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Liar – Sunset Plaza Drive

Sunset Plaza Drive
by Santiago Puyol at 06 April 2020, 2:46 PM

There is a certain charm to the classic 70’s AOR sound, a warm quality from a well-known sound. LIAR were a British Hard Rock band with a brief life. Formed in 1975, they released two albums and disbanded in 1979, following some contractual issues. The band managed to record a third record that never saw the light of day, until now. "Sunset Plaza Drive" comprises the “missing” record plus a newly recorded track, with that strong AOR feel.

An ethereal intro of lovely vocal harmonies eases the listener into the record. "Judy Teens" shows its age from the very first second with its clear 70’s style. A driving Hard Rock rhythm keeps the song in motion, with its bluesy, LED ZEPPELIN-tingled melodies. The earnest vocal harmonies put it close to the softer side of KANSAS or the rockier side of FLEETWOOD MAC. Steve Mann shows off as keyboardist adding atmospheric textures and bluesy piano runs.

"Delaney" comes up next, ramping up the theatrical AOR feel. Dave Burton’s vocals show some Freddie Mercury affectations –especially early era– on the verses, as well as a Springsteen-tingled delivery. The piano lays down the backbone of the song, almost riffing alongside the guitar. Meanwhile, "You Ain’t No Fighting Man" is a mid-tempo rocker with a balladesque tone on verses, embellished by psychedelic, spidery guitar lines. Clive Brooks (R.I.P.) economical style of drumming fits spaces as it should and keeps a steady rhythm. Never overplaying, he provides some humble yet effective drum fills.

Powerful vocal lines and a strong groove make "Do You Ever" a delightful, little hard-rocker. Some subtle flanger effects on the drums add an understated psychedelic flair. An effective short track that does not overstay its welcome. "Brand New World" falls on the theatrical side of the band. Its military march rhythm adds to the melodrama, feeling almost Power Metal-ish in the way it builds tension. Dave Taylor lays down a histrionic groove, pushing the track forward. An outstanding dual guitar solo caps things off perfectly.

"I Got a Feeling" is a classic AOR ballad, with a bluesy stop-and-start rhythm, exquisite vocal harmonies, soft organ and piano. Main vocalist Dave Burton goes for a soulful, emotional and heartfelt performance while the guitar solo simply punches you in the gut. There is even a little bit of a DIRE STRAITS touch on the main riff.

"Too Rich" is another fun and groovy, mid-tempo rocker. "Tired of Waiting" goes full psychedelic with its soft passages and sci-fi sounding effects, having an interesting edge to it. Most surprising is "Midnight Lady", featuring jazzy saxophone. It is a sweet ballad with loopy guitars and a steady rhythm. Taciturn and nocturnal.

A rework from the "Straight from the Hip" closer, "Blame it on the Kids", comes second to last. It is a punchy, euphoric rocker. There is some great interplay from Burton and the rest of the band on vocal harmonies. Layers of organ and a funky bassline provide a joyful feel to the song. There is even some epic soloing and a bit of exciting jamming at the end. It feels more open and full than the previous version of the track, from their 1977 record.

"Woman" closes the record, a newly recorded track, written briefly after the band’s dismembering. It is a TOTO-esque hard-rocker, whose main piano line cannot help but bring "Hold the Line" to mind. Although the newer production shows, it still fits the mood of the record and functions as an appropriate closer. A catchy song with strong pop sensibilities and powerful instrumentals.

Overall, "Sunset Plaza Drive" is an outstanding last hurrah by LIAR. It is a pity the band did not manage to solve their issues back on the day. This is a strong record with masterful musicianship and passionate songwriting. At least the world might hear what was missing and enjoy the music now. What might have happened if "Sunset Plaza Drive" had gotten released on 1979 remains a mystery.

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 9
Production: 7

4 Star Rating

1. Judy Teens
2. Delaney
3. You Ain’t No Fighting Man
4. Do You Ever
5. Brand New World
6. I Got a Feeling
7. Too Rich
8. Tired of Waiting
9. Midnight Lady
10. Blame it on the Kids
11. Woman
Clive Brooks – Drums
Dave Burton – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Dave Taylor – Bass, Vocals
Paul Travis – Guitars, Vocals
Steve Mann – Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
Record Label: Escape Music


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