Head East, Flat As A Pancake

Two words went through my head while listening to this: "hippie Rush." Start with the lead track, "Never Been Any Reason," which got enough airplay to pique A&M's A&R; Roger Boyd's deft and swoopy Moog sounds like Geddy Lee, and later on John Schlitt easily threatens Lee's vocal range particularly in "Love Me Tonight" and "Fly By Night Lady" ("Fly By Night," you say? not a coincidence, I say) -- come to think of it, "City of Gold" could even be a less-weird "Xanadu" in miniature with a better beat. The ever-present Woodstocky undercurrent gets overt in the almost mismatched final tracks "Ticket Back To Georgia" and "Brother Jacob," so jarring they might have come from another band entirely, but if you ever wondered what Rush might have put out in the mid-1970s if it hadn't succumbed to Neil Peart's terminal art rock navel-gazing this album is the closest you'll come. Fortunately, pancake flat or not, this enjoyable album stands very well on its own, thank you: the synthesizer adds accent, but wisely doesn't try to take over the music, and every track (even the last two) is solidly produced, well-paced and musically rich. No one's relying on any one riff for too long, the solos are skillful and there's enough shifting rhythms and harmony to keep a careful listener delightfully occupied. Schlitt later found Jesus and stored up greater treasures in heaven with Petra, but this album is an interesting counterpoint to his later output and probably this otherwise obscure band's best outing overall. (Content: mild innuendo.)