Sunset Blvd 2020
Country rock’s movers and shakers make an impressive creative comeback and convincingly claim immortality.
If a well-known ensemble collect their old members, restoring prior robustness, nowadays, and record their first album of fresh material in a quarter-century in the circumstances when touring is not an option, it’s not for the sake of reminiscing about the days of yore or earning an extra dollar – it’s due to an outburst of creativity that’s been accumulating for a long time. And in the case of these veterans it was well worth the wait, for the invigorated quintet captured the past glory with all the vehement brilliancy the title of “Comet” may seem to suggest – also correlating to the band’s very name, of course. But while most songs on display are effervescent, a few of the numbers boast a dimmed surface, rather than sheen, because there’s a dewy-eyed sentiment permeating the flow… or the star-studded flight.
This is why, banishing nostalgia from sound, the group still cast a glance over their collective shoulder and bookend the record with tracks which connect the artists’ start to the present, so “Way Back When” allows John Jorgenson’s jangly guitar and Jock Bartley’s warm voice offer a scintillating stroll down memory lane to the era of music giants, and the elegant “A New Mexico” picks up where “Mexico” from their eponymous 1976 debut left off. Expanding such a country rock reach, bassists Mark Andes and Timothy B. Schmit of EAGLES fame share the load of lead vocals on the cover of SPIRIT’s “Nature’s Way” which the former performed on originally, yet the feel of here and now – and the optimistic future, too – has spread its acoustically tinctured wings over “A Real Fine Day” that features, for the first time on a FIREFALL longplay, singer Gary Jones. The relative newcomer also contributed the soulful ballad “Never Be The Same” to the album, his strong pipes soothing the mandolin-laced worry of “Hardest Chain” – co-written by drummer Sandy Ficca – whereas the frisky, brass-splashed “There She Is” and the riff-laden “Before I Met You” get high on honeyed harmonies from the entire ensemble, and Tony Joe White’s “Ghost Town” flutters thanks to David Muse’s flute.
Alongside mainstays Bartley, Andes, Ficca and Muse, there are their ex-colleagues Steven Weinmeister and Jim Waddell on the record who turn it into a full-on family affair – and thus, more than a special opus. Given the songs’ overall drift, some will say “Comet” is likely to become the American band’s final outing: hopefully, they’re wrong, but if not, there can’t be a better end to the veterans’ decades-long journey.