P.F. Sloan - Sailover

P.F. Sloan


First Appeared in The Music Box, August 2006, Volume 13, #8

Written by John Metzger


There’s a reason why PF Sloan is known as a songwriter rather than a performer, and to put it bluntly, his lyrical depth and melodic sensibilities are far stronger than his performance skills. Even bolstered by a line-up that includes Lucinda Williams, Frank Black, The Rascals’ Felix Cavaliere, Cheap Trick’s Tom Petersson, and the E Street Band’s Garry Tallent, his latest endeavor Sailover largely lands with a dull thud. Sloan seems to be all too aware of his deficiencies, and throughout the set, he self-consciously searches for a voice that he can call his own. Unfortunately, he never finds it, and although he blurs the lines among Ray Davies, Elvis Costello, and David Bowie on All that Time Allows and swipes Lou Reed’s deadpan tonality for a refurbished rendition of Halloween Mary, he far more frequently settles into an imitation of Bob Dylan’s sneering twang. It certainly doesn’t help matters that neither the arrangements that Sloan employs nor Jon Tiven’s bare-bones, roadhouse production values do much to give the songs the jolt of electricity that they desperately need.

As a reminder of his legacy, Sloan reworked five of his older tunes for Sailover, including Where Were You When I Needed You and Eve of Destruction, and it’s telling that these are some of the better tracks on the outing. The former, of course, was a lofty hit for The Grass Roots, but Sloan’s version settles into a pleasant but unremarkable blast of jangly gospel-soul. The latter fares marginally better, and although it lacks the urgency of Barry McGuire’s iconic interpretation, the air of tired resignation in Sloan’s voice is well-suited to the song’s slow-building climax as well as its 41-year-old, yet sadly still-urgent message. The other highlight — and the only time that Sloan truly sounds as if he wants to be performing — is the newly penned PK & the Evil Dr. Z, a playfully surreal fantasia that, with its driving groove and a blues-y guitar lapping at its fringes — is worthy of mid-’60s-era Dylan. At almost any other point in time, Sloan’s return from a self-imposed exile would have been enough to allow him to coast on his past achievements, but considering how many artists recently have been re-energized by the current socio-political climate, the competition is too immense for Sailover’s unassuming fodder to garner much attention. starstar

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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!


Copyright © 2006 The Music Box