Tod Howarth — formerly of Frehley’s Comet, Cheap Trick, and Ted Nugent’s band — returns with his fourth solo album this far, which marks a solid if temporary shift in musical direction for him. Howarth himself seems to try to downplay the full relevance of this release, most likely due to the stripped-down, acoustic nature of the material, which some may regard as running contrary to his former endeavors. But there’s no reason why this should be seen as some sort of album to pass the time between his other, more rock-oriented releases. This is an honest and moving album chock full of some truly beautiful moments, and it may in fact be Howarth’s strongest collection of songs to date.
With a running time of less than 40 minutes, this is a short but impressively focused set. Where Howarth’s former albums have been somewhat less coherent, this one comes without any particularly weak moments, and we get ten utterly subtle and subdued tracks. The opening “I Miss” is one of the album’s most immediate cuts, with the verses somewhat reminiscent of early-’70s Grateful Dead and a hushed, seducing chorus. “Believable” has a slightly psychedelic feel, and is a highlight, while “Waiting” is almost Carole King-like, as good as it is unlikely.
Howarth has been carving out a unique voice and textual richness over the course of his solo albums, and none of this has been neglected for this release. There is the same attack and phrasings, but the songs are more melodically oriented and less dependent on the effectiveness of the riffs and forceful rhythms. So, while there are still traces of Cheap Trick’s classic pop feel, Zeppelin’s snake-like movements around the melody lines, and the theatricality of every Seattle band from Queensryche to Alice In Chains, this time it is all being done in a stripped-down, unassuming manner, less reliant on any instrumental pyrotechnics. In essence, this is an impressive, appealing AOR album that will only grow on you with time, a lovely and laid-back album to help you through the dark nights of the coming seasons.
Tod Howarth: http://www.todhowarth.com