TODD SUCHERMAN (Styx) – Last Flight Home (2020)
Drummer TODD SUCHERMAN, who is best known as holding down the groove for STYX over the past 25 years, “Last Flight Home” means to officially come into his own as a lead singer and to release an album that bears his name on the front cover. “Last Flight Home” is filled with strong songwriting, expert production and solid musicianship. Oh yes, and totally satisfying lead vocals.
Not every artist can thank Phil Collins enough for the inspiration of stepping out from behind the drum kit and giving it a go as a front man. There just aren’t many people who find themselves in that situation: being the drummer of a famed veteran rock band who later decides to make a solo album of his own. At least Phil was already the lead singer in Genesis in addition to being the drummer before he released “Face Value”.
When embarking on a project beyond the scope of one’s natural strengths, it’s good to get a little help from friends. In this regard, the MVP of the album is unquestionably J.K. Harrison.
As producer he is committed to realizing Sucherman’s vision, and Harrison has the talents to bring this goal to fruition: he plays most all of the guitar, bass and keys on the album, along with backup vocals and, perhaps most importantly, co-writing nearly all of the material with Sucherman.
In many ways, it seems as much Harrison’s album and Sucherman’s.
There is no question that Sucherman has chosen well in his partner-in-crime, for the album sounds great from start to finish and Harrison’s choice of instrumentation is impeccable.
Whether it’s the slide guitar in “It’s Perfection”, the choice to bring in tabla percussion on “Sacred Book of Favorite Days”, the devastating harmony vocals of “She’s Red Velvet” or dozens of other examples, each song knocks it out of the park.
Harrison’s bass also well supports Sucherman’s unquestioned talent: his drum performance. Intentionally choosing not to be flashy, Sucherman wisely lets his playing serve the song.
The result is a greater appreciation for him as an artist rather than a drummer who can also sing. Even the glorious “Do You Know Me” becomes a highlight, a track without any drum accompaniment at all, but which instead employs a heart-felt string section over Harrison’s piano playing.
The album opens with a strong run of three of its best songs. As Sucherman’s voice is introduced in the title track, he immediately rises into his falsetto emotively and convincingly. At times gritty and yet vulnerable, the melodic and swooping vocals in the verses and chorus wins over the listener before the song is over.
Who is this? The drummer of Styx? Tell me more.
And “Sacred Book” certainly does. Filled with latter-day Beatles inspiration and Ringo drum fills amidst the tabla and ringing guitar strings, this is a delightful standout track which could comfortably sit on an XTC album. “Ad Lib Everything” continues the momentum, this time with a more compelling story line and clever lyrics to accompany the melodic chord changes in 3/4 time.
After only three tracks there is no doubt that Sucherman has succeeded in his first solo foray.
Still, the rest of the album is filled with gems and surprises. As mentioned above, “She’s Red Velvet” completely slays with its lead and backup vocals and aching chord progressions.
“The Damage” offers some grit and grime to the lineup with a bit more rocking attitude, while “I Can’t Use Them Anymore” is a beautifully defiant proclamation set to an epic soundscape.
Closer “Kindling” widens the aperture of the lens with strings accompanying this cinematic sendoff.
Amidst the diversity and range of moods there isn’t a dud among the track listing. To the contrary, at an economical 40 minutes, these ten songs form an accomplished album that genuinely satisfies the listener and leaves us wanting more.
With any luck, “Last Flight Home” won’t fly under the radar of rock music fans, and instead will hopefully queue up future Sucherman solo recordings.
Get ready for perfection.
01 – Last Flight Home
02 – Sacred Book of Favorite
03 – Ad Lib Everything
04 – An Invitation
05 – It’s Perfection
06 – The Damage
07 – She’s Red Velvet
08 – Do You Know Me
09 – I Can’t Use Them Anymore
10 – Kindling
Todd Sucherman – vocals, drums, percussion
J.K. Harrison – guitar, bass, keyboards, vocals
James Genus – bass
Vinny Valentino – guitar