Great Dirty World

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Released a couple years after Strange Animal -- the album that really launched Gowan's career, at least in his native Canada --, Great Dirty World establishes a transition: from pop to rock, from a predominantly synthesized sound to something more visceral, from teen years to maturity. It tends to be under-appreciated, mostly because its follow-up Lost Brotherhood contains harder rocking riffs, but Great Dirty World, if anything, proves how good a melodist Gowan can be. This album also gave him his biggest taste of international attention, thanks to the opening track and first single "Moonlight Desires," featuring Yes' Jon Anderson as guest vocalist. The latter's contribution is more than that of a usual back-up singer, his angelic voice, entering two-thirds into this pop anthem, makes it literally soar (on a side note, this album has another connection to progressive rock through the presence of King Crimson bassist Tony Levin). Other highlights include the ballads "Great Dirty World" and "Dedication," the latter one of the finest songs Gowan has written, thanks to a memorable melody in the verse and a bombastic chorus. In comparison, the more rocking numbers sound bland. "Awake the Giant" and "Human Drama" are pale examples of mid-'80s rock, trying to combine synthesizers with a nasty attitude --Lost Brotherhood features much better songs in this vein, but lacks the pop sensibility.

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