CD Review of Invisible Man by Kyle Vincent

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Invisible Man
starstarhalf starno starno star Label: Universal
Released: 2006
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Once upon a time, Kyle Vincent was nothing short of a power pop god. He was a member of the band Candy (along with future Guns ‘n Roses member Gilby Clarke), who produced such a killer single in “Whatever Happened to Fun?” that it later turned up on Rhino Records’ Poptopia! CD series as one of the definitive power pop songs of the ‘80s. From there, however, Vincent made such a left turn that it still makes the head spin: he went solo and served as opening act for Barry Manilow. He finally got around to recording his solo debut, Trust, for MCA in 1992, but record company issues led to the thing never seeing the light of day. It wasn’t until 1997 that Vincent finally managed to get an album out: his self-titled release on Hollywood, which scored a minor hit with “Wake Me Up (When the World’s Worth Waking Up For).”

Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough of a hit to keep him on the label, so it was off to the indies. Three albums later, Vincent has now been signed to Universal’s UMe label, which, while it doesn’t do anything to get records into the mom and pop stores, does at least provide artists with the opportunity to release their albums digitally. Unfortunately for his fans, however, Vincent’s first album for the label doesn’t include a lick of new material.

Invisible Man is ostensibly a collection of the best material from Vincent’s last few albums, but over the course of those albums, Kyle’s gotten to be less about the power pop and more about schmaltzy piano and string ballads…and while that’s certainly his right and he does that stuff as well as anyone, this compilation focuses way too much on that side of his work. It’s no shock that, in his bio in the All Music Guide, it references that he grew up on a musical diet that included Elton John, the Bee Gees, and Seals and Crofts…but, honestly, even Seals and Crofts rocked harder than tracks like “You Will Dance Again” and “No Matter What Will Be.” Not that they’re bad songs – in fact, they’re both quite lovely and heartfelt – but they’re…how can I put this delicately...easy listening. Very easy listening. When, in the lyrics to “Sierra,” Vincent poses the question, “Where have you gone, John Denver,” you can tell he truly longs to know what happened to the sort of gentle pop music Denver and others used to make.

That’s the thing, though: Kyle Vincent is a great pop songwriter, and he’s been making that kind of music for years. This compilation, however, is heavily weighted down with lite-FM sounds. It’s bizarre that more upbeat songs like “She’s Top 40,” “Somewhere Between Hello and Goodbye,” and “The First Thing on My Mind” should be MIA; they would’ve really helped flesh out a portrait of what Vincent’s overall sound is. (In fact, this is a perfect place to plug Vincent’s best indie album, Wow and Flutter.) To be fair, “I Should Understand” is a great, buoyant track with a soaring pop chorus, but God knows it’s a minority; otherwise, ballads are the order of the day. As a result, what we have is a very sweet collection of very nice songs that your mom would love…but you’d never admit to liking it, let alone owning it.

~Will Harris