Steve Harley

Yes You Can

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It's a sad state of affairs, but the best of Yes You Can, Steve Harley's first new album in a decade, was never going to make it onto a studio recording. Rather, it resides in the live environment where the songs almost unanimously came to life, a fact which Harley himself seemed to acknowledge with the release, just six months later, of Live in the UK. There, both "Star for a Week (Dino)" and "The Lighthouse" emerge with vibrant electricity, as emotionally charged as any old favorites, as deliciously delivered as they deserved. In the studio, however, though the quality remains, the emotion pales, and Harley's energies -- hitherto rejuvenated after so long in abeyance -- flag accordingly. There are some heartwarming moments on this album. "Irresistable" very nearly is, "The Alibi" is a rousing number not dissimilar to one of the less-played corners of The Best Years of Our Lives, and the aforementioned "Star for a Week" has a fragile soul that even the lifeless accompaniment cannot totally extinguish. Elsewhere, however, "Victim of Love," the most commercial offering, is simultaneously little improvement on those soulless ditties that consumed Harley's mid-late '70s nadir, while both "Dancing on the Telephone" and "Rain in Venice" are hamstrung by his continued insistence on playing word games -- and his continued inability to win them all. Yes You Can is not, then, the revival for which fans had been hoping for longer than anyone cared to remember; and that Harley had been threatening via some often brilliant live shows. But excuse the inadequacies and overlook the lifelessness, and the core of the songs remains sound and proud. And after some of Harley's past releases, even that is something to celebrate.

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