After just one listening experience with “Influence” (released March 6, 2007) and you hear and feel the unique musical chemistry, that both Tommy Shaw and Jack Blades have together. The overall up beat vibe throughout “Influence” will have you not putting this disc away for a very long time. What an accomplished set of Classic Rock gems that Shaw-Blades covers! Typically, I always approach cover songs with skeptical tendencies. Usually one or two listens to a cover tune, will be enough of a listen for me to either like it or cherish the original version. With “Influence”, I was taken completely by surprise by how Tommy Shaw and Jack Blades brought new Rock life to these classics. While I listen to this album, I cannot help but go through a Rock and Roll reality check, realizing where the roots of Rock music actually come from. The Mama’s and the Papa’s, Simon and Garfunkel and Seals & Crofts may have their legacies emblazoned in the Rock Folk and Easy Listening genres, yet their lyrics, song structures and melodies can so easily be considered the building blocks of true Classic Rock. Tommy Shaw and Jack Blades took hold of these musical building blocks and ran with it… creating a sensational album of Classic Rock, that breaks down any generational barriers that carry the tags of dated and non-relevant.
I used to never care for “The Sound Of Silence”, now I cannot wait to listen to the Shaw-Blades version. These guys have taken “Summer Breeze” to an entirely different Rock level, making it seem that much more alive and vibrant. Tommy Shaw sings lights out on “California Dreamin”, having the void of not having a female vocal anywhere in this tremendous song, seem totally appropriate. (However, there will always be only one Mama Cass Elliot). “Time Of The Season” gives me the chills no matter how many times I listen to it, the vocal harmonies and overall musical arrangement and tempered up-tempo of this Shaw-Blades version hits home. “Lucky Man” is an abbreviated version of the original, Shaw-Blades treat this masterful song with the upmost respect. “I Am A Rock” is covered here with a dose of more energy than the original, making it sound even more inspirational the second this song begins. I obviously have fallen head over heels for “Influence”, this is one disc that will lift your spirits in a good old fashioned, Classic Rock way.
All fans of Tommy Shaw and Styx, Jack Blades and Night Ranger have to positively, absolutely, add “Influence” to their music collection. Shaw-Blades have proven to me that they are a class act and stand alone musically. If their musical talents on “Influence” do not blow you away, their vocals surely will. It is not the easiest of tasks to take on so many revered Rock and Roll classics and cover them for a sound that rings of relevancy. I always stand up for Rock and Roll, no matter how far back the roots may lie. If it was not for these legendary bands of yesteryear, along with their brilliant songs, where would any of todays Rock genres be? I live by the credo – know your roots and know where you came from… this holds true for the music I love as well. Tommy Shaw and Jack Blades have proven to me over the years they are unique and outstanding musicians. On “Influence” they have done it again, while also upholding the respect and reverence for the history of Rock and Roll.