The Outfield

Rockeye

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The Outfield were a great power pop band whose big '80s production sound was the antithesis of what power pop fans wanted. The fusion of Dwight Twilley-style melodies with Journey bombast was intriguing for the moment, but inhibits the luster of the group years after the fact. For bright, shiny hit singles, one refers to the Raspberries and Badfinger, while Crowded House comes close to what vibe could have been a blessing to this group. Rockeye was the fifth album in seven years, and is highly listenable throughout -- the trio pared down to a duo, John Spinks' 11 new compositions feature only one Tony Lewis co-write, and the material is still first rate pop chock full of hooks. They don't break any new ground with "Winning It All" or "Closer to You," and the sound is interchangeable with some of their previous work, "The Way It Should Be" in the same vein, while "Under a Stone" resembles a British version of The Cars with Dave Fitzgerald providing the saxophone. If Split Enz went the 38 Special route, you might have the ingredients that make up Rockeye -- it sounds like an unholy marriage on paper, but the album is pleasing and works on many levels. "Young Love" feels like it is going to be redundant, but it twists at the right time to rescue itself. Ten Years After guitarist Alvin Lee shows up to provide the solo for "Jane," and it is too bad Jefferson Starship didn't cut this quasi-psychedelic number instead of that dreadful album rock classic Mickey Thomas got to hit with when Marty Balin exited the band. Alvin is an added plus to what is the most new-wavey cut on the disc, the kind of stuff to make a band like this very hip indeed. Lee's solo is neo-metal, a nice contrast to the modern rock sensibility everywhere else on the tune. Rockeye seems to be a forgotten album of '80s rock, but it deserves a better fate -- despite the sameness of tracks like "Take Me Home" and "Tonight You're Home," the vocals of Tony Lewis are what give the group the "progressive rock" tag; he could sub for the band Yes when Jon Anderson goes on hiatus. But the incessant thump thump Cars/'Til Tuesday/Girls Night Out riff under "Tonight You're Mine" keeps things from getting too mainstream and it is a shame the late Cars bassist Ben Orr didn't get a chance to cover it. There's not a bad track on Rockeye. Though having a song included on a Mighty Ducks film soundtrack wasn't enough to insure it a better fate, enough substance is here to demand more attention for this mostly neglected work sometime down the road.

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