Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Not All Of The Best Of Huey Lewis And The News: Time Flies

The Good: All the strengths of a great American band - good lyrics, music, sound
The Bad: Where is "Hip To Be Square?!", New tracks don't stack up
The Basics: Time Flies: The Best of Huey Lewis & The News is a solid "best of" album lacking one of the group's best songs, but otherwise a decent album for just about any fan of rock and roll.

It might seem like I've suddenly become a fan of Huey Lewis and the News from my reviews of Fore! (reviewed here!) and Sports (reviewed here!), but as a child of the 80s, how can one not be? Sure, if you're not into 80s pop-rock, I suppose it's possible to not like Huey Lewis, but if you're learning about the history of rock and roll, Huey Lewis and the News is part of a seminal early/mid-80s movement in rock and roll. For a time, rock and roll took on a retro-50s sound that cut out the overproduction of the 1970s disco movement, and brought back diverse instruments (horns, sax) and prioritized vocals and harmonizing. For that, Huey Lewis and the News is essential listening for the serious music consumer.

On Time Flies: The Best of Huey Lewis & The News the group makes the case for their career, which in 1996 when this was released seemed to indicate they were pretty much through. With sixteen tracks, Time Flies has twelve recognizable, legitimate hits and four new singles, none of which are distinctive or as interesting as the prior twelve.

For those unfamiliar with Huey Lewis and the News, this is an awesome album to capture most of the Greatest Hits of the band - they call it a "Best of" album which from Oasis's definition we accept is not necessarily the Greatest Hits. Huey Lewis and the News is a vocally-powered rock and roll band that puts heavy emphasis on strong lead vocals and articulate harmonizing. Their instrumentals as strong, but used as supportive to the lyrics and vocals and the band puts little emphasis on production. The result is a very natural musical sound that resonates well with the average listener.

Huey Lewis has a very good-natured, easy to understand baritone voice, making the simple act of listening to Huey Lewis and the News very easy on the ears. He sings quite well, including over some fairly complicated sets of lyrics. On "Stuck With You" for example, he gets out "We are bound by all the rest / Like the same phone number / All the same friends / And the same address" with full articulation at decent tempo.

Most of Huey Lewis and the News' songs are fairly up tempo, with a feel-good rhythm that gets the toes tapping. This takes from the early days of rock and roll where the music was evolving out of a combination of swing and jazz. Huey Lewis and the News harkens back to that era in sound, though with generally better rhyme schemes.

For fans of Huey Lewis and the News, you might be pleased to know that most of your favorites are here. All four successful singles from Sports - "Heart and Soul," "Heart of Rock & Roll," "If This Is It," and "I Want A New Drug" are present along with "Bad Is Bad" (though I don't know why they included that one). From Fore! there is "Stuck With You" and "Doing It All For My Baby," but bafflingly no "Hip To Be Square." From Picture This (their only major album I've yet to review) are "Do You Believe In Love" and "Workin' For A Living'" (which gives the band their reputation for working-class anthems). From the Back To The Future soundtrack is "The Power of Love" and from other works are the recognizable "It's Alright" and "Trouble In Paradise."

The four new tracks are nothing extraordinary, though the sheer number of hits on Time Flies makes this a lean album; there's little artistic fat here. Whereas Fore! had a number of songs that were decent but were clearly never going to be singles, Time Flies: The Best of Huey Lewis & The News is packed with so many hits that even the four new tracks seem like they could have been singles at one point or another.

The main difference between the latter four tracks and the earlier twelve is in the sound and the themes. While most of Huey Lewis and the News's earlier albums have upbeat songs - even when they are not upbeat subjects being sung about - Time Flies has songs like "So Little Kindness." "So Little Kindness" laments the lack of decency in the world with a downtempo that accents the lyrics in a way that is not characteristic of this particular band.

Similarly, "'Til The Day After" sounds like the end of a USO tour. While not quite a "Goodnight, Sweetheart," it is the rock and roll equivalent. About fidelity and living life, is an affirmative song about loving someone forever and the strength of love, walk off into the sunset type song. The album closes with "When The Time Has Come" which ends with an upbeat, more typical Huey Lewis and the News track.

All four of the new tracks are written or co-written by Huey Lewis or members of The News, which is probably why the songs come so naturally to the group. Perhaps that is the real difference; the latter four tracks have a slightly more "balanced" sound to them, mixing the vocals of Huey Lewis more with the instrumentals and backgrounds from the News.

In the final analysis, this is a nice substitute for other albums by Huey Lewis and the News for those just discovering the band and looking to get almost all of their hits in one place and the four songs are enough to offer the die-hard fans a chance to get something new that's enjoyable. For those in the middle, I suppose - having just learned there are other "Greatest Hits" albums from Huey Lewis and the News - one of the other options might be better.

The best track is "Stick With You," which remains one of the group's most successful songs. My least favorite on the album is "100 Years From Now," one of the new tracks.

For other “Greatest Hits” albums from contemporaries of Huey Lewis And The News, please visit my reviews of:
All The Best - Tina Turner
Words & Music - John Mellencamp
Best Of Bowie - David Bowie


Check out all of the other musical works I have reviewed by visiting my Music Review Index Page for an alphabetical listing (by artist) of all my music reviews!

© 2013, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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