CRR archive album review by Eric Sandberg — Tony Lewis (formerly of The Outfield) Out of the Darkness
John Spinks, Guitarist, songwriter and co-vocalist of the Outfield was a perfectionist, insisting on take after take, line by line, bar by bar. Perhaps as a result, the Outfield produced some of the most enduring, affecting and arm waving anthems of the 80's, spearheaded by the piercing high tenor of bassist, singer, Tony Lewis.
One week shy of four years since Spinks' tragic passing from cancer, Tony Lewis will release his debut solo album, Out of the Darkness on Madison Records. Lewis wrote and recorded most of the songs in his home studio in England, playing all of the instruments and using lyrics written by his wife Carol (Madison Records owner, Tanner Hendon played acoustic drums on several of the beefier songs).
As I prepared to listen to the album, I was curious, but did not have high hopes, mainly because, apart from a couple of co-credits, it was John Spinks, not Tony, who was the compositional architect of the Outfield. Boy was I wrong! Right out of the gate, "Into the Light" whomped me with the patented Outfield muted power chords, and that voice, belting out an instant ear-worm melody. Before I could recover from the amazing verse/chorus sequence the song heads into a perfect counter-punch middle eight which serves to give the final chorus even more emotional impact.
Tony follows up with two more songs in a similar vein, instantly catchy, but deceptively clever in their construction. As "Only You" starts its early chorus over another muted power chord sequence, I began to worry that the approach was going to start to wear thin. But the song is so good, with another great bridge and a deft use of chords that would make a young George Harrison blush, my concern was quickly washed away.
It turns out that I needn't have worried at all as Tony was about about to flex his new found songwriting chops into new areas. "The Dance of Love" slows things down a bit, with a haunting melody and vocal line, while "I'll Still Be Here" proves that Tony Lewis can just plain rawk. "Loving You" is perhaps the album's centerpiece. A ballad featuring emotionally powerful vocals albeit wrapped in maybe just a tad too much reverb, but are no less affecting.
The relentless onslaught of world class songwriting continues with back to back Power Pop gems, "Melt the Ice" and "Thank You (For Breaking My Heart)", leading up to "Dreams and Wishes", a song reminiscent of a late 60's Folk tune, a-la Sandy Denny's Fairport Convention.
In a recent interview with Tony, he described the arduous task of recording vocals for the Outfield, involving at times, up to fifty takes. For this album, Tony felt free to sing away, nailing one inspired vocal performance after another. Perhaps all the drills John put him through back in the day served him well when it came time to step out on his own.
Closing out the album are two very strong songs that each could serve as a great album finisher. "Think That You Know Me" begins with a pulsing keyboard intro followed by Tony's now trademark chiming guitar as he might as well be saying, 'Thought that you knew me until you heard this record'. Finally, after eleven tracks of shimmering Pop craft, Tony leaves us, for now, with the gentle and beautiful acoustic ballad, "I Know", which completes his ascendance as an elite songwriter.
Bottom line: this album will instantly appeal with plenty of ear catching melodies and dynamic musical changes, but the handful of songs that you may gloss over during the first few spins will burrow their way into your mind with repeated listening. Every song on this album has popped into my head at one time or another and stayed lodged there until I could listen to the album again.
Track Listing for OUT OF THE DARKNESS:
1. Into the Light
2. Here And Now
3. Only You
4. The Dance of Love
5. All Alone
6. I’ll Still Be Here
7. Loving You
8. Melt The Ice
9. Dreams and Wishes
10. You Think That You Know Me
11. Thank You (For Breaking My Heart)
12. I Know
Eric Sandberg: My true opinion on everything is that it's splunge.