February 28, 2018 Steve Barton – Tall Tales and Alibis (Album Review)
The American Singer-Songwriter/Guitarist Steve Barton became known in the ’80s New Wave/College Rock scene as the lead vocalist of the band Translator, which he formed in 1979, in Los Angeles, California, United States, where he was born. In their heyday as Translator, Barton and his bandmates – Dave Scheff (drums), Larry Dekker (bass), and Robert Darlington (guitar, vocals) – got to release four studio albums, from 1982’s Heartbeats and Triggers to 1986’s Evening of the Harvest. Producing a number of now classic anthems in the aforementioned genres, tracks included were “Everywhere That I’m Not,” “My Heart, Your Heart,” “Un-Alone,” “Everything Is Falling,” “Gravity,” “Come with Me,” “Standing in Line,” and “Stony Gates of Time.” Despite the positive reception for their last album, Translator slowly fell under the commercial radar in the ensuing decade and then consequently disbanded.
Barton embarked on a solo career, releasing in 1999 his debut album, The Boy Who Rode His Bike Around the World. Five albums more followed, starting with 2004’s Charm Offensive and ending with last year’s New Blue World. However, only barely a year after this, Barton is unleashing again a new collection of songs – and an ambitious one at that! His forthcoming solo effort is a three-disc affair!
Scheduled to be released on Friday, March 2, 2018, Barton’s seventh offering, titled Tall Tales and Alibis, is essentially a conceptual album. It is divided into three parts: the guitar/vocals-oriented Star Tonight; the dark and somber Shattered Light, highlighting Barton’s low-register, brooding voice and more-poetic lyricism; and Before I Get Too Young, which Barton delivered with a full backing band consisting of Translator’s very own Scheff (drums), Pete Thomas from Elvis Costello’s Attractions (drums), Nelson Bragg (percussion), Derrick Anderson (bass), as well as Marvin Etzioni and Willie Aron (guitars, keyboards, and additional vocals).
Part One, Star Tonight, opens with the acoustified Psychobilly vibe of “How Can I Believe?” and ends with the angular-rhythmed, full stomper “You’re a Star Tonight.” Other notable tracks on disc one include the bluesy “Little Rule Breaker,” the upbeat and funky “Shadow of the Bride,” the lyrically quirky “I Only Want to Be Your Clown,” the shimmering “When She’s Lost Your Mind,” the Country Pub strummer “Light of an Eclipse,” the acoustic Punk “Levitate the Pentagon,” and the Elton John–inspired “Hey, Buster Keaton.”
Still in acoustic indulgence, Part Two, Shattered Light, begins with the solemn strums and breezy sentiments of “Breath” and concludes with the harmonica-adorned, ’60s Psychedelic Folk-styled “Stare at the Sun Tonight,” which may remind the initiated of groups like The Incredible String Band (“At the Lighthouse Dance”) and The Fugs (“The Garden Is Open”). A few highlights of disc two are the piano-guitar ballad “Northwest Girl,” the Leonard Cohen-reminiscent “From the Rain,” a minimalist rehash of Translator’s “Unalone,” the heartrending “Tearing Out the Roses,” and a rustic and jangly rendition of the 1955 song “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning” by Frank Sinatra.
The last part of Tall Tales and Alibis wraps up everything in full regalia, starting with the upbeat, horn-adorned Rock-n-Roll/Alternative Country ditty “Wake Up in Roses;” followed by similarly frenetic tracks like “The Day My Baby Went Blind,” which recalls Violent Femmes (“Add It Up”); the feel-good ’60s Pop Rock-sounding “Now that We Have Tomorrow” as well as “Dandelion;” and finishes with the unassuming Pub Rock Blues “I Fly,” which actually means “I fucking love you!” Brilliant!
Even prior to listening to Tall Tales and Alibis, basing merely on its overall concept and the obvious amount of time, creativity, effort, and love that was put into coming up with it, one could only acclaim Barton for having been able to assemble such a grand masterpiece. Then, after listening to the entirety of the modern troubadour’s tales and lullabies, one could only praise him even more. Barton is definitely an epitome of an artist whose burning desire to create is just getting more and more passionate and compelling as he ages like a fine tuneful song. CrypticRock gives Tall Tales and Alibis 5 out of 5 stars.
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