If Rick Springfield had chosen to make this authentic 80’s AOR in sound, this would have been an exceptional album.
Written by: Dangerzone
ARTIST: Rick Springfield
LABEL: Platinum Records
SERIAL: 15095 9561 2
CD INFO: Discogs Info
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
LINEUP: Rick Springfield – vocals, bass, guitars, keyboards * Tim Pierce – guitars * Lance Morrison, Jason Scheff – bass * Phil Shenale – keyboards, organ * Mike Baird – drums
TRACK LISTING: 01 His Last Words * 02 Itsalwaysomething * 03 Religion Of The Heart * 04 Beautiful Prize * 05 Karma * 06 Shock To My System * 07 Free * 08 Prayer * 09 The White Room * 10 In Veronica’s Head * 11 Ordinary Girl * 12 Act Of Faith * 13 Bigbeautifulfridaynight
WEBLINKS: Site Link
‘Karma’ marked Rick Springfield’s comeback following a ten year absence from solo recording, although he did feature on 1997’s Sahara Snow to some acclaim, that being a group effort rather than Springfield alone. When Springfield departed the music business after 1988’s excellent ‘Rock Of Life’, he was in the midst of an AOR spree, all his 80’s albums key examples of the decades AOR glory years.
By 1998 when this was recorded, AOR was barely breathing and as such this is hard to classify as such, although Springfield still had an eye for superb melody, except here it takes the form of modern rock, which even at the time of writing this review (some six years on) still sounds like a product of today’s market. Surrounding Springfield were old partners like Pierce and Baird, with production handled by Bill Drescher, who was at the helm of Springfield’s 1980 breakthrough ‘Working Class Dog’.
I recall the day I bought ‘Karma’, expecting in my youthful naivety to feast upon another ‘Don’t Talk To Strangers’ or ‘Me And Johnny’. Don’t blame me, I was only 22 at the time. One listen later and the realization that the vintage AOR days were history hit me quite hard, to the point I didn’t give ‘Karma’ much of a chance. In 2005 with more patience it comes across better than it did in 1999, although various elements still remain distracting.
‘Itsalwaysomething’ was the single and as lead track tends to sum up the albums direction. Jangly guitar tones and processed drum-effects dominate, and the keyboard use is mainly in the background. Springfield’s superb lyrics are a saving grace, and his identifiable vocal style makes matters bearable.
‘Beautiful Prize’ relies on Beatlesque melody, never my taste, and the heavy use of orchestration dampens many a track. ‘Shock To My System’ comes closest to the days of old, easily the AOR highpoint, 80’s melody and keyboard effects providing a respite from the bland modern rock onslaught which sounds too alike to be unique.
The constant use of loops and industrial effects in tracks such as ‘Free’ and ‘The White Room’ mars otherwise reasonable songs, ‘Prayer’ being the pick of the remainder of the album, along the lines of ‘Shock To The System’ musically. Short on fiery rock workouts, ‘In Veronica’s Head’ breaks loose melodically and jarringly, close in spirit to material found on ‘Rock Of Life’. ‘Act Of Faith’ reminds me of latter day Hall And Oates, with traces of yesteryear, but updated for todays market, a catch 22.
If Springfield had chosen to make this authentic 80’s AOR in sound, this would have been an exceptional album. The melodies are often classy and typical of an artist as accomplished and legendary as Springfield, but in the heavily sampled state they were recorded in somehow leaves them short of the mark.
It would have been unrealistic to expect a 1982 sounding album in 1999, let’s be fair, but Springfield has a knack of adhering to musical trends, especially in the technological form. ‘Karma’s sales suffered when Springfield’s label Platinum went belly up, leaving the album high and dry.
Springfield toured heavily, which he continues to do with his latest album being 2004’s ‘shock/denial/anger/acceptance/’, which reports indicate being another modern rock affair, only this time heavier, something ‘Karma’ lacked. That doesn’t stop it from being a failure, although it never was likely to replace ‘Success Hasn’t Spoiled Me Yet’ in any CD player of mine.