When you look up versatile in the dictionary, you may very well see a picture of Tod Howarth. Over the years, keyboardist/guitarist/vocalist Howarth has been a valuable member of a number of bands, including 707, Ted Nugent, Frehley’s Comet, and Cheap Trick. In addition, he has conquered solo album territory not once but twice. His first solo album Silhouette debuted in ’95. Cobalt Parlor marks the second time Howarth has taken the term solo literally. He not only wrote all 11 tracks on the album, but played all the instruments as well.
By his own admission, “this ain’t no happy record.” Howarth is basically just blue, and it shows, as this is both the heaviest sounding and most introspective album he’s ever done. In fact, he titled the album Cobalt Parlor because cobalt is a dark shade of blue, and he’d never felt bluer at any time in his life.
While Howarth mainly sticks with a melodic pop rock format he does manage to toss in a hint of both alternative and metal to give this record a truly unique sound. Except for the last track “Anywhere,” which is slow and smooth, all the other songs are quite hard-hitting.
Although all tracks are exceptional, Howarth really shines on a handful. For starters, the opening song, “California Burns,” which showcases his vocal ability. In an instant he goes from sounding like Peter Steele to Robin Zander. Other standouts include the STPish “Flower in the Fold,” the in-your-face “Swift and Blinding,” and the stunning title track.
Cobalt Parlor proves that Howarth is without a doubt one of the most talented and underrated musicians in the business. No wonder he’s so blue. Shock Records, 500 Wall Street, Suite 1019, Seattle, WA 98121