Greg Hawkes

Niagara Falls

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Greg Hawkes titled his solo album after the bit in the Three Stooges television program, "Niagra Falls, slowly I turn, step by step." A futuristic city on a computer grid in glowing white graces the cover, sort of like a scene from the film The Thirteenth Floor. This is a true solo album, most of the ambitious sounds being generated by Hawkes, with additional flutes on "Voyage Into Space" performed by Elaine Hawkes. His unique vision was one of the most important components of the Cars' success, and the mellow nuances of "The Missing Link" display those strengths apart from the full group. Where a Brian Eno approached his role in Roxy Music from the perspective of a "non-musician," Greg Hawkes is a very gifted and focused player, whether it be adding saxophone to Martin Mull recordings or finding his keyboard creativity desired by acts as diverse as Letters to Cleo, producer/keyboardist Andy Mendelson, bandmates Ric Ocasek and Ben Orr from the Cars on their solo projects, or Sir Paul McCartney. Niagara Falls exhibits just why he's in demand, over ten tracks recorded at Syncro Sound, the official home base of the Cars in the 1980s, starting with the ambience of the title track. Bouncy space age sounds decorate the techno "Jet Lag", with Hawkes' sporadic vocals and cool guitar adding a nice touch and separating this from the other compositions. He also provides some vocals on "Voyage Into Space," though this is primarily an instrumental record. It is as enjoyable as Roxy Music sax player Andy Mackay's In Search of Eddie Riff, both men utilizing their respective albums to entertain. "Let There Be Lights" is a ballad with eerie background sounds that would lend themselves well to a Star Trek episode. There's no "Love Is Blue" or "Frankenstein" instrumental "hit," nor does that seem to be the intent, although if "Let There Be Lights" got into a movie soundtrack, maybe it could pull a Hugo Montenegro for the Cars' keyboard player. Hawkes has recorded similar material with videographer Jeff Hudson of the band Jeff & Jane. Those songs have accompanying videos and would be welcome additions to an expanded version of Niagara Falls on CD.