I’ve never been one to scour the liner notes to see who does what on a record – I leave that sort of thing to Sentinel Daily editor Scott Adams; consequently the name Michael Palace is a new one to me, although the editor tells me he’s been a staple sideman in the Frontiers stable for some while now, and this is his second solo album.
Binary Music is, in short, a work of genius. Pitched as a modern AOR album, it does in fact go far beyond that potentially limiting term to embrace elements of pomp rock, yacht rock and old-fashioned chart-bothering pop music to create one of the most eminently listenable smorgasbords of sound you’ll hear in what’s left of the year. And for years to come as well, quite possibly…
Opening with the title track, which kicks off with some Miami Vice-styled keyboard tomfoolery before settling into a rock solid groove, Palace lays his cards down from the get-go. He’s got a smooth classy voice, pitched somewhere between Richard Page of Mister Mister and Joseph Williams of Toto. Consequently there’s a nice soulful feel to much of the material here, even the uptempo rockers, which makes a pleasant a departure from many of the releases coming out in this arena at the moment.
Palace plays everything apart from drums, and, inevitably, he’s a more than capable lead guitarist as well as a world-class vocalist. Some of his solos might best be described as ‘Lukatheresque’ and again there’s an underlying jazzy/soulful feel to his playing that really does remind the listener of those classic West Coast acts from the eighties that had this sound down pat.
Tears of Gaia is a particular standout, again ploughing a Toto/Mister Mister furrow but with tough riffage backing up the smooth harmonies; it’s hard to emphasise just how good the actual sound of this record is, how authentic the execution and construction is of winning compositions like Nothing Personal (which again features quite superb soloing).
Pleasing in just about every way possible, Binary Music is evidence of just how good, how vital, AOR can still be some thirty years after the genre’s supposed heyday. Grab yourself an earful, then get out and find yourself a pastel-shaded, crumpled linen jacket. You won’t look back, let me tell you…
Binary Music is out today.