Brett Walker signed a new deal with AOR Heaven for the release of his solo album 'Straight Jacket Vacation' and then on 8th July, shortly before its release, he died suddenly and unexpectedly.
From working as a "hired gun" musician in LA through to performing at Disneyland, writing for big AOR names such as Jimi Jamison and having his music heard on TV shows such as CSI Miami and Sex And The City, the majority of his work came to prominence under someone else's name. This album, recorded at Panic Room Records in Laguna Beach, is firmly his own offering and identity and is being released with the blessing of his family.
It's always tricky listening to art for the first time after hearing the artist has just died. Whether intended or not, it's automatic to start treating it as an epitaph. So when songs such as 'More Than I' start with the words "I wanna live, I wanna try to really reach the other side" and 'Someday I'm Gonna Be Famous' talks about the possibility to "end up like Kurt Cobain" it does add an extra poignancy that may not have been picked up on when listening in happier circumstances.
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Getting away from this aspect though, what we are left with is an album that is classic in the sense that it has all of the components of its genre, solid enough in the songwriting and performance, but there isn't really anything outstanding or different enough to be viewed as a classic album in the future. It's all rather nice and respectful – nothing wrong with that of course, in its place.
This is firmly AOR and melodic rock on the lighter side of the scale in production, and the songs are certainly stable enough. Brett himself provides the majority of the vocals and instrumentation, bringing in session players for drums and occasional guitar and keyboard duties. When these are the calibre of Mugs Cain, (Sammy Hagar, Legendary) and Timothy Drury (Whitesnake) you know that you are going to be in safe hands and hear some tight performances.
There are some very good tracks here - 'What About You' is a classic ballad, underpinned by a good beat. 'Waiting For Love' is his own version of the song which he wrote for Atlas in 1991 and became a Top 10 international hit. 'I'm Gonna Fly' is the best of the lot – it has a great structure and would work brilliantly if it were to hang up its AOR jacket and go off to play with someone like Airborne who could rock it up and show it a good time.
Throughout, Brett's voice is suitably gravelly and varied in tone and he sings like he means it and doesn't get lost in the mix. This is a confident singer-songwriter who knows what he is doing and it is clear that if he had stayed longer there would have been plenty more to come.
According to an update on his Facebook page Brett Walker died peacefully in his sleep – he wasn't ill, it was just his time to go. He has left behind a large and respected body of work in the laid back, singer-songwriter, Americana field. This final album is a fitting epitaph and legacy – RIP Brett.
01 Reaching For The Stars
02 What About You
03 Better Than Goodbye
04 Streetlights Burning
05 I'll Bet It Hurts
06 More Than I
07 Good Enough
08 Waiting For Love
09 I'm Gonna Fly
10 So Happy I'm Cryin
11 (Lady) Unlucky At Love
12 Someday I'm Gonna Be Famous