Whitney - Forever Turned Around - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Whitney - Forever Turned Around

by Mark Moody Rating:8 Release Date:2019-08-30
Whitney - Forever Turned Around
Whitney - Forever Turned Around

Everyone remembers the first vinyl album they purchased.  I bought my first album in 1976.  That year there were debuts by groups called The Ramones and Blondie and David Bowie put out Station to Station.  At the Sage drugstore in Houston, I proudly plunked down a grubby handful of hard-earned change for Barry Manilow’s This One’s For You.  The same year I also performed a dance routine (in a group thank God) to Elton John’s ‘Philadelphia Freedom’.  It was America’s Bicentennial and patriotism, Sutter Home, and soft rock were riding high.  As for my musical taste, shame takes decades to erase.

Though I picked Mr. Manilow’s dulcet tones, around the same era David Gates of Bread and Glen Campbell were putting out some pretty syrupy stuff themselves.  Campbell played on The Beach Boys Pet Sounds though, so he is eternally cool, ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’ and all.  Campbell released an album called Southern Nights in 1978 which included an upbeat country-pop version of the same named Allen Touissaint title song.  Flash forward several decades and the 70s MOR sound is somehow cool (again?).  Whitney recorded a woozy cover of ‘Southern Nights’ between albums and earlier this year Weyes Blood nailed that 70s soft rock sound on Titanic Rising

Whitney already captured a strong air of nostalgia on 2016’s outstanding “roll down the windows” summery album, Light Upon The Lake.  Here on Forever Turned Around, Julien Ehrlich and Max Kakacek soften but also broaden their sound for a full scope take on simpler times.  Times when you and your lover would dance to a slow song on the radio, like what is invoked on ‘My Life Alone’.  The song unfolds like a slower take on ‘No Matter Where We Go’, and frankly nothing here rivals the prior album in terms of pace.  That being said, Light Upon The Lake sounds compressed in retrospect given the blown-out production boundaries of what appears here.    

Forever’s themes are of broken relationships (particularly on the receiving end), drifting apart, and lighting out for the territories where things might be better.  But all are delivered so soothingly smooth that the ache apparent in the lyrics is hardly felt.  The stately build of horns, piano, and slide guitar on the penultimate ‘Friend of Mine’ covers up a relationship drifting away “like a cloud hanging over the pines”.  In a sea of similarly tempoed and lovely songs, ‘Friend of Mine’ stands out for its relative complexity.  Other highlights include ‘Song For Ty’ with its clipped vocals that match off well with the choked off guitar line in the opening verse only to expand out with horns and strings as the song rolls along.  ‘Valleys (My Love)’ ends up a showcase for both some of Ehrlich’s strongest vocals as well the most “drum forward” track that comes closest to the prior album’s faster-paced moments. 

Sailing particularly close to the heart of the 70s heyday does come with its share of close calls.  ‘Used To Be Lonely’ skates a little near to Little River Band’s ‘Lady’ and the funky ‘Rhododendron’ sounds like a slowed-down ‘Tighten Up’.  But these quibbles are minor coming from someone whose first album purchase isn’t exactly one for the biography.  In most spots, like on the closing title track, Whitney coats their wistful songs in layers of airy keys, strings, fluid guitar lines and Ehrlich’s beautiful falsetto.  All in all, Forever Turned Around is a better sounding and expansive step forward that was well worth the wait.  Between Forever Turned Around and Titanic Rising, 2019 is becoming the year to unleash your inner Bread loving self and shed a tear or two into your white zinfandel without any hint of irony.



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