First Appeared in The Music Box, February 2011, Volume 18, #2
Written by John Metzger
Thu February 3, 2011, 06:30 AM CST
Gary Wright might not be immediately recognizable by name, but at times during the mid-1970s and early 1980s, several of his songs were utterly inescapable. Separated by five years, Love Is Alive and Really Wanna Know You were huge hits for Wright. Nevertheless, he remains best-known for his airy, keyboard-laden single Dream Weaver, a perennial favorite that has surfaced in films and television programs with striking regularity. For the past two decades, Wright has spent the bulk of his time crafting movie soundtracks and exploring world music fare. His recent stints in Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band, however, sufficiently rekindled his interest in working on pop-oriented projects.
Unfortunately, the good news and bad news about Wright’s latest endeavor Connected will be entwined forever. In effect, Wright brushed aside all of the diversionary routes that he had taken in his career, returning instead to the stylistic touchstones that marked his most popular material. Connected is so deeply rooted in the music of the 1970s and 1980s that it sounds like the long overdue follow-up to his 1981 effort The Right Place. Both Ringo Starr and Joe Walsh assisted Wright in bringing Connected to fruition, but their help ultimately is quite negligible: The outing is Wright’s show, and it largely lives and dies on the basis of its borrowed refrains.
For what it’s worth, Connected isn’t a terrible outing, though it also never rises above its own mediocrity. Wright might have been the first artist to front a band that was filled solely with keyboard players, a tactic that allowed him to merge dense atmospherics with modern-sounding R&B grooves. Over the course of the past 35 years, however, many others have followed in his wake. As a result, the retro-minded styles that fill Connected not only sound dated but also have been deemed irrelevant.
Not surprisingly, keyboard textures dominate Connected’s tracks. Nods to Stevie Wonder’s Superstition surface repeatedly throughout the endeavor, while the infectiousness of Gimme Some Time builds upon The Jackson 5’s output. More often than not, though, Wright merely positions his new material between Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer and the bulk of Steve Winwood’s solo canon. Even so, by propelling his songs with big, heavy bass lines and coloring them with gospel flavors, Wright has concocted a slate of tunes that joyously clamors for attention.
The biggest problems for Connected occur whenever Wright slows down the tempo. As an ode to his granddaughter, the sentiments he expresses in Kirra Layne might be sincere, but his underwhelming arrangement causes them to come across as overly sappy. The same is true of Under Your Spell, which oddly tries to recapture the musical essence of Dream Weaver, while Life’s Not a Battlefield is suffocated by its generic constructs.
Overall, Connected is a passable affair that fits neatly alongside Wright’s previous endeavors. Only his biggest fans, however, are likely to feel that the set is essential to their collections. ½
Of Further Interest...
Connected is available
from Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2011 The Music Box