John Waite's second solo album, No Brakes, reached the Top Ten, almost entirely on the strength of the song "Missing You," which made a truly perfect single. It was a hell of an act to follow, and Waite couldn't quite deliver, at least until he reteamed with former Baby Jonathan Cain in the late '80s with Bad English. Then, he returned to the top of the charts with "When I See You Smile," but during those years in the wilderness -- roughly 1985 through 1990 -- he released two albums, 1985's Mask of Smiles and 1987's Rover's Return. While it's true that Mask of Smiles feels like an effort to capitalize on "Missing You" -- pretty successfully, actually -- Rover's Return is an attempt to bring Waite back to the top of the charts that just doesn't work. It's like these two albums are the flip sides to one coin -- the first illustrates how professional craft can be utterly engaging, the second illustrates that it can be a dead end. That's not to say that the record is a complete failure, because there are portions that work quite well -- the surging opener "These Times Are Hard for Lovers" is good radio rock, and Waite's voice always sounds good in this polished setting. Still, it's a little stiff and predictable, never quite reaching a level that's interesting, either as a period artifact or a piece of professional craft.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine