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Bruce Hornsby - Halcyon Days Print E-mail
Tuesday, 17 August 2004

Bruce Hornsby

Halcyon Days
format: 16-bit Stereo CD
label: Sony
release year: 2004
performance: 5.5
sound 6.5
reviewed by: Paul Lingas

Image Well, it’s been a long time since The Way It Is for Bruce Hornsby, and while Halcyon Days clearly indicates that Hornsby remains a talent, the album is too uneven owing to sentimentality to be very appealing. Sting, Eric Clapton, Elton John and others make appearances on various tracks, lending a clearly talent-laden yet almost nostalgic feel to the album as a whole.

While the opening track, “Gonna Be Some Changes Made,” is great and upbeat, possessing some of Hornsby’s best little piano riffs, featuring Clapton on guitar and Sting providing backing vocals, “Candy Mountain Run” is stuck in 1979, sounding like incredibly cheesy, old person’s rock. It’s like a disturbing cross between The Allman Brothers, Chicago and The Doobie Brothers, all bands with separate positives, but that are dangerous when mixed. Even though Clapton plays some pretty kickin’ guitar here, as a whole the track fails as a goofy children’s song with lyrics like, “All the little children hands up high waitin’ for the sugar plums fallin’ from the sky.”

“Dreamland” features the vocals of Elton John and Lloyd Jones in what amounts to a sentimental journey that must have been written in 1987. Lots of synthesized keyboards and subtle percussion fill out most of the accompaniment and there are a few enjoyable piano interludes, but ultimately this song sounds dated and overwrought. “Halcyon Days” and “Hooray for Tom” fall into this same overly melodramatic storytelling mold.

“Circus on the Moon” picks things up with more Hornsby-esque piano and that talent he has for creating an addictive beat. While there are some synthed strings, the jazzy soft-pop tone is not unwelcome. “Circus” is fun and has some great riffs and beats going on. “Lost in the Snow” and “Mirror on the Wall” are the same type, with the latter reminiscent of his work on the “Backdraft” film soundtrack.

“What the Hell Happened” is a jaunty, Southern Dixieland track about growing old. It consists mostly of piano and clarinet and has a strange harmonic quality to it. “Heir Gordon” takes up this tone as well, sounding like something you’d hear if you walked into a bar in the South. Halcyon Days is at its best when it either has upbeat tracks that don’t sound dated or when it concentrates on pianos and vocals that possess a vaudeville or bluegrass quality to them.

Hornsby admits that much of the album has to do with his becoming older and facing the challenges of fatherhood. “Candy Mountain Run” was clearly written with children in mind and, according to Hornsby, the title track is dedicated to his wife. While Halcyon Days is clearly supposed to refer to the good old days, the feelings Hornsby has towards getting older are so completely transparent that they often serve to depress the listener with lyrics and music, rather than creating a true nostalgic and perhaps even wistful feeling.

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