38 Special, Tour de Force

Band name and title notwithstanding, a middling outing that never leaves the chamber. With shades of REO Speedwagon, though they do it better, the album's formulaic hooks and tired rhythm guitar make for a flaccid attempt at arena rock that can't even get out of your garage. The first three tracks indeed are nearly indistinguishable and closer "Undercover Lover" is just dorky; while "Long Distance Affair" has some nice licks, the lyrics are lunkheaded, and only the power ballad "Only The Lonely Ones" has enough powder to fire. It's not all bad: when they stick closer to their Southern rock roots there's "Twentieth Century Fox" (not to be confused with the unrelated Doors track), and the folksy, entertaining "I Oughta Let Go" has a solid refrain, git-up guitar and saucy vocals. Unfortunately, that's not sufficient to rescue the record, and while I know their fans will shoot me, this album's caliber just isn't big enough. (Content: mild adult themes on "Undercover Lover.")