Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Best Albums You Never Heard

By Kurt Torster

Mr. Reality “Mr. Reality” (1992)

As the over the top decade of excess known as the 80s came to an end, the swelling undercurrent of the “unplugged” movement started to take hold. Suddenly, “every bad boy had a soft side.” Bands like Bon Jovi, Great White and Poison were all getting an extra boost by picking up their acoustics and gaining some new fans. Though the trend didn’t last long, we were fortunately left with some gems of the genre, including this superb effort from New Jersey’s Mr. Reality.

This album is almost 20 years old, and until this week, I haven’t listened to it in probably a decade. This set though is proof that solid song structure, amazing harmonies and catchy melodies are timeless.

It would be all too easy to dismiss this trio as Bon Jovi wannabe’s, as they follow the typical Jersey-style songwriting, which is big on storytelling and sweet as candy choruses, but I’d probably compare them closer to Nelson, Danny Wilde/The Rembrandts or even the Eagles (not surprising considering this was produced by famed LA producer/Don Henley sideman Danny Korchmar).

How songs like the upbeat and incredibly infectious “Anonymous,” “If I Close My Eyes” or “Jess” weren’t at least small market radio hits is beyond me. Throw in more introspective fare, like the excellent imagery of “In My Yard” or the down but never out tale of “To Leave Me Standing In The Rain” and I’m left more befuddled that this barely rates as a cult classic.

And, it would be absolutely criminal to not mention the rocking “Waiting For September,” about as sure of a hit as I’ve ever heard and sounds like it was lifted from a lost Night Ranger album.

The band would morph over the years, first into Samhill and eventually into Highway 9, whose debut also ranks as one of the “Best Albums You Never Heard.” Seems like all three are still somewhat active in music, with guitarist Gordon Brown going Nashville while vocalist Peter Scherer and bassist Rob Tanico still plugging away in their own ways.