If ever there was a band moving against ‘type’, it would have to be the 90’s edition of original southern rockers 38 Special.
Written by: gdmonline
ARTIST: 38 Special
ALBUM: Bone Against Steel
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
LINEUP: Donnie Van Zant – vocals * Jeff Carlisi – guitars * Danny Chauncey – guitars * Max Carl – vocals, keyboards * Larry Junstrom – bass * Jack Grondin – drums
TRACK LISTING: 01 The Sound Of Your Voice * 02 Signs Of Love * 03 Last Thing I Ever Do * 04 You Definitely Got Me * 05 Rebel To Rebel * 06 Bone Against Steel * 07 You Be The Dam I’ll Be The Water * 08 Jimmy Gillum * 09 Tear It Up * 10 Don’t Wanna Get Dirty * 11 Burning Bridges * 12 Can’t Shake It * 13 Treasure
WEBLINKS: Site Link
If ever there was a band moving against ‘type’, it would have to be the 90’s edition of original southern rockers 38 Special. With a brace of excellent albums since their A&M debut way back in 1977, we gradually saw the transformation of this band into a melodic rock entity away from their southern roots.
It was based on a formula that worked for them, and this was evidenced by solid album sales and a strong presence on radio. 1988’s ‘Rock N Roll Strategy’ was their last big selling album with the single ‘Second Chance’ their best ever success in the charts. Beyond 1988 however, the well began to run dry, and with the changing musical climate, melodic rock was at a crossroads.
Even former 38 alumni Don Barnes was finding it tough going out on his own. For whatever reason, his 1989 solo album ‘Ride The Storm’ was to be released by Geffen Records but was pulled, and remains (technically) unreleased to this day. So the late 80’s wasn’t a fertile hunting ground for those in the 38 camp.
The turn of the decade saw the release of this album ‘Bone Against Steel’, the band having left longtime label A&M for new territory with Charisma Records (an Atlantic Records offshoot), though this would be for a short duration only, as history will show.
The impact of songwriting credits for Survivor‘s Jim Peterik and RPM‘s Robert White Johnson go some way to keeping things radio friendly, and whilst not the strongest 38 Special in their back-catalogue, there are some good songs here which should appease most of you.
The two star attractions on the album are the lead-off track ‘The Sound Of Your Voice’ and the Jim Peterik co-write ‘Rebel To Rebel’, both showcasing a Survivor like sound, no doubt due to Jim’s influence.
‘Signs Of Love’ is very laid-back and finds it hard to break out of the mellow environment, sort of like contemporaries Atlanta Rhythm Section when they became very AOR friendly in the late 80’s. ‘Last Thing I Ever Do’ is a southern ballroom rocker which didn’t really set my wheels in motion, ‘You Definitely Got Me’ only marginally better.
The title track ‘Bone Against Steel’ is more like it, a wistful song with some lovely keyboard layers, sort of like a more rocked up Bruce Hornsby And The Range. ‘You Be The Dam I’ll Be The Water’ is predictable formulaic fare reminiscent of 38’s earlier era, not bad considering, while ‘Jimmy Gillum’ is a throwback to their 70’s era, or perhaps it’s a swing to the corporate Nashville new country genre of the 90’s?
‘Tear It Up’ is a mid-paced rocker with some good energy but not quite living up to the billing of the song title. ‘Burning Bridges’ is pretty good from an AOR perspective, whereas ‘Can’t Shake It’ is a raucous tune with the saxophone and tinkly piano sending this one back to the ballroom once again. The album ends well with the ballad ‘Treasure’, the band cruising out on a melodic note without ending in a cacophony of riotous guitars.
The album was a reasonable effort in a time where success wasn’t really expected considering the new musical climate. ‘The Sound Of Your Voice’ and ‘Rebel To Rebel’ doing well on the Mainstream Rock charts. However musically, the band weren’t quite sure where they stood.
Not quite southern anymore though they were obviously trying, and not quite raucous and rocking either, the tracks here too smooth and keyboard laced or taking too much of a country slant; perhaps also aiming for the AC territory which was not really a realistic target considering their fan base and demographic.
What was apparent was the red light which appeared ahead of them. Personnel changes would inevitably occur; Max Carl leaving the band soon after with prodigal son Don Barnes returning to the fold, but it would be six years later before 38 Special would reappear after riding out the storm of the grunge wave and returning with 1997’s ‘Resolution’ album.