Ian McDonald

Driver's Eyes

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Ian McDonald's first solo album appears nearly 20 years after his double-platinum days with Foreigner and practically 30 years to the day after his debut with King Crimson. The record contains the influences of both bands, which isn't surprising since McDonald was a central creative force in both. It's surprising to see McDonald still playing with some of the same sidemen he worked with live nearly two decades ago, including ex-Wings drummer Steve Holley, who acquits himself extremely well whether he's playing hard rock, jazz-rock, or progressive rock here. Other notables who turn up on various tracks include John Wetton, Peter Frampton, Ian Lloyd, Gary Brooker, Steve Hackett, Michael Giles, and Hugh McCracken. McDonald's songwriting has an expressive voice, but his vocals lack some range and power, probably more ideally suited to backing vocals than lead singing (Lou Gramm handles some of the lead vocals). His songwriting covers a fairly wide range of styles and sounds, but he does seem more effective in his progressive rock leanings, where his musical vocabulary is fresher and freer. Even harder material benefits from his synthesizer and sax virtuosity, which, coupled with his and Steve Hackett's guitars, gives the music a very heavy, larger-than-life sound. McDonald also has some fun with his art-rock background, finishing Driver's Eyes with "Let There Be Light," a track co-written with his old King Crimson bandmate Peter Sinfield, which seems to satirize by excess the cosmic consciousness and doom-laden heaviness of In the Court of the Crimson King, et al. Driver's Eyes is a surprisingly complex album, and one that might have charted 25 years ago, when it seemed as though a small but aggressive part of the public was clamoring for any Crimson-related releases. It's still well worth hearing. (British import)

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