David Gates

Never Let Her Go

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No musicians are credited except for the associate producer title given to keyboard player Larry Knechtel and retaining Bread photographer, Frank Bez, as well as engineer Bruce Morgan, who played an important part in David Gates' First from 1973 (and who would engineer Bread's 1977 comeback, Lost Without Your Love ). The lead singer of the '70s very recognizable soft rock hit machine delivers his second solo disc, part of something a retailer once referred to as "breadcrumbs," the result of Bread's breakup. Certainly the solo recordings by James Griffin, Larry Knechtel, and Gates were nowhere as entertaining as the full band, but each time, that comes down to the material. This album sounds so much like another Bread album that there is no doubt who the main force was. Where First worked better the more Gates got away from the trademark music, his second solo album embraces the Bread formula wholeheartedly, "Playin' on My Guitar" could have been the B-side of any of the group's singles. "Greener Days" is up-tempo, not as hard as "Let Your Love Go," but singsongy and with hit potential. Emulating sentiment and style from George Harrison's All Things Must Pass album on "Greener Days," even lifting little musical nuances of Harrison's "Hear Me Lord," it's just too bad Gates didn't take more from the Beatles guitarist's landmark disc. The reflective/poignant line "...our greener days...turned into grey" certainly is another way of saying "all things must pass." "Strangers," meanwhile, takes much from Neil Young's "Cowgirl in the Sand," much, but again, not nearly enough. The title track is classic Bread, actually going Top 30 in February of 1975, but it didn't get the major airplay of his hit from the Neil Simon movie Goodbye Girl three years later, nor the staying power of the final hit with Bread, "Lost Without Your Love." This lament has more in common with "Goodbye Girl," but not enough for a full loaf. The album is as consistent as the use of that word in "Part Time Love," the voice, the pen, the production of the real driving force behind a hit pop group needing to really branch out at this point in his career. Perhaps he should have played all these tunes solo acoustic or brought in Brenda Lee or Olivia Newton-John to duet and help change the structure. Do a blindfold test with this album and any release from Bread, and there's nothing to separate the singer from the mother ship. By staying in a safe place, Gates may have denied himself the opportunity to become a big, big star on his own. Kenny Rogers followed a path which capitalized on certain elements of the First Edition; Gates merely repeats a formula which had somewhat run its course. Pleasant and professionally constructed, there are no surprises here. Of course, if the title track ever became the theme to a big movie where girl meets girl, girl marries girl, this album could surprise...and find an entirely new audience for the '70s pop maestro.

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