Truly brilliant songs become classics not because they're timepieces, but because they're timeless, a characteristic that rings true through every track Tommy Shaw and Jack Blades pay homage to on Influence.
The sophomore release from Shaw Blades, Influence is the duo's first album since their recently re-released 1995 debut, Hallucination. Like the debut - and unlike their history-carving decades as icons in the more hard-rock minded Styx, Night Ranger and Damn Yankees - the latest release is rooted in acoustic guitar and organic production, harvesting a decade of musical influences into 11 tracks. From the Mamas and the Papas' 1963 classic "California Dreamin'," to Orleans' 1975 breakthrough "Dance with Me," Influence offers a track-by-track chronology of the musical era that helped define modern rock.
One of the most prolific duos in the history of hard rock, Shaw and Blades have sold more than 50 million albums amongst their three bands, scored 12 Top 10 singles on the Billboard Hot 100, debuted 16 albums in the Billboard Top 200, and share joint songwriting credits for the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Aerosmith, Cher and Alice Cooper. Even so, Influence offered the pair an invigorating musical freedom. "With Shaw Blades, we're able to take liberties that our respective bands couldn't do," offers Blades. "We need to be Styx-sounding, we need to fit in that Night Ranger world, and we even need to think about Damn Yankees, so that's what's fun about Shaw Blades - We get to be our alter-egos when we want to be, yet we can truly be ourselves. We grew up singing harmonies and songs with massive vocals, so it's a wonderful thing to have that freedom here. This was a complete labor of love."
Just as remarkable as the timeless translations of the music, is the transcendent eerinessÂ of the lyrics, as many of the folk-inspired epics from the peace- and love-filled late '60s make a seamless translation to the new millennium. Consider the Stephen Stills penned, Buffalo Springfield protest anthem "For What It's Worth," rooted in the anti-war sentiments of 1967, and ringing just as true nearly 40 years later. The Zombie's "Time of the Season" may have been a better thematic fit at the original Woodstock than amidst the festival's anniversary lineup, but in stripping down the progressive stylings that marked the Yes nugget "Your Move," the resulting chants of "All we are saying is, give peace a chance" echo in the chambers of new world politics. Emerson, Lake & Palmer's "Lucky Man" is nothing short of bone-chilling.
The tracks that constitute Influence are more than just the creative core of Shaw Blades, they're speak to the cultural core of America. Like the artists that pay them tribute, they are timeless.
-Paul Gargano, 08/06