‘Spies Of Life’, although an AOR classic, met with a cold response and Player disbanded.
Written by: Lee South Africa
ALBUM: Spies Of Life
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
LINEUP: Peter Beckett – guitars, lead vocals * John Friesen – drums * Miles Joseph – guitars, vocals * Rusty Buchanan – bass, vocals
TRACK LISTING: 01 If Looks Could Kill * 02 Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid * 03 Thank You For The Use Of Your Love * 04 It Only Hurts When I Breathe * 05 My Mind’s Made Up * 06 I’d Rather Be Gone * 07 Take Me Back * 08 My Survival * 09 Born To Be With You * 10 In Like Flynn
WEBLINKS: Site Link
Player are known to be one of the essential West Coast AOR bands along with Toto, Pablo Cruise, Ambrosia and large tracts of the Firefall catalogue.
While their debut was pure West Coast, ‘Danger Zone’ elevated them into powerful AOR territory, followed by the Casablanca release ‘Room With A View’ (which seemed to be a combination of both).
Despite the departure of longtime bassist Ron Moss (he would later find fame as Ridge Forrester in the soap Bold & The Beautiful), Beckett continued with a revised lineup and Player recorded what many consider their finest record – ‘Spies Of Life’.
‘If Looks Could Kill’ sets up a metronomic midtempo, and Player then weave some special hooks and melodies around it for a hypnotic Toto-like experience, especially at chorus time. A trio of west coast ballads follows: ‘Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid’ injects a little funk into the balladry, while the midsong bridge adds some welcome power.
‘Thank You For The Use Of Your Love’ slows things down to a crawl, and the requisite west coast syrup is poured on generously. ‘It Only Hurts When I Breathe’ explores the poor me theme fairly well, exposing Player’s vaunted harmonising to good effect.
‘My Mind’s Made Up’ changes gears back into rock territory though. A great choppy riff carries the verses into a strangely rewarding 70’s soul device chorus which closes out well. Great song. ‘I’d Rather Be Gone’ is a level above the trio of ballads on side one. Hypnotic and unhurried, the chorus (carried by Beckett alone) is real class, even adding some powerful guitar into the mix.
‘Take Me Back’ invades barnstorming AOR territory with some serious riffage and vocal power, something like Toto in a blender with Triumph ! Great stuff. ‘My Survival ‘ is, unlike the other ballads on display, a genuine power ballad in the Journey/707 tradition, scoring coffee points on all fronts.
All out AOR is delivered in the form of ‘Born To Be With You’. Cynics may level the AOR by numbers accusation but to no avail, the call and response chorus, great solo and momentum place it somewhere between 80’s Firefall and ‘One Eighty’ era Ambrosia.
‘In Like Flynn’ is pretty much a novelty track intended as a nod to Erroll Flynn. It’s entertaining but you can’t help feeling that it’s promising hooks are a little wasted in the ‘novelty track’ context, especially as an album closer.
‘Spies Of Life’, although an AOR classic, met with a cold response and Player disbanded. This has happened to several bands (one example being Roadmaster after the towering ‘Fortress’ vinyl).
It says a lot about how we shouldn’t judge bands or albums on their level of commercial success, because marketing had (and still has) more to do with chart success than the quality of the material. This CD may still be available at www.aorheaven.com, but don’t hold your breath.