Most people tend to have an immediate visceral response to “lite” rock. Reactions to songs by artists like Christopher Cross and Dan Fogelberg — neither represented here — are either violent teeth gnashing diatribes about how the tunes were hack-written sissy nonsense, or they’re warm remembrances and nostalgic reminders of simpler times. I fall into the latter category.
Most of the songs covered on Drink a Toast to Innocence — A Tribute to Lite Rock take me back to my childhood, listening to my parent’s radio as we all got ready in the morning. These were the songs I heard daily in my mom’s big blue Cadillac. Pleasant melodies, catchy hooks, non-threatening vocals. The lyrics about hanging out growing hair and becoming one with the whales and albatross — they’re still silly. Nevertheless, the songs get to me.
Well, most of them.
I listened for two things as I repeatedly burned through the double-album: One, could the artist make the source material more muscular, elevating the songs; or two, did it sound like something brand new. I wanted the artists to keep the strong hooks but make them their own while avoiding the karaoke trap. Two songs, in particular, stand out: Paul Bertolino’s version of Firefall’s Just Remember I Love You and Greg Pope’s re-imagining of Poco’s Crazy Love. The former mixes that extra something with layered vocals to make the song really pop. Pope’s version of Crazy Love sounds like something brand new.
As with most tribute albums, after the first couple of spins, I’d had enough of 50% of the tracks. Others that stuck besides the stand-outs above were David Myhr’s take on The Things We Do For Love, Bleu’s Baby Come Back, and Michael Carpenter’s We Don’t Talk Anymore.
Considering the number of well-known lite rock songs not represented here, I’m curious why certain tracks didn’t make the cut. I certainly wasn’t pining for another version of The Pina Colada Song. All in all, the record is a good time. Now I need to find that picture of me with a Leo Sayer haircut and burn it.