Stephen Crane is not a name I know or even remember from the ’80s when this album initially came out but he is an American singer, song writer and bass player from Wichita Falls, Texas. For sure, the album screams ’80s as loud as it possibly can as the sound and production is so very much of that time being an AOR release that is very much in the same area as Robert Palmer, Billy Sherwood and even Chris Cross.
The album Kicks initially came out in 1984 and was the debut solo release from Crane who was in the American southern rock band Baby which released three albums in the 70’s. Looking back, MCA put a very talented team together to work on his first album with Crane supplying vocals and bass, Steve Lukather, Duane Sciacqua, Joey Brasler and Ray Pannell on guitar, Jeff Porcaro, Jody Cortez and David Crockett on drums, Steve Porcaro on synthesizer and Jai Winding on keyboards and he shares producing duties with Steve Lukather too. Talent all round and they all turn in top notch performances. Obviously, three guitarists bring plenty of style and variation to the proceedings but it is never over the top and all is in accord with what is happening elsewhere within the songs with Stephen Crane having one of those delicious and emotional voices that delivers everything perfectly without having the need to go over the top as we often see from some vocalists.
The songs are of the time but are well written and contain all of the hooks and harmonies expected from radio friendly FM rock. Given the musicians involved, there is a definite Toto/Mr Mister sound to the album and it is stamped with the hallmark of quality melodic rock. It appears to have flown under the radar when released back in 1984 and subsequently disappeared without trace but AOR Heaven have now given the album its first ever CD release albeit one in a very limited run of only 500 copies. If you want a copy then I imagine that you need to be quick as it is only available on mail order from AOR Heaven direct but it is an album that deserves a second chance.
Kicks is a thoroughly enjoyable AOR romp from yesteryear yet still retains enough charm and most definitely contains musical performances to savour which ensures that it still has a appeal and vitality that still cuts it today. It may be a little strong to call it a lost classic but it is a most enjoyable album from a singer surrounded by some great musicians and it really does deserve to be heard again!
Kicks track list
- Headed For A Heartbreak (4:00)
- Joanne (3:49)
- Kicks (3:36)
- All My Love (4:17)
- Victim Of Love (4:40)
- I Can’t Wait (3:43)
- Back On My Feet Again (3:56)
- I’ll Take Care Of You (4:00)
- Sooner Or Later (3:43)
- Crying Don’t Look Good On You (4:51)