Martin Page

In the House of Stone & Light

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It's not every artist who, on his debut album, can get Phil Collins to play drums and Robbie Robertson to play guitar, and who can write a couple of songs with Bernie Taupin, Elton John's lyricist. But Martin Page chalked up a few hits as a writer before launching his own recording career, and it shows, not only in the superstar guest shots, but also in his musical approach. In the House of Stone and Light is the work of an artist who has been making demos of his songs for a decade and getting a string of pop covers for his trouble. It is nearly a compendium of current mainstream rock trends, from its prominent percussion tracks to Page's throaty voice, which alternately sounds like Peter Gabriel, Sting, and Robert Palmer, among other British baritones. (And it isn't only the voice that's familiar. "Monkey in My Dreams" is so reminiscent of Gabriel's "Shock the Monkey" it's embarrassing.) The difference is that those artists frequently have something beyond clich├ęd romantic sentiments and vague spiritual concerns to sing about, and that's a big difference -- it's what separates Bob Dylan from Sonny Bono, for example. (Okay, there is that song about the Holocaust, but it makes Sting sound like Elie Wiesel.) Don't forget, though, that Sonny Bono sold quite a few records in his day, and Martin Page scored another hit with the title track of his debut album. That a record as relentlessly commercial as this one didn't do even better is probably attributable to the relentlessness of its stylistic borrowings. It still takes more to become a superstar than winning a Chris De Burgh impersonation contest.

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