Mike + the Mechanics

The Road

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Following the death of Paul Young and the departure of Paul Carrack, Mike + the Mechanics' only original member, Mike Rutherford, returns with a brand-new lineup for The Road, their first studio album since 2004's Rewired. Perhaps indicative of the talents of their two former vocalists, the former Genesis guitarist has brought in three different frontmen to fill their shoes: Canadian performer Tim Howar, who played Rod Stewart in the musical Tonight's the Night; South African singer/songwriter Arno Carstens, who left during its recording to pursue his solo career; and, most famously, Andrew Roachford, who scored several hits in the late '80s/early '90s with his funk-rock band namesake. It's a shame that the latter's heartfelt soulful vocals aren't utilized more often, as his six contributions are by far the strongest, whether it's the soaring pop/rock of "Try to Save Me," the gospel-tinged title track, or the driving AOR of "Walking on Water." While the rest of the album may provide a few more interesting twists to their trademark MOR acoustic sound, the other two vocalists can't match his impassioned tones. "Heaven Doesn't Care" echoes the anthemic quality of their U.S. number one "The Living Years" with its uplifting children's choir, while "Oh No" is a subtle slice of understated dance-pop, but both are beaten into submission by Howar's overblown tones, which struggle to leave his musical theater background behind, while Carstens appears to sleepwalk his way through the old-fashioned country-pop of "Hunt You Down" and the suitably titled "Background Noise." Even by Mike + the Mechanics' easy listening standard, The Road may be just a little too pedestrian, but there's still enough potential here to suggest that if they promote Roachford to full-time status next time round, they can survive the absence of their two former leading men.

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