Spawn, is a mecca for industrial/hard rock lovers. Each track is a marriage of alternative rock stomp artist and industrial dance mix savvy. The highlights include Filter, paired with The Crystal Method for a spacy opener in "(Can't You) Trip Like I Do." Marilyn Manson teaches The Sneaker Pimps a thing or two about rock over-the-top with "Long Hard Road Out of Hell," one of the disc's best moments. And Chicago's Stabbing Westward pairs up with Wink for "Torn Apart," a more airy attack than usual from the NIN-school local heroes. Other pairings include Korn with The Dust Brothers, Butthole Surfers with Moby, Metallica with DJ Spooky, Silverchair with 808 State and more. .. Marilyn Manson apparently works well with others (you wouldn't guess it from his musical facade, but hey...) Manson turns up as a supporting instrumentalist and mixer on Rasputina's Transylvanian Regurgitations CD on Columbia. The disc is actually a maxi-single (or do you say EP?) including three different versions of "Transylvanian Concubine," an eerie, staccato graveyard dance taken from the group's Thanks for the Ether album. The addition of drums and aggressive guitar (not to mention warbling vocal effects) to Rasputina's normally three-woman cellist lineup on the remixes takes leader Melora Creager's already quirky compositions into the realm of oddly exciting...Canada's Nettwerk label has issued a good sampler CD of its artists; Brewed Awakening includes a somber rare Sarah McLachlan track "Unchained Melody" (originally issued on a Native American activist compilation) as well as "Evidence," one of the stunning songs from Tara MacLean's debut CD. Delerium's aboriginal, Deep Forest-flavored "Duende" and French-singing pop act Autour De Lucie offer dance-oriented tracks. There are also songs from Dayna Manning, The Ids, King Cobb Steelie, Wild Strawberries, Sully and The Grassy Knoll...It's plagued with mono sound and microphone distortion (especially intrusive on "There He Goes") but MCA has issued a live concert CD of Patsy Cline recorded July 29, 1961 at the Cimarron Ballroom in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Live at the Cimarron Ballroom offers Cline's self deprecating audience banter and 14 songs, including her hits "Walkin' After Midnight" and "I Fall To Pieces."