Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy. Here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album or band is unique in some way & not every submission was reviewed. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Henry Lee Summer ~ Slamdunk

(Click on heading to visit official website.)
Style: Americana
Label: Sony
Year: 1993
Home: Indiana

Members: Henry Lee Summer ~ vocals/keyboards/guitars
Anthony Krizan, Dale Oliver, Peter Denenberg ~ guitars
Jack Daley, Kirk Eberhard ~ bass
Frankie La Rocka, Mike Organ ~ drums
Kim Fleming, Vicki Hampton, Robert Bailey ~ b. vocals
Kevin Bents ~ keyboards

Additional: Rory Young ~ keyboards
Vaneese Thomas ~ b. vocals
Stan Lynch ~ drums

Guest: Earl Slick ~ lead guitar


Slamdunk is a far better album than critics claim or maybe want to claim. The problem is that the albums that came before went from addictively great to overnight really bad going off in the wrong direction, so the shadow of the later misstep is still on the radar when listening to HLS's fourth major label release & thus its similiarities with the bad are exaggerated while the good is downplayed. If HLS's self-titled debut & its follow-up I've Got Everything were 80's down home Indiana Mellencamp-esque rockers that shouldn't be ignored by anyone who likes Americana rock while his third release Way Past Midnight was a commercially slick affair overstuffed with the wrong material for his voice that was obviously aiming for a bigger audience ... the oddly titled Slamdunk is somewhere in between. It's so much in between that it feels like it was recorded before Way Past Midnight & is a natural musical progression that would end up going too far to the commercial side ... not the jump back from the mistake that it really is. It's not the folksy acoustic Americana rock of the early albums but it doesn't ditch Mellencamp for Michael Bolton like Way Past Midnight attempted. Working as both producer & lyricist HLS obviously knows what went wrong & is trying hard to fix what went wrong. He sort of does. His song-writing is as strong as ever & the songs will seep into your skin with ease while the two outside written songs (i.e. "Wherever Would I Be" & "The Boys & Girls Are Doin' It") are great inclusions. "Why Me", "Wherever Would I be", "Forever Just Ain't What It Used To Be" or "Cry Little Sister" to name a few should be right up there on the reqest list with his break-through debut "Wish I Had A Girl". HLS may be a rocker but he's actually a crooner in disguise and when he slows things down it's like a watching a sad scene in a movie. But, as much as he has great songs that could fall alongside his first albums he's also kept the slick polish of "Way Past Midnight" that at some times works but other times overpowers. He's pulled in the slick guitars a lot ... another step would have made this is a perfect release. The problem is that the electric guitars often provide a cold & sterile counterpoint against HLS's warm voice. Dropping them in the mix might actually be the best solution as HLS did bring in former David Bowie guitarist Earl Slick for many solos & there's nothing bad in his playing. That being said it's actually hard to pinpoint bad songs on the album & what is bad is usually due to the arrangements ... which means essentially given a second life these may not be bad songs after all. Those who read these reviews know I'm a fan of HLS. He's a crooner. He's an AM rocker. He's got a soulful voice that's the everyman's voice. When you listen to HLS you imagine yourself singing these songs at Live Aid or a country festival & having the time of your life. This is a guy that should have acoustic guitars which he can just cry out over to his heart's content with that scratchy voice of his. HLS is best when singing about the long-haried girl next door in her tight jeans that's nothing like a big city girl. He needs soulful songs of the heart not later-day Bon Jovi. When he hits the mark it's addictive, when he doesn't its a what if scenario. The music on Slamdunk does indeed get a slam dunk ... and giving it this title he obviously felt the same ... but audiences are fickle & careers go up & down like the weather so I end up asking what if after all even though he's scored. Sadly, no matter how good Slamdunk is the damage was done to HLS career & he wouldn't get another chance to try again until it was nearly too late. He wouldn't make another studio album until 1999's Smoke & Mirrors & than fall into a well publicised drug addiction before finding his footing again in local Indiana clubs.



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