BY JAY ROBERTS (SPECIAL TO LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE)
The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s that I have acquired through Purchase Street Records in New Bedford, MA.
The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from the 1980’s through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums.
These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.
JOHN PARR – RUNNING THE ENDLESS MILE (1986)
The original intentions for this particular article was to write about John Parr’s self-titled 1984 solo album which included his #23 charting hit “Naughty Naughty.” However, as bad luck would have it, I got about three quarters into the album and the player at the tape. So, I don’t get to talk about that album, even though I was on my way towards saying nice things about it.
Instead, the brand new and never opened sophomore album Running The Endless Mile, is the focus of this week’s installment. In between the first and second albums, he had a monster #1 soundtrack hit with “St. Elmo’s Fire (Man In Motion)” from the St. Elmo’s Fire film. Every time I hear it on the radio, it gives me a thrill because of just how great I think that song was then and remains so now. I really love Parr’s voice.
I wish I could say the same for this album. Unfortunately, I can fully understand why this album was less successful than its predecessor. Four singles were released from the album and none charted higher than #88. That song was “Blame It On The Radio” which I have to say was embarrassingly trite.
The album opens up with “Two Hearts (American Anthem)”, a mostly uptempo track that I did like, at least until the multiple instrumental solos in the middle of the song that felt as if they were tacked on for no reason in particular. I did like the saxophone flourishes throughout the song though.
The next three tracks did nothing for me and I was in danger of zoning out until the last song started playing. It’s called “Don’t Leave Your Mark On Me (Mark 2)”. The original version of the song was on Parr’s first album. I liked how the song’s tempo alternated between a kind of hushed tone in the main lyrical verses and then had an explosive chorus. The storytelling of the lyrics draws the listener in as well. This is the best song on the album, which might say a lot about the rest of the material considering it is essentially a remake.
The second side of the album wasn’t much better than the first. “Scratch” had a fast tempo but completely missed whatever mark it was aiming for, while “Do It Again” was mildly entertaining but not necessarily a showcase tune. You have to wait until the last song on the album, “Steal You Away (Flight of the Spruce Goose)” before anything truly interesting catches your ear.
Essentially, the music overwhelms the vocals on this album and there’s not a whole lot to love with that music. It’s a soundtrack of its time but it doesn’t even come close to holding up.
John Parr has recorded six solo albums, the last coming out in 2012. None have done better here in the U.S. than his debut release. While I haven’t heard anything of the four latest solo albums, I can only hope that they have something more to offer than what I heard with Running The Endless Mile. Because two really good tracks out of ten just doesn’t cut it with me.
Note of Interest: Julia Downes is credited with co-writing three songs on this album, “Story Still Remains The Same” (which featured her on keyboards as well), “Do It Again” and “Don’t Leave Your Mark On Me (Mark 2)”. She has written with and/or for Roger Daltrey, Meat Loaf and Sheena Easton.