"The Road" - The new Mike & The Mechanics album reviewed by Alan Hewitt.

Difficult to believe that it has been SEVEN years since the last Mechanics album. Seven years in which an awful lot has happened to the band. Paul Carrack has gone his own sweet way and what we have now is pretty much a brand new band anchored, of course by founding father - Mr Rutherford! So, what does this new-look band offer us with their first album?

Right from the opening track, the album’s title cut, the feel and mood of the album is right back there with the classic albums of old. The Road and Reach Out (Touch The Sun) set the tone for the rest of the album. Upbeat, slick and polished this is one class act. The new blood in the band has certainly brought a stronger impetus to the performances. I had certain reservations about the band without either Carrack or Young but by the time we reach the album’s third track; Try To Save Me those doubts had been blown away. Roachford and Howar don’t try to emulate their predecessors but bring the same dynamism to the songs that was part and parcel of the Mechanics of old, which is something that long standing fans will be delighted to hear.

Musically, this is exactly what you would expect from Mike & The Mechanics, strongly written melodies, understated instrumentation and lush production Tim Howar’s vocal on Background Noise, has a marvellous emotional rasp to it with echoes of Ray Wilson in the vocal delivery which brings an added drama to the song while the rest of the band put in another typical performance.

I Don’t Do Love gives Roachford another chance to shine and there are definitely echoes of previous classic Mechanics tracks here and the vocal does have a certain similarity to Paul Carrack but as you will find on the rest of the album, the former has a far wider vocal range than his predecessor. New boy Luke Juby puts in a great performance on the keyboards here too.

Heaven Doesn’t Care features Tim Howar again, and here if anything again, he has a voice uncannily similar to Ray Wilson at first but once he opens out the throttle (pun intended), he firmly puts his own stamp on a marvellous up tempo rocker, a worthy successor to the likes of Word Of Mouth. The echoes continue with It Only Hurts For A while which opens with a keyboard phrase which I am sure many fans will remember. Arno Carstens’ vocal has an almost operatic quality to it accompanied by another memorably catchy tune.
Walking On Water continues the tempo. Infinitely catchy, and with another marvellous soulful vocal from Roachford, I am sure that this will become a live favourite on the forthcoming tour. Hunt You Down, features a marvellous Sixties style keyboard over which Arno Carstens lays down another superb vocal.

Oh No is another emotion charged track, Tim Howar gives it a superb vocal treatment which definitely has me thinking of the late great Paul Young, no better praise really.
The album closes with You Can Be The Rock, a slightly slower paced performance bringing the album to a suitably emphatic end.

So, there you have it. Was the wait worth it? Definitely. The Mechanics are back in the groove again. OK, so there aren’t any grandiose flourishes, nor can the songs be said to be outstanding but that is to be expected from what is fundamentally a brand new band. Mike’s golden touch might not be stamped all over this one but it is definitely a grower. The band have their feet set firmly on the road (pun intended) and it only remains now to see where their travels will take them. A competent start on which I am sure the band will build next time.