I told you weeks ago Spencer's latest single The quest for pop (it's what I love) was released and available at his site's shop (www.SpencerOfficial.com) as a preview from a new self produced album dedicated to the sound of 90's pop. I've ordered it myself and have received it a couple of weeks ago. Now I have made my mind up to what I wanted to share with you about this PWL fan album. I didn't want to post a review if it were to be negative and that was the initial reason why Spencer hasn't landed on my blog earlier ; I have needed a couple more listens to know what to say and how to say it and still ask other PWL fans out there reading to buy it. It is not that it is a bad album. In fact, it has glorious moments and the first single produced by Pete Hammond is one of them, but that special teaser has raised the bar very high and the album can only deceive from that high start on as there are no other song produced by Pete Hammond or Matt Pop for example, and most of the album tracks could have shined brighter for sure if they had been given the chance to get better production. The one produced by the Hit Factory forum Steen Ulrich sound closer to the Hammond level I must say, but nearly all others, produced by Leonie Polley with Clive Knightley, suffer from a lack of something sparkling that could have given the original songs written by Spencer Mackrill some extra attraction power. All in all, thou shall not forget this is only a fanmade album, recorded and produced independently and, with that in mind, it is a really strong effort that should be supported by buying it.
The album start with The quest for pop (it's what I love) that is produced & mixed by Pete Hammond and is a full retro PWL pop gemm with addictive rhythm and nice melody. I especially like the bridge where Spencer goes namedropping the 80's/90's artists he likes and he took inspiration from. The video is extra value too and as a fan product, you should keep in mind that Spencer's record should be considered as a whole thing, music & image. Spencer knows damn well this album starter is the highlight of his CD as he has placed the full Pete Hammond extended mix at the end as an extra.
Second track is a cover version of Giorgio Moroder & Philip Oakey's single Together in electric dreams produced by the duo responsible for most of the production on the album. It is nice to re-discover this song but I think the magic is missing to make it a possible pick by radios. Maybe one of the downpoint is that Spencer's voice is just one boy next door's type and it doesn't add some colour to the song...
Next track, I'm here, gets me right from the start with its pulsating intro and it is the first of the Steen Ulrich productions, co-written by himself too this time, and sure he has made a good job on this one, except I don't memorize a particular chorus line and that makes it a good album track but without what it needs to be a good single. You're the one has an attractive beat and somehow a seemingly catchier chorus, except that it doesn't grab me ; the production as the vocals sound too lame to make the difference.
On the contrary In my dreams has all it takes to get us back on our feet : it has a PWL inspired beat and a very melodic song structure, all from Steen Ulrich's mind, music, lyrics & production. On this one, I have found what's missing to give it a glitterin' touch : female backing vocals, because when Spencer's vocals are added in the background, it gives the song some deepness and female vocalist would have enlighten it some more. The bridge is especially wellmade with some vocal samples that really pay tribute to earlier SAW productions. I really like this one !!
This fool sees Spencer get back in the hands of the production duo that mixes his voice a little too in the front I think, with less music to give it the power it lacks. The song is good though and this one makes me think of Jason Donovan, who is one of Spencer's major inspiration, as his previous cover versions She's in love with you and When I get you alone on his first album What have I done? proved it. This time, he's made his the album track Change your mind, another Stock/Aitken/Waterman song, all with once again a winning Steen Ulrich production, not that retro oriented this time, but they've kept the "ch-ch-ch-change your mind" part in the chorus and in the bridge HURRAH ! I have always been a fan of this Jason song and their version is a nice tribute that is the new single : Spencer must realize some of his personal material is not strong enough to make people lend an ear to his music but with a SAW cover song, he sure finds a way to make other fans talk about him.
The next song is another self-written number, and one that has the strongest chorus of the album I think, as this King of the castle really stay in the head, but once more, it is the production that is a little too new wave-ish for me when it would have sounded nearly perfect with some extra pop value from Matt Pop for example. Quest for love follows and I must say it is a little redundant on the same CD to have a song called The quest for pop and another called Quest for love. The production on this one really sounds home-made (maybe it is the case) but is rather good. Catchier is the following track Love is blind that has got what I would call a Dieter Bohlen beat, with nice verses and good chorus. The bridge is another attempt to relive the PWL years with a "Wohoho" directly coming from Kylie and another vocal sampling. The song is credited to "Dowdall" and I don't know if it is a cover or an original song given to Spencer... ?
Next one is the last original song, called It's over, and if the verses make it only an album track, the chorus is catchy with the title line repeated enough to make me sing along. The Polley/Knightley production tries to make it sound like PWL I think but only Steen Ulrich succeeded here to follow the Pete Hammond steps ! It would be interesting to hear what It's over would have sounded if it had been produced by him... Spencer teams up again with some Superbackings production like on his first album for a mash-up version of Somewhere over the rainbow / What a wonderful world but don't expect a NRGized galloping version ; it is all warm and sweet with a reggae beat : nice but strange.
It is followed by the extended mix of Pete Hammond's The quest for pop (it's what I love) and a new version (the Encore mix) of She's in love with you and the new production by Steen Ulrich shines on this Jason Donovan SAW song : this time it pays tribute to the PWL sound of 1990 and it is a must-have !
So in conclusion, yes it is a mixed album, with some tracks very professional and others more home-made and sounding less powerful, but just for the tracks that try to match the PWL standards, every SAW fan should give Spencer a thank you by buying it : he keeps on working on his dream and every penny given to his music will be helpful to make this dream last a little longer and each time it makes us dream we could be the one singing this tribute to the good old PWL days ! This is what Spencer achieves : he helps us think everybody can make his dream a reality and we can be part of it... Just for £5.99 : you should not pass on it !