(All Album Reviews by Sean)
Trevor Rabin is probably best known for his work with the band Yes. Around 1982 or so he started a group with Chris Squire and Alan White called Cinema, which later morphed into Yes. This was never something Rabin wanted or asked for, all he wanted was a new band, why did things have to get so....complicated??? Anyhow, Yes made Rabin a bigger name than he had ever been and he penned their biggest hit to date. This could be viewed as a musical coup or the beginning of the end for Yes, depending on your point of view.
Can't Look Away is Rabin's fourth solo album and his first (and so far last) since becoming a member of Yes. It is a big leap forward from his first three albums- the self titled debut from 1978, 1979s Face to Face and 1981s Wolf. The passage of time and the influence of Yes sets Can't Look Away apart from his earlier albums. It is easily his most mature work to date.
A lot of time has passed since 1989 and the release of this cd. Listening to it now these ears hear more than a little bit of a dated sound. It mostly stems from the production or over production of the cd. I don't know what it is about late 80s albums but many suffer this dilemma, the Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman and Howe cd from the same year has a similar sterility to it's sound. Also some cuts here have drum machines instead of real drummers on them, which gives them a rather cheap quality. White is on a few tracks playing real drums, it would have sounded better if the real drums were used on the whole cd.
Musically you won't find any prog epics or anything that grandiose here, just eclectic prog/pop inspired rock with slightly clever arrangements. Of the three proper cds he made with Yes Can't Look Away reminds me most of their Talk album. Some tracks on this cd are actually stronger than many cuts on Talk.
Rabin layers his guitar tracks to the hilt here and shines these tunes pop hooks until they gleam. His solo work is tasteful and restrained. There is a bit of 80s mandatory shred here and there, but the song is served first. I particularly like his trademark, slightly distorted acoustic guitar sound. His vocals here are clear and a lot more in tune than they usually were live. His keyboard playing pads the tracks well. This is mostly guitar based music so the keys never play a lead role here.
Standout cuts are the regal opener "Can't Look Away", the South African flavored "Sorrow (Your Heart)", the funky "I Didn't Think it Would Last" and the grand double hitter of "Etoile Noir"/"Eyes of Love"- one of the best cuts on the whole cd. "Sludge" a fun little instrumental with some wailing guitar solos.
It is interesting to take in this cd if you are a fan of Rabin era Yes. You can really hear just exactly what he brought to the table musically and otherwise. All his little quirky production tricks in particular stand out here. If you detest what he did to Yes, continue to let him be the whipping boy- he won't change your mind with Can't Look Away and I suspect you will have no trouble looking away. If you enjoyed his work as an artist though, file this one under prog/pop guilty pleasures.