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Trevor Rabin - Can't Look Away CD (album) cover

CAN'T LOOK AWAY

Trevor Rabin

 

Crossover Prog

3.20 | 28 ratings

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patrickq
Prog Reviewer
3 stars I guess I understand, but I still don't understand. Why did albums in the late 1980s and early 1990s have to be fifty or sixty minutes long? The ubiquity of the CD format was definitely a big part of the answer, although the growth started several years before CDs overtook cassettes as the industry standard in 1991. Yes's Drama (1980) was 37 minutes long, while 90125 (1983) and Big Generator (1987) were each about 45. Then Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe* (1989) was 59 minutes and Union (1991) clocked in at over 65 - - and both were marketed as single albums.

At 55 minutes, Yes guitarist Trevor Rabin's Can't Look Away was part of the trend: at the same time older people were bemoaning the shortening of the youth attention span, albums had gotten a good 15 minutes longer during the 1980s. And as Rabin's fourth studio LP demonstrates, more isn't necessarily better. Side One of the original vinyl is serviceable AOR - - with the exception of the wonderful "Sorrow (Your Heart)," which somehow didn't click with radio programmers despite at least some promotion by Elektra. I'm not sure why it didn't receive an official single release in the US; not only is it very catchy, it seems like it would have been timely insofar as it related to South African Apartheid.

Anyway, after the first three songs - - the Apartheid-related "I Can't Look Away," the lead single "Something to Hold on To," and "Sorrow," the quality wanes, and by the end of the first side, Rabin's run out of hooks. Three of the Side Two songs are interesting instrumentals - - they don't simply sound like arena-rockers without the singing. But the other four tunes are schlocky AOR, at least compared to the tunes on the obverse. That's despite the fact that Rabin, who wrote seven of the songs himself, involved co-composers on the other six. Bob Ezrin, who had produced Peter Gabriel's debut as well as the career best-selling albums of Alice Cooper, Kiss, and Pink Floyd, co-wrote three songs, and former Slapp Happy member Anthony Moore contributes lyrics to two. Rabin's father Geoffrey and former Rabbit producer Patric van Blerk are also credited on one track each.

Rabin was a relatively young singer/multi-instrumentalist and a decent singer when he joined Yes in 1983, and many fans viewed him as an interloper who pushed the band away from prog-rock and toward pop-rock. In 1997, newcomer Billy Sherwood was perceived in much the same way. The comparison is superficial at best, but Rabin and Sherwood have a significant similarity as solo artists. Neither needs much help in the studio, as each is sufficiently talented as a songwriter, singer, producer, and instrumentalist. Each has contributed significantly to the Yes discography (most notably, to 90125, Big Generator, and Talk in Rabin's case, and Keys to Ascension 2** and Open Your Eyes in Sherwood's). But neither has produced a solo album that holds my interest from start to finish. In Sherwood's case, it may be a certain sterility and monotony in his sound, and in Rabin's, it's his AOR fare.

In terms of Can't Look Away, I do give Rabin specific credit for not turning in an Eric Johnson or Joe Satriani album. First of all, those guys, and a few others, were already there and were busy doing that in 1989. Second, Rabin is capable of writing and singing accessible pop-rock songs, so why not?

Can't Look Away is a three-star album, though among three-star albums it's below average. Nonetheless, there are some good AOR tunes here, a few interestingly odd instrumentals - - and "Sorrow (Your Heart)," which stands as one of the most enjoyable Rabin songs I've ever heard.

====

*certainly not a Yes album, but like Can't Look Away, it fits the pattern.

**primarily, but importantly, as a producer.

patrickq | 3/5 |

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