Wednesday, August 13, 2008

What's left?

Posted By on Wed, Aug 13, 2008 at 12:00 AM

D. Lawrence Lee is nothing if not ambitious. The package he's put together for the debut album by his Detroit rock trio, the Romeo Flynns, is the kind of elaborate product (featuring a three-tier gatefold) that most bands don't bother with in this age of the Internet. He even brought in a member of the DSO to provide strings! So, yes, Lee aims high here: Pictures of You is a concept album of 12 songs (including a title track reprise) dealing with the end of a relationship; the lost love's name is obviously "Kristine," the title of one of the tracks, which sounds strangely like a hybrid of KISS's "Beth" and Pete Ham/Harry Nilsson's "Without You."

Thus, Lee not only wears his heart on his sleeve, lyrically, but he wears his musical influences there as well. Canny listeners will instantly identify traces of the Who (power chords galore), Springsteen (at least the latter's grittier street era, complete with saxophone), the Romantics, ELO and various elements of '70s classic FM rock; the band (rounded out by bassist-vocalist Jimmy Moroney and drummer-vocalist Jeff Kenny) even covers the Kinks' beautiful "Better Things" to illustrate where Lee's heart obviously lies. And the artist writes good tunes, full of pop hooks and melodies ("Something About Her" is the album's sole clunker), delivering strong rockers and ballads alike. His guitar prowess is also evident throughout; the solo on "A Better Man Than Me" sounds like it was ripped right off a vinyl single of "My Sharona."

Oddly, he buries what are arguably the two best tracks — the power poppy "Wasting My Heart" and "Just Fade Away" — in the middle of the disc. And that illuminates one of the CD's two flaws: Lee could use a good editor (or producer) to help him, um, well, edit his material a bit. Some of the tracks go on a little too long. The other flaw is that the lead vocals don't always work 100 percent. They probably sound great live in a club ... but on disc, where nuances are notable, they sometimes wear a bit thin.

Is there still an audience for this kind of stuff? That's anybody's guess. But if a rock fan walked into a club and heard the Romeo Flynns playing one of these tunes ... well, most rock fans would probably stick around to hear at least a few more.

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