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David Roberts - 'Better Late Than Never / The Missing Years' http://rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/5b/fb/84/1380_davidrobertsbetterlatethannever_1309459893.jpg Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     June 30, 2011    
 
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Great quality albums.

In the years after debut album 'All Dressed Up' while working as a song-writer, David Roberts would write compositions that would end up on albums by artists such as Starship, Bad English, Lee Aaron, House Of Lords, Signal and Jimmy Barnes. It was only when a fan wrote to Roberts and told him that 'All Dressed Up' was selling on eBay for 300 dollars that he realized how much his music had touched people, and when given the opportunity to record another album he jumped at the chance. The aptly titled 'Better Late Than Never' appeared in 2008, but was only ever released in Japan on the Vivid Sound label. The album was once again overseen by producer Greg Mathieson, and featured another cast of top session musicians, including the likes of guitarists Michael Landau (Richard Marx, James Taylor), Brent Mason (Shania Twain, Faith Hill) and J.T. Corenflos (Richard Marx, Billy Ray Cyrus), drummer Mike Baird (Hall & Oates, Billy Idol, Journey) and bassist Abraham Laboriel (Elton John, Michael Jackson.)  

The album follows the same blueprint laid down by the debut album, classy songs and excellent performances, the differences being the obviously more modern sounding production, and a slightly mellower direction, with some Country touches, no doubt influenced by some of the musicians involved.

'Best Thing I Never Had' is the bright and breezy opener, with a banjo bubbling away under the acoustic and electric interplay of the guitars, and demonstrates Roberts' ability to write a catchy tune, and 'Before I Go' (recorded by Starship on their 'Knee Deep In The Hoopla' album in 1985) and 'Eighth Wonder' follow a similar path. The title track is a dramatic mid-tempo number with a double-tracked vocal and bluesy edge, and reminds me of something Nelson would record. 'Someone Else's Song' is a Toto sound-alike, and the one song that harks back to the debut album the most, and 'Be Gentle With My Heart' is reminiscent of Richard Marx's output in the later nineties, and was written with Randy Goodrum, who was also responsible for co-penning Steve Perry's 'Oh Sherrie' and 'Foolish Heart.' The power ballad 'Stay With Me Tonight' is the outstanding cut of the album, and was co-written with John Waite, and is performed very much in Waite's style, and 'What I've Been Missing' is a classy bluesy ballad to close the album.

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'The Missing Years' album also appeared in 2008, but again only in Japan. In the 25 years since his debut album David had written many songs for other artists, but some were never recorded for various reasons, so he took the opportunity to record them for himself. This time around the majority of the production and all keyboards and programming were handled by David himself. The production quality isn't quite as good as the previous two albums, but by no means bad, and with fifteen tracks it is an even more eclectic collection of songs.

The album opens just like the previous two, a gloriously uplifting melodic rocker in 'Run Back' (co-written with Randy Goodrum), and followed by a dramatic mid-tempo number in 'Misunderstood', co-produced with Arnold Lanni (Sheriff, Frozen Ghost), and once again complete with great sing-along choruses. There are a couple more out and out rockers in the shape of 'I Still Believe' and the excellent 'Forbidden Fruit' – regarding the latter, after writing the song 'Tough Times Don't Last' with John Waite and Jonathan Cain for Bad English, Roberts came up with another song in a similar vein, but the band would break up soon after so it would remain unrecorded. A real shame, as it's a huge anthem, again you can hear John Waite's style all over this song, and you can just imagine what Neil Schon could have done with the guitar solos.

Elsewhere there are a few tracks such as 'Gone But Not Forgotten' and 'I Love You So Much It Hurts' that lean towards the style of Michael Bolton – (his later nineties output rather than the likes of 'Everybody's Crazy' unfortunately!), while the rhythm and stabs of keyboards on 'Higher Power' remind you of his 'Time, Love And Tenderness.' 'Nothing Matters Tonight' is one of the best songs on the album, a mid-tempo slow-burner with neat guitar work. There are plenty of decent ballads within too, like the classy, meandering 'Until Your Heart's Content', the big harmonies of 'One Soul' (originally written for Celine Dion), the uplifting keyboard-heavy 'Cry Me A River Tonight', and the smooth R&B tinged 'Run Away With Me.' This release also adds a couple of decent bonus tracks not on the original, the pop-rock of 'Love Waits For No-One' (recorded by Fergie Frederiksen) and 'The Sun Will Rise Again.'

As with all the Avenue of Allies releases, the albums have extensive booklets with lyrics, new liner notes and track-by-track comments. David Roberts is a new name to me but I've really enjoyed discovering his music. If you have any interest at all in the Westcoast/AOR scene, then you can do a lot worse than pick up any of these great quality albums.

Ant Heeks

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