Picks and Pans Review: The Equalizer & Other Cliff Hangers

updated 03/14/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/14/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

Stewart Copeland

"The Wave," a blend of light jazz and New Age music, is the first new format to flop on radio's procrustean bed in this decade. And Wave-focused radio stations around the country are thirsty for music without lyrics. They get a nice fillip with these first four releases from I.R.S. Records' No Speak Series. Orbit, a young British musician and producer, has created an interestingly mercurial collection. The styles caper from the guitar flamenco of Via Caliénte to the synthesized deep-space static of Silent Signals. On Out of the Ice, a dramatic rock piece with fulgent, David Gilmour-like guitar riffs, Orbit sounds like a lightning storm streaking through a fog bank. The record is a series of musical themes, none too ambitious, which is, at least in a Wave context, to Orbit's credit. Like Vangelis, he has a nice composing touch, good rhythmic instincts and obvious studio know-how. Orbit also produced Nouveau Calls, an unexpected but enjoyable return for Wishbone Ash, a hard-rock British guitar band from the '70s. Their melodic soft-rock arrangements, evincing faint influences from Hawaiian music to Delta blues, are well-played by guitarists Andy Powell and Ted Turner, Martin Turner on bass and drummer Steve Upton. The music, which should appeal to fans of bands like Dire Straits, isn't forceful, but it is hard to ignore totally. There's more kick to Haycock's six-string serenades on Guitar and Son. The former guitarist for the Climax Blues Band, Haycock seems to have patterned his sound on Jeff Beck's instrumental albums of the mid-'70s—Blow by Blow, for instance. The difference is the strain of limpid lyricism in Haycock's chops that recalls the best work of Peter Frampton. Though Guitar and Son isn't consistent, there's enough impressive fret work to make one wish Haycock would venture into a studio more often. Stewart Copeland, drummer for the Police, crafts the most evocative and challenging music of the No Speak set on The Equalizer & Other Cliff Hangers, which contains a reworking of his theme from TV's The Equalizer. Many of his compositions shift dynamically between delicate and booming passages. Lurking Solo, for instance, builds from a moody orchestral opening to a conventional rock motif. There is a beguiling depth and assurance to the work throughout. For I.R.S. chairman Miles Cope-land, these releases draw on a bit of an old-boy network. He once managed Wishbone Ash and the Climax Blues Band. Orbit has done studio work for artists on Copeland's roster, and Stewart is, of course, Miles's brother. But the results are no crony boondoggle, This may not be, as I.R.S. bills it, "music too good for words," but it is heartening for its diverse creativity.

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