Make-up may be flaking but, when loyalty is a beacon, music and smile stay on.
There’s something wonderfully wrong about this album that was born out of necessity and sympathy because its bare-bone nature goes against the very grain of glam Lesli Sanders’ collective used to wear so proudly on their sleeve. They planned a new, blindingly electric record for 2018, only to see drummer Wayne Stokely succumbing to debilitating illness, but determined to recover and not let the team down. Encouraged and inspired by his resolve, the group went acoustic, revisiting old cuts, both from the band’s and the singer’s solo cache, and adding fresh tunes to their repertoire.
It turned out to be a haunting experience, with pieces such as “Spare The Bullets” or the title track from "Babylon Boulevard" attaining spectral sonics and ghostly gravity despite being stripped of erstwhile tinsel in favor of tastier grit. Riffs may have gone from these songs, yet the appropriate emotional heaviness has remained intact to hit the listener hard on the optimistic likes of “American Dream” where piano and orchestral ivories embroider the slightly countrified fabric woven by Leslie and guitarist Glenn Gilbert.
If anxious throb infuses “Altar Of Altercation” with a sense of sweet urgency, and “Atmosphere” is as romantically translucent as it gets, “Last Of The Words” appears as an epitome of the ensemble’s playfulness – as opposed to the quiet drama which is driving “Heart Of Mine” to the ultimate catharsis this group proved to be capable of. After this album, any mascara-smeared theatrics will feel shallow, although the band seem bold enough to take any risk now: that’s the true heroism.