Michael Stanley

Eighteen Down

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Michael Stanley is one reliable rock & roll musician. His Michael Stanley Band had a few tantalizing flirtations with widespread U.S. success in the early '80s (namely the Top 40 hits "He Can't Love You" and "My Town") before splitting up late in the decade. He became a radio and television personality in his native Cleveland but still continued making music as a solo artist for his loyal fans. The singer, songwriter, and guitarist's 2000 album Eighteen Down (his 18th album) continues his practice of weaving meaty rockers, plaintive ballads, and interesting cover choices together. Stanley, as usual, is backed by superb musicians such as keyboardist Bob Pelander, lead guitarist Danny Powers, and drummer Tommy Dobeck -- all three MSB veterans -- as well as other friends like vocalist Jennifer Lee and guitarist Marc Lee Shannon. The straight-ahead rock tunes include "No Love Songs," "I Can Get This by Myself," "Factory Man," and the Rainmakers' "Downstream." Mature ballads can be tricky to pull off, but "Any Other Fool" succeeds. The country-rock flavor of "Tremolo Parkway" and "The Devil Came to Fremont Street" isn't surprising since Stanley started out as a folkie with Silk in the late '60s, and his longtime friend, collaborator, and Eagles producer Bill Szymczyk mixed this album. As for the two best cover songs here, one is a legendary classic from the world's most famous rock band and the other is an obscure curiosity. Stanley turns the Beatles' strings-based "Eleanor Rigby" into a sophisticated, rich blend of pop, rock, and jazz. Tampa Red's "I'll Kill Your Soul and Dare Your Spirit to Move" is given an appropriately twisted and dark interpretation, and riding its coattails to cap Eighteen Down is an uncredited, gospel-tinged, a cappella song.

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