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CD Reviews: Review of What If? by Emerson Drive
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Emerson Drive: What If? (2004)

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Emerson Drive has a reputation as a great live band, but as we have all experienced at one time or another, that doesn’t always translate to CD. Well, I can assure you that’s not the case with What If? The band has undergone several personnel changes between albums and their harmonies have actually gotten stronger.

The first single, “Last One Standing,” is catchy, fun and upbeat, and you’ll find yourself singing right along by the end of the song. But what I really like about this disc is the way it goes from flashy and toe-tapping to emotional without getting syrupy. “Lemonade” takes the tempo down, lamenting how a relationship has changed and remembering how it used to be. The whole album is like that -- brings you up with the fun party songs, then back to remembering an old girlfriend…but in a good way. “November” is upbeat and sentimental, and showcases what this album is all about: “Still can feel the softness of her hair fallin on my face / My arms all around her / There’s always something about this time of year that takes me to that place / And I remember November.” Over the years, one of the staples in Emerson Drive’s live shows has been “Fishin’ in the Dark,” an old Nitty Gritty Dirt Band ditty (sorry, couldn’t resist!). Heavy with drums and guitar, they have made this one their own, bringing the energy of their live performance to What If?

Richard Marx produced this and co-wrote several of the songs, and for those of us that survived the ‘80s, we know what he can do with a song…whether you like it or not, you remember it, and What If? is full of songs like that. But you’ll like ‘em. Heck, Fee Waybill from the Tubes co-wrote “Last One Standing,” so it’s not surprising that this has some great 80s rock overtones. Singer Brad Mates nails the power ballad, and there are several on the album, along with their signature country-pop tunes, to remind you of just why these guys were tapped by Shania to be her opening act.

Country always has the rep of making you feel sad. Well, if that’s what you’re looking for, this Emerson Drive offering won’t work. But if you are looking for a CD to pick you up and make you feel good, What If? is the ticket. 

~Joe Griffin




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