I've waited over a year to review this release because I'm such a huge fan of this guy's voice that I'm never objective when listening to his newest material, just stoked to have more Thornley. I'm glad I waited in this case, because that incredible voice is just about all that's left of what I originally fell in love with.
It's a good album, for what it is. If you've never heard Big Wreck or Come Again (his first solo release), it's fine. Maybe even a good MOR pop album. And no doubt, there's some gems on here - Make Believe is possibly the best song the guy's ever written. My beef is with the production, which has left the album so flat and stale that it's actually boring to listen to.
To say he's mellowed is a huge understatement. I get what he's trying to do, but compared to his past work, the playing and range of emotion here is severely lacking. I don't know if it was a bald swipe at radio airplay, too much outside "help," or a conscious thing on Ian's part, but this just sounds like a lazy jab compared to the 1-2 knockout punch of his first three efforts.
Compare the intensity of his vocals on any track here, to the heart rending emotion of "All By Design" from Pleasure and Greed, or virtually any track from Come Again. He's just simply not delivering the goods.
A special note should be made about the drums on this album. The release was reportedly delayed because Thornley wanted to wait for Daniel Adair (ex-Nickelback) to lay drum tracks. Not only is Daniel Adair the most bland and mediocre drummer from the most bland and mediocre band on the modern rock scene, his playing adds absolutely *nothing* to these songs. The drums are honestly the biggest snoozefest I've heard in recent memory, and comparing them to the work of Sekou Lumumba on Come Again, or Forrest Williams on the Big Wreck releases is too painful to contemplate. However, his playing is indicative of the album as a whole - phoned in, simplistic, and ultimately un-engaging, despite the usual stellar songwriting. Added to that, the album wasn't even available in the U.S. when it was first released. I understand Thornley is a Canadian band, but someone at the label dropped the ball big time.
It severely pains me to say anything unkind about Ian Thornley - what an incredible talent. But this release moves him in the wrong direction in my opinion, and I hope he returns to a more vibrant production approach, with musicians who are worthy of his genius. I'm sure we'll hear more from him soon, and I anticipate good things.