Michael Stanley Band: Michael Stanley (guitar, vocals); Gary Markasky (guitar); Kevin Raleigh, Bob Pelander (keyboards, vocals); Michael Gismondi (bass); Tommy Dobeck (drums).
Additional personnel: Rick Bell (saxophone); Danny Powers (guitar); Ed Kramer, Darryl Tookes, Curtis King, Yvonne Lewis, The All Chemical Choir (background vocals).
Producers: Michael Stanley Band, Eddie Kramer.
Recorded at Suma Recording, Cleveland, Ohio, from April to May, 1981. Includes liner notes by Michael Stanley.
Bonus cuts "Somewhere In The Night" and "Shut Up And Leave Me Alone" recorded live at Blossom Music Center, Ohio on August 15 & 16, 1984.
The Michael Stanley Band reached its creative peak with 1980's Heartland and finally enjoyed some commercial success to boot. As Stanley has said, MSB was finally in the enviable position of having its record company clamor for a follow-up. Fortunately, 1981's North Coast offered another fine batch of songs and a new member in saxophonist Rick Bell. Assuming production duties this time around was legendary knob-twiddler Eddie Kramer, known for his work with the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Kiss. "In the Heartland" has a pounding, insistent groove, and it became an MSB concert staple. Keyboardist/vocalist Kevin Raleigh's "When Your Heart Says Its Right" is infectious pop/rock and the chorus is terrific. "Somewhere in the Night," another favorite among the MSB faithful, is a strong tune in which the slightly more subtle verses make the chorus more explosive. Two other engaging rockers are "Heaven and Hell" and "Don't You Do That to Me." The acoustic guitar-based ballad "Falling in Love Again" is emotional without being syrupy. "Chemistry" nearly approaches new wave thanks to its jittery pace, repeating synthesizer lick and shouted chorus. It's a bit of a departure from MSB's consistently solid Midwestern rock & roll, and that makes it interesting. Buoyant 1950s-style rock is the model for "Let's Hear It," a hard-driving slice of all-out fun; the lighthearted lyrics touch on everything from a hard-working bar band to beautiful, tempting female fans to blue-collar audiences, while keyboardist Bob Pelander goes wild with an "attack piano" solo. [Some reissues add two live bonus tracks, "Somewhere in the Night" and "Shut Up and Leave Me Alone," recorded at Cleveland's Blossom Music Center in 1984.] ~ Bret Adams