Monday, December 13, 2021

"Rock & Roll Strategy" by 38 Special

Song#:  3700
Date:  10/29/1988
Debut:  80
Peak:  67
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Following a 1987 compilation album titled Flashback: The Best of 38 Special, a major change took place in the band. Founding member, lead singer, and songwriting collaborator Don Barnes decided to leave the band. Citing burnout as the main factor, Barnes took off and was replaced by Max Carl. Another original member, drummer Steve Brookins also departed. With the shift in personnel done, the band went into the studio with producer Rodney Mills to record their eighth studio album Rock & Roll Strategy. In addition to the personnel changes, the band also chose to update their name from 38 Special to the spelled-out Thirty Eight Special (it would be their one and only album under that moniker). The title track would be issued out as the lead single and it would do well at Rock reaching #5. However, the tune couldn't get a leg up with pop listeners and it stalled in the bottom third of the Pop chart. It wasn't a great way to kick of the LP, but a second single would help turn things around.

ReduxReview:  The days of the band's guitar-driven Southern-style rock sound had been waning over the past few years, but Rock & Roll Strategy pretty much brought it to a halt. Synths and slick production along with bland pop/rock tunes nearly buried the memories of hits like "Caught Up in You." This lead single wanted to try and recapture the feel of the old days, but it didn't get close. It was unmemorable and a bit faceless. Thirty Eight Special sounded like a band struggling to find their way in the late 80s and they nearly limped away bruised and battered, but they would have one more sunset hit to go out on with their next single.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  When Barnes decided to leave 38 Special due to burnout, the band's label, A&M, wasn't quite ready to let him go. They thought Barnes had the ability to be a solo artist and offered him a deal to stay with the label and work on an album of his own. Barnes could select who he wanted to work with and (reasonably) take his time without the hassle and pressure of being in a band or having to be on tour. Barnes took the label up on their offer and began to work on a solo debut titled Ride the Storm. For the majority of the album, Barnes worked with Mike and Jeff Porcaro of Toto along with songwriter/producer Martin Briley. The LP was finished in '89 and handed in to the label. Unfortunately, around the same time A&M Records was purchased by Polygram and along with that major change came the review of artists and product on A&M. In the upheaval, Barnes' album was shelved and it seems that Barnes was also left off the new label's roster. Barnes would eventually return to 38 Special in 1992 and has remained with them since. As of this posting he is actually the only original member left in the band. Barnes' solo album would finally see the light of day in 2017.


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