by Kristin Battestella
I Am Your Driver leads off the set and is the first of five tracks penned by Barry, Maurice, and musician friend George Blitzer. Some typical eighties effects open Driver. Barry’s vocal also sounds mechanically tweaked, obviously so in the chorus. I wish I knew what he was saying without consulting the jacket’s lyrics. A fitting opening then, but not today.
Fine Line is the first track written by Barry and George Blitzer and is the longest tack presented at over Five minutes. Barry’s opening breathy rap and strong chorus seem against each other, as is the too fast beat. Three strikes, ouch! The details are also confusing. Roger Daltry is supposed to be singing here?! And KC from KC and The Sunshine Band?! I don’t hear or feel this one.
Face To Face, another by the new BMB trio, introduces Olivia Newton-John to the album. Thank you! Actually credited in very fine print for Fine Line, John’s opening verse makes the album, and it is so pleasing to hear, understand, and like the words being sung. Barry’s breathy echoes work perfectly with this slow style. The trade offs and ad-libbed ending are top notch. But I must say, this duet sounds almost exactly like Andy Gibb and Olivia Newton-John! The best of the album.
Barry takes a totally solo gander with Shatterproof. The chorus isn’t bad, even if it is way too eighties now. The dirrrty Barry on the verses might be hot if it wasn’t mixed with the easy Barry chorus. Already it seems the production and ‘trying something new’ went overboard. Especially in 1984, Barry didn’t need to stray from the Guilty or Heartbreaker formula.
Shine Shine was the single from Barry, Maurice, and George. Quickly you notice a much lighter feel. Barry’s commercial and mambo feel is so nice to here in comparison with this imitation Miami Vice thing earlier. The lyrics don’t try for anything serious. Dancing, laughter, and a little lovin’. Perfect.
BMB present Lesson In Love next. The opening beats crescendo, I want to hear more, and then....more Miami Vice. Love might be the most similar track here to what The Bee Gees did during the Staying Alive era. Not perfect but not bad either. Nice rhythm and storyline.
One Night (For Lovers) (Away parenthesis, away!) gives us more of that tropical feel from Barry. Complete with sweet lyrics, vocals, and that sway ability vibe, One Night in one of the keepers here. Not only do I not like the overkill eighties sound, but Now Voyager also presents three or four laid back tunes that give the album a bi-polar feel. I would rather have an album with others like One Night (For Lovers) (Parenthesis included!)
Stay Alone continues the ballad feeling. Barry’s easy tone showcases his voice and the story in the song. It’s nice to be able to hear the story in the song. Great echoes here. It almost sounds like The Bee Gees. I wonder what would have happened if Side A Fine Line and Side B Stay Alone would have been flipped? Barry might have had a chart denter with Stay Alone, had anyone heard it.
BMB strike again with Temptation. I didn’t like Duran Duran then, so I don’t want to hear Hungry Like The Wolf again. Some Gibb nay sayers think Barry’s falsetto pitches are too much like screaming. On Temptation, Barry sounds like he’s winded and can’t keep up with his melody.
She Says tries to combine Barry’s soft sounds with his newfound love of the synthesizer. Surprisingly, It doesn’t fail. Baz’s voice is solid, and the lyrics make sense. The ominous five o’clock shadow sound fits the melancholy words. No inner struggles here, eureka.
I was surprised to see The Hunter credited to Barry, Maurice, George Blizter and Robin. The boys’ serious story starts off harsh but warms into a pleasant little tune. The title vocal and rift is over the top, but the verses and easy delivery in between makes The Hunter tolerable. For the first time since Face to Face, Barry actually belts something out. Of ten songs presented, I’ll keep 6 and leave 4. I won’t say which are which, so as not to feel like a total basher. Blimey!
Now Voyager is a must for Barry collectors, even if the contemporary style of the album has come and gone. If you’re looking for Gibb traditional, you’ll find it elsewhere. Barry’s best work is in his voice, lyrics, and artistry. That can’t be replicated or synthesized or produced. The experiments on Now Voyager need a tuned ear, but who knows? The eighties sound could come back! 80)