Tommy Shaw’s second solo album What If didn’t have a big hit like Girls With Guns. It did have some solid if lesser known songs. Production wise, the edges are a little sharper.
Hot opener “Jealousy” boasts a cool sax solo, and a memorable chorus beefed up with soulful backing vocals. Second up, “Remo’s Theme” is from the movie Remo Williams, a forgotten film with a decent lead song. Unfortunately the drums have that electronic gate that indicates samples, but fits the 80s vibe of “Remo’s Theme”. It sounds like a Miami Vice episode waiting to happen.
Shaw goes for the dusky nightclub scene with “Reach for the Bottle”. Songs can paint pictures, and this one is made for drinking. The electro-funk of “Friendly Advice” however just reeks. Musicians would slap me and point to it as a high point of sheer playing ability, but I’m holding my nose over here. It gets better on “This is Not a Test”, still lodged deep in the 80s but in a good way. The subject matter is right out of 1985: the threat of nuclear war! This was a popular subject in the 80s, just ask Ozzy.
The second side opened with “See Me Now”, an inspirational energising tune, carefully composed like…layers of gouda on a cheese sandwich. Dig? It tastes good, but too much is probably not good for you. “True Confessions” is similarly a pop guilty pleasure. God that drum sound is awful! Moving on, “Count on You” has a Floydian (80s of course) ballad vibe, with more of that tasty sax. “Nature of the Beast” is another ballad with terrific melodies and more of them drum samples. Finally “Bad Times” ends the album with a “good time” song. Loads of saxophone, upbeat hooks, and less obtrusive drums.
What If is not a bad album, but some the production gets to way too clunky on some tracks. When it’s played closer to rock and roll, the basic instruments, it works far better.