It’s Prism, but not really. The true core of the band having left after their previous 1981 album, leaving the singer Henry Small to run the cutter. A very strange set of circumstances indeed.
Written by: Lee South Africa
ALBUM: Beat Street
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: Canads
LINEUP: Henry Small – vocals, bass, guitar
Additional Musicians: Timothy B. Schmit – vocals * Richie Zito – guitar * Michael Baird – drums * Jimmy Phillips – keyboards * Dennis Belfield – bass * Bobby Kimball, Bill Champlin – backing vocals
TRACK LISTING: 01 Nightmare * 02 Beat Street * 03 Dirty Mind * 04 Modern Times * 05 Is He Better Than Me * 06 Blue Collar * 07 Wired * 08 State Of The Heart * 09 I Don’t Want To Want You Anymore
From the start it’s worth pointing out that ‘Beat Street’ was Henry Small’s second album with Prism, and there’s quite a few lineup changes since the previous album from 1981 ‘Small Change’. To be fair, this album is not really Prism either. The true core of the band dissolving after that 1981 album.
It seems that Mr Small wasn’t the easiest to get along with, although his vocal talents cannot be disputed. Despite all this upheaval, he managed to rope in future superstar producer Ritchie Zito into the band, and even a guest appearance from Bobby Kimball from Toto.
‘Nightmare’ begins the album in Survivor meets pompy Le Roux territory, very well arranged and melodic throughout. Next is the title track ‘Beat Street’, a new wavish electro pop affair that’s bearable but somewhat out of place.
‘Dirty Mind’ goes some way to repairing the damage despite being a little lightweight – great use of hooks and strong melodies make up for the fragile and sparse guitar presence. ‘Modern Times’ is still inhabiting hi-tech territory, with everything but the kitchen sink thrown in. Despite the decent melodies and abundant energy, it’s a slightly bewildering end to side one of the vinyl.
Side 2 kicks off with ‘Is He Better Than Me’, and this is more like it – pure anthem AOR in the 1983 style, complete with classic chorus like ‘Megaforce’ era 707. ‘Blue Collar’ borrows Foreigner‘s ‘Hot Blooded’ riff and uses it to build the working man’s ultimate AOR anthem, this is really stunning and worthy of big hit status.
‘Wired’ comes across as Shooting Star meets Fergie era Le Roux, in other words yet another classic which, like the two before it, you’d expect to find on side one. The descending hook in the chorus is the stuff of AOR dreams. ‘State Of The Heart’ doesn’t let the side down either, a melodic treat at midtempo with all the keyboard/guitar interplay you can handle and yet another flowing chorus.
This classic side of vinyl closes off with a power ballad called ‘I Don’t Want To Want You Anymore’, a slice of such emotionally charged class that I feel obliged to compare it to the monumental ballads on 707‘s classic debut.
Now I fully understand why this album has been hailed as a classic of AOR for many years, and you won’t even have to search for a second hand vinyl copy – it’s being released as a double CD with the previous ‘Small Change’ album in late October 2001 or so. My credit card’s already itchy !!