(GB Music, CD)
Vermont's veteran rockers 8084  recently released their fourth studio album, The Last Great Train, on the independent GB Music label. Since coming together in 1987, the band has toured throughout the East Coast and Canada with national and international talent, including Edgar Winter, Blue Oyster Cult, Toto, April Wine and Aldo Nova. Although its members are now approaching middle age, the band is hardly slowing down.
Featuring lead vocalist/guitarist Randy Smith, guitarist/vocalist Andr Maquera, bassist/vocalist Roy Brown and drummer Gary Spaulding, the disc boasts 13 tracks of driving, melodic rock. Loaded with catchy hooks, blistering solos, atmospheric keyboards and well-placed acoustic guitar, it's sure to impress long-time fans. It may even create some new ones.
On previous releases the band worked with outside producers, including Hirsh Gardner of cult favorites New England, as well as Canadian one-hit-wonder Aldo Nova. The band goes it alone on this one, ably demonstrating the sonic wisdom they have accrued over the years.
The Last Great Train delivers a wide range of styles and textures, from the all-out rock of "Breath," "I Know" and closing cut "Thank You," to the more melodic "Alright" and "Shopping List." For chops-hounds, there's the funky instrumental title track and the aptly titled "Guitsophrenic." As usual, 8084's straightforward pop melodies and edgy riffs walk the fine line between AOR mood pieces and classic rock.
My favorite tunes fall in the latter category. "All That I Need" is reminiscent of Styx's arena-rock classics Pieces of Eight and Cornerstone, while "Guitsophrenic" combines Flamenco picking with soaring, Eric Johnson-like guitar solos and funky bass in a simmering rock 'n' roll stew.
8084's songwriting and instrumental prowess is apparent throughout this release; it's no wonder they've been a local rock mainstay for nearly two decades. Even the packaging is top-notch, with detailed liner notes and quality photography included in the handsome, tri-fold case.