Work of Art - Framework (Frontiers Records)

Classy AOR for the ages
Release Date: 
19 Sep 2014 (All day)

Work of Art are that most SUSPICIOUS of things, an AOR 'band' put together to release records on Italian label Frontiers Records. I say suspicious because there’s always an air of the unreal about these acts – and they all, without exception, fit a certain identikit sound template that Frontiers mainman Serafino Perugino obviously has a soft spot for. It’s production line stuff, built to fill a gap in the market left by the fact that the established genre giants of yore – Toto, Journey, Survivor etc etc – just don’t make music like this anymore.

Real band or not, Work of Art have an awful lot going for them. Opening third album Framework with the one-two punch of Time to Let Go and the staggeringly well-crafted How Will I Know lets you know from the off that you’re dealing with PROFESSIONALS here. Working in a steelier sound than was evident on previous album In Progress, the band still manages to pull off a couple of classic AOR anthems straight out of the mid period Toto songbook; Singer Lars Safsund leads from the front with a supremely restrained vocal, oozing class from the get go. It’s sleek stuff, but the quality levels rise again on the balladic third track Shout Till You Wake Up. This is fine, fine stuff, built around a memorable chorus and some oh-so-evocative keyboard work from multi-instrumentalist Robert Sall. Again Toto comes to mind, which is obviously no bad thing, but when the band rocks out at the end of the song they sart to take on a bit of their own personality, building in confidence as the song pounds towards it’s conclusion.

Can’t Let Go is IDENTIKIT late eighties AOR, but what a great track it is. Motoring along at high tempo, it’s gargantuan instrumental section reeks of – you guessed it - Toto at their progressive height, with everyone getting’ a chance to show off their – mighty impressive – chops. If you haven’t booked in with your local hairdresser for a perm by the end of this track I’d be majorly surprised!

Next track How Do You Sleep at Night is, if anything, just a bit too heavy; Another hooky piece of breezy pop rock, it’s hampered in building an atmosphere by the driving rhythms of drummer Herman Furin, who hammers away like he’s been told that this is a heavy metal session. Any NUANCES the song might have had just get a bit lost in the flood. Maybe it’ll make more sense in the live arena?

Things get back on an even keel with the glorious Over the Line, which is, simply, a very beautiful thing. Heavily reminiscent of the sort of West Coast eargasms purveyed by a Michael McDonald-led Doobie Brothers, it’s funky, it’s groovy, but it rocks like a mutha too. And Sall throws in another super-authentic keyboard solo too that’ll have you whipping out the air keyboard faster than I can type TOTAL KEYTAR MAYHEM! 

All pretence is dropped for next track The Machine, which is a ROCKER, pure and simple. It’s laden down with a nother great chorus, natch, but it’s the heaviest thing on the record by miles and features asome nice jagged riffage from Sall. Needless to say, Safsund takes the heavier nature of the material in his stride and delivers another tidy performance.

Normal AOR service is resumed on Hold on to Love; Wimpy (in the best sense of the word!), glossy, sleek, but above all CLASSY, it brings back happy memories of summer nights in the eighties when this kinda stuff ruled the airwaves and even pop singles had great guitar solos in them. Happy times, for sure, and this is a feelgood song that suits that mood.

Natalie is another taut, spare, rocker, or at least it is in the song’s verses. You’ll forgive me for mentioning Toto again, I’m sure, but this could easily come from my fave Toto elpee, Isolation, which is praise indeed from this tired ol’ hack! I’m on a hiding to nothing here, and I’ll probably change my mind tomorrow, or in an hour, but at the moment I’ll say that Natalie is the album’s STANDOUT cut!

Penultimate track The Turning Point isn’t quite as strong, though it’s by no means a stinker; which leaves final track My Waking Dream to close matters in cracking fashion. Moving away from Toto and into late seventies-early eighties Kansas territory, the song is a MOODY slow burnin’ monster, it’s a fittingly high class end to what could quite possibly end up being my album of the year.