CLIF MAGNESS – Lucky Dog [Japan Edition +1] (2018)
Talented CLIF MAGNESS is back as solo artist with a new album titled “Lucky Dog” to be released by Frontiers Music next week. The Japanese Edition will please Asian AOR fans tomorrow, featuring an extra track.
In the ’90s, melodic rock / AOR had more or less left the mainstream and become an underground affair championed by a group of small indie labels in Europe. But, in 1994 one spectacular release appeared on the scene from a singer/songwriter named Clif Magness, entitled “Solo” that managed to collect truly rave reviews from all over the world (yes, even in a time when melodic rock was considered dead and gone).
Maybe new generations will ask who is Clif Magness? Well, he certainly needs no introduction for music fanatics who have devoted much of their time over the years to reading the credits in album liners.
By the time the “Solo” record came out, he already made a name for himself co-writing and producing a #1 hit with Jack Wagner (“All I Need”), a top 5 hit for Wilson Phillips (“Impulsive”), and winning a Recording Academy / Grammy for the song “The Places You Find Love” from Quincy Jones‘ critically acclaimed album, ‘Back On The Block’.
Throughout the 1990s and into 2000, Clif continued to work with outstanding artists such as Céline Dion, Hanson, Steve Perry, Amy Grant, Avril Lavigne, and Joe Bonamassa among others.
More recently Magness was involved as producer for the latest Robin Beck CD ‘Love Is Coming’ as well as musician on ‘Craving’ from James Christian.
Around that time the news broke that Clif was going to release a new CD some 24 years after ‘Solo’, simply put, one of the best AOR album from the Nineties, and if you ask me, one of the best from all times
Is “Lucky Dog” of that same brilliance?
Well, in some cases “Lucky Dog” gets real close.
The main difference is that Clif rocks harder on “Lucky Dog”, the emphasis is not purely on AOR and Westcoast. This 2018 CD has a heavier edge, is less subtle but blessed with an outstanding sound and production.
Magness used some guest musicians on this CD but has done the bulk of the work on his own as he is also a guitarist and started out as a drummer many moons ago. And as a first class studio magician he has got all the tricks of the trade at his disposal to make the record sound clear, melodic, upbeat were necessary, and modern.
So there is a big difference between ‘Lucky Dog’ and his older sibling ‘Solo’. However, depending on the point of view, ‘Lucky Dog’ should be more varied, and mature.
At moments (‘Shout’, ‘Ain’t No Way’) Clif puts things in rocking overdrive with ballsy guitars, memorable choruses and an uptempo beat. Then there’s golden melodic rock in ‘Don’t Look Now’ (think Giant) and the sweet, awesome melodies of ‘Like You’.
But Clif also brings some of the smooth, elegant AOR of his first album in the midtempo AOR of “Love Needs A Heart”, the pristine ‘My Heart’ (very ’80s) or the atmospheric ‘Nobody But You’ even adding some Celtic touches and a Chicago / Jason Scheff feeling.
‘Rain’ brings back the classic Westcoast early ’80s era adding some acoustics and ethereal synths (recalling Richard Page / Mr Mister).
The years have flown by for Clif Magness who has got plenty of work but hopefully now he has re-discovered the fact that as an artist he still can deliver the goods. Oh man, and with a quality above the bar.
This new album mix classic AOR, ballsy melodic rock and smooth ballads, and all really well done not only thanks to Clif’s mastery as producer, but basically by the strong, excellent songwriting.
So yes folks, “Lucky Dog” is one of the ‘albums of the year’ for me. I only hope this release may inspire Magness to come up with more solo records in the near future.
01 – Ain’t No Way
02 – Don’t Look Now
03 – Unbroken
04 – Like You
05 – Love Needs A Heart
06 – Nobody But You
07 – Maybe
08 – Shout
09 – Rain
10 – All Over My Mind
11 – My Heart
12 – Nobody But You [acoustic] (Japan Bonus Track)
Clif Magness – vocals, all instruments, production