Fox Pass

Fox Pass

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Fox Pass Review

by Joe Viglione

The mark of craftsmanship on songs like "Hit or Miss," "Saving Grace," and "Dream Inside Your Heart" would be hard to find on many "debut" albums, and 32 years after their 1972 formation in Arlington, MA, Fox Pass bring insightful lyrics and strong melodies to the world on their first full album. Of course having released a classic indie single with "I Believed" in 1976 -- a year that saw them opening for Roxy Music in Boston -- with the duo of Mike Roy and Jon Macey heading off to Mercury Records to record two albums with Tom Dickie & the Desires in the early '80s, well, this debut is actually more like a diamond hewn from decades in a business rife with uncertainty. Barry Marshall's production crystallizes the performances -- taking a "Sometime Saturday Girl" to bring that Tommy Boyce/Bobby Hart vibe into the new millennium. Marshall has known the group almost since its inception and truly understands the work of Jon Macey and Mike Roy better than Ed Sprigg and Martin Rushent did for the Tom Dickie albums -- all due respect to the highly competent Sprigg and Rushent. The chemistry between the artist and the producers on those Desires albums just wasn't there. And with no label pressures the band is free to come up with fine pop tunes like "The Easy Way," material that effortlessly flows from their repertoire. Roy sounds like Ben Orr of the Cars singing the exquisite "Heavy as a Heartache" with neo-doo wop vocals from Macey and bassist Steve Gilligan. While the group's influences are very well disguised on this set -- you'll hear pieces of sounds you just can't place -- the key is that the music seems more original because the band is plagiarizing its own riffs from years past. Some of the ambience of the Jon Macey/Barry Marshall tune "Comical" from 1993's Too Much Perspective disc is reinvented on "Dream Inside Your Heart" -- a terrific hook over a gliding and airy bed of pop riffs and chord changes. Its complexities are vast compared to "Wanda," the closing song that the band has performed since it was written back in 1973. "Hit or Miss" might come in at close to six minutes, but it has the groove and guitars suspended in space to be radio-friendly, playing perfectly on an album where songs like "In a Dream" come in from out of nowhere, sparkling pop created by a band that was doing it years before R.E.M. formed and brought this style into vogue.

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