Rolling Stone (6/10/93, p.69) - 3.5 Stars - Very Good - "...radiates taste, smarts and ambition...his most musician-ly work and perhaps his most personal....By synthesizing choice bits from diverse traditions, Bruce Hornsby delivers something new..."
Q (6/93, p.99) - 3 Stars - Good - "...His recent tour as part of The Grateful Dead seems to have affected his approach significantly, making this offering looser, less structured than before, and all the more acceptable for the humanity such a relaxed attitude confers on the songs..."
Down Beat (6/93, p.41) - 4 Stars - Very Good - "...Granted, Hornsby is no Phineas Newborn, but his chordal voicings are far more adventurous and his phrasing far more supple than your average million-seller pop star..."
Musician (5/93, p.90) - "...his jazziest effort yet....the playing follows the spirit of the music..."
Personnel: Bruce Hornsby (vocals, piano, accordion, organ); Will Ross, Tony Berg, Wayne Pooley (guitar); John McLaughlin Williams, Laura Roelofs Park (violin); Beverly K. Baker (viola); William Conita (cello); George Harple, Philip Koslow, Adam Lesnick, Alan B. Paterson (French horn); John D'Earth, Glenn Wilson, George A. Gailes III, Roy Muth, Tim Streagle (horn); Jimmy Haslip (bass); John Molo (drums); Lamont Coward (percussion); Dave Duncan (programming).
Background vocals: Laura Creamer-Dunville, Jean McClain, Debra L. Henry, Bona Cheri Wells.
Includes liner notes by Bruce Hornsby.
Leaving behind the Range, Bruce Hornsby trades heartland rock for a cooler, jazzier sound with Harbor Lights, an album that nonetheless retains his affinity for sincere portraits of American life, love, and heartache. The title track is a humid, celebratory song that evokes a romantic summer evening in the South, setting the stage for a collection of humanistic songs. If the album has an underlying theme, it's the necessity of seeing yourself and the ones you love through the hard times as well as the good. The purely upbeat songs, like "Rainbow's Cadillac" and "What a Night," are counterbalanced by the sober "Fields of Gray" and "Tide Will Rise," and the cultural commentary of "Talk of the Town." The music is uniformly excellent, with Hornsby's piano work blending seamlessly into the rich arrangements. Each song usually ends with an extended instrumental section, but these flow naturally instead of feeling like tacked-on jam sessions. And Hornsby isn't just showing off here, as he lets other voices, like Branford Marsalis' sax and Pat Metheny's guitar, get their say. In later albums, Hornsby's focus on music would tend to overtake his lyrical content, but Harbor Lights marks the point at which he found the right balance between virtuosic playing and personal storytelling. ~ Skyler Miller