Picks and Pans Review: Living Years

updated 02/20/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/20/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

Mike and the Mechanics

Tinkering with this group is what guitarist Mike Rutherford does on his vacations. They're plentiful, since as a member of Genesis, Rutherford gets more days off than Johnny Carson. That's because Genesis leader Phil Collins, pop music's perpetual motion machine, is always off pursuing one of his many outside projects. On one of his enforced breaks in 1985, Rutherford threw together this band and issued an unassuming album of simple, irresistible charm. Recently, with more time on his hands, he used the same blueprint—relatively simple pop songs and a rotating cast of great singers—to put together Living Years. Theoretically, the formula should have worked again. That it doesn't is not the fault of supernally voiced Paul Carrack. In addition to some fine solo work, Carrack has recorded with the groups Ace and Squeeze. He sang on the first Mike and the Mechanics LP and toured in 1987 with Roger Waters. It's his voice that makes the title track the best song on this album. He provides a lovely, deeply felt reading of a man's meditation on the wasted opportunities in his relationship with his now dead father. For the rest of the record Mike and his pit crew seem to be trying too hard. "Nobody's Perfect" has a nice melody, for example, but like many of the album's songs, it is rudely harshened by Rutherford's unruly, industrial-strength synthesizer accompaniment. While the band's first record generated a gentle romantic lambency, on this album Mike and his musical grease monkeys mostly just sound like generic Genesis. (Atlantic)

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