Tommy Shaw

What If

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Opting for a different producer, Tommy Shaw works with Richie Cannata, the saxophonist in Billy Joel's band (their collaboration continued onto 1987's Ambition). If What If isn't as stylish as Girls with Guns, it's certainly every bit as slick, slathered in synthesizers and gated drums, sometimes opting for fully robotic arrangements, as on the stiff funk of "Friendly Advice." With this MTV-ready palette in hand, Shaw attempts to get serious, indulging in a bit of nuclear paranoia on "This Is Not a Test" while writing a bit about alcoholism on "Reach for the Bottle," odd choices on a record that also contains a fair number of power ballads, the Springsteen wannabe "Bad Times," and the theme to Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins. Every song here is part of the puzzle that adds up to the sound of mainstream 1986, when it was still possible for arena rock refugees like Shaw to score video hits but the window was closing rapidly.

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