REVIEW: Gowan – Lost Brotherhood (1990)

GOWAN – Lost Brotherhood (1990 Atlantic)

I like to think of this Gowan album (a gift from Aaron at the KMA) as “the one with Alex Lifeson”.  Gowan has worked with some incredible musicians besides Styx, including Tony Levin (several times, including this album), Robert Fripp and Jon Anderson.  Gowan’s fourth album Lost Brotherhood has a distinct Rush tone on several tracks and so it easily became a favourite.  It’s important to note though that it’s not just Lifeson on this disc, but also Ken Greer from Red Rider providing the guitars.  Though Lawrence Gowan is primarily a keyboardist, this might be his most guitar-heavy album.  (Of note, future Triumph contributor Mladen Zarron also plays additional guitar on this album.)

“All the Lovers in the World” was the single, a hit as I recall, and still excellent today.  You can’t forget that chorus.  It sounds so very 1990, like Presto-era Rush, especially when Alex rips one of those patented Lifeson solos that’s more about the guitar tone than banging out a million notes.  In the back, you got Tony Levin dancing gleefully all over the neck of his bass.  One word:  breathtaking.

A Levin groove commences a nocturnal “Lost Brotherhood”, a serious prowler that you could easily mistake for latter-day Styx.  Lawrence has a way with writing piano hooks and “Lost Brotherhood” boasts a tasty one.  “Call It A Mission” could be Rush for all you could tell, if not for Gowan’s huskier voice.  The pulse of this song is like a “superconductor”, if you catch my drift, and the solo is slick and different.  Then it’s “The Dragon”, dramatic and weighty.  Levin is hitting some deep notes which just makes “Dragon” rumble like the titular beast.

Gowan goes for acoustic ballad territory on “Love Makes You Believe”, another big chorus.  Ken Greer accents the song with very slight touches and Tony adds so much texture.  They really crank it on “Fire It Up”, a rocker that would have led off side two of the original vinyl.  This boogie just stomps!

“Out of a Deeper Hunger” is another ballad, at least until a nice crunchy guitar kicks in on the excellent chorus.  Rock territory is reclaimed on “Tender Young Hero”, another Rush-like monolith with memorable chorus.  Gowan’s got a knack for a chorus, and the snare sound on drummer Jerry Marotta is a dead ringer for Peart.

Tinkling keys are the main feature on the delicate “Message From Heaven”.  Light, but still heavy.  Dramatic as hell.  But closer “Holding This Rage” is a masterwork, combining the piano and drama in a way that just reaches out and grabs you by your humanity.  Sounds like Marillion.

“Holding this rage isn’t your answer boy,
Holding this rage won’t lead you on.
Holding this rage will tear you to pieces boy,
Look what it’s done.”

By the fade out you’re…one again…breathless.

Though my Canadian bias is showing, it is a good thing that today, million of people get to hear Gowan’s special talents with Styx.  Though with Styx, Lawrence is part of a band led by Shaw/Young, as a solo artist he is the captain and always had the goods all along.  Lost Brotherhood is an excellent “first Gowan” album to check out due to the emphasis on guitar and of course the presence of one Alex Živojinović.

4/5 stars

24 comments

  1. Thanks for covering this one, I love love love Gowan. This record is an amazing excursion, you’re right. I love that you heard the Rush and others in it, and not just for the presence of Mr. Lifeson. There’s not a bad song on this one. You know, I have a theory about Gowan’s albums, how there’s a natural progression one to the next. It’s still unformed, somewhat, but it’s something I feel and I know I’m right…

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  2. Hey sorry I couldn’t reply above to your two things, seems only allowed a short thread. Anyway, I agree. He should make another solo record, that’d be awesome. And I’m not too surprised Wiki hasn’t got everything covered. It’s just us 80s kids still listening (mostly)!

    Speaking of, would now be a good time that I got to see Strange Animal in conccert in 1985, right here in the town where I now live? In the same barn where the OHL team plays?And we got to see Great Dirty world in concert too, at University of Guelph. We were in the crowd for the Awake The Giant video. I saw him one more time, way later, at Lulu’s, for the …But You Can Call Me Larry tour. Man, he puts on such a great show.

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    1. I’m writing up Strange Animal next. Looks like he basically has Peter Gabriel’s band. Seeing Gowan is your (now) home Barn is just too cool. But I can top it. An ex of mine’s cousin dated Gowan. And I’m still friends with her and still have access to the details. LOL

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      1. Yup you win! Never met him, never dated him ha.

        Oh man, Strange Animal. I have the autographed re-release here (GDW, too). How many times have I played that album in full? SO MANY. Looking forward to your take on it! Not even sure it’s one I could write up. It’s just in my blood.

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        1. Herein lies the problem! I was just asking myself how I would feel about Strange Animal if I heard it in 1985 instead of now. It wouldn’t sound as awkward to these ears. So I am trying to ignore the little 80s idiosyncrasies and focus on the songs. The songs are great! I just wish they weren’t recorded in 1984!

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  3. Saw Gowan play a solo show (stop me if you’ve heard this one before) when he came over to the UK to promote a solo greatest hits album and to play at the Princess Diana tribute thing in 1998. He did a few tiny pubs and clubs playing either his acoustic guitar or his piano including the show I saw. There was probably about 20 people in the place which was mental when you were told that he could fill arenas at home.

    ANYWAY… He played to twenty people and the bar staff like he was playing to twenty thousand and he was full of great stories. It was a fantastic show. During the show, there was a late arrival as some dude and his missus walked in after being stuck in traffic or something. He welcomed them in but was asked by the dude if he’d played (as I recall, so don’t take this as gospel!) “Guns and Gods” yet, which he had. The dude looked disappointed, so in the spirit of keeping the customer satisfied, he promised to play it again… Which he did… At the couple’s table by the bar… What a star!

    This was my first real exposure to Mr Gowan and I never forgot it. He was a sweetheart to talk to also. My extremely drunk pal was bending his ear seriously and he took it graciously. Probably been in that situation 24,000 times before.

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      1. Yeah, it was one of my best and favourite gig experiences. I’d not really heard of Gowan or his music until someone suggested I tag along to this gig, so it was essentially my first impression of him as a person and artist thus it was the most incredible first impression you could get, I think!

        It is such a shame that the work he did in that week or so he was in the UK didn’t translate to greater success here. He didn’t really have a massive backing and since it was 1998 when he made his trip here and his brand of music wasn’t seen as “cool” or whatever, he didn’t get much coverage. I think even his spot at the Diana thing was early on and not shown on the UK broadcast, although I may be wrong on that.

        It was great when he popped up in Styx though and there he could be seen, standing on this twirly piano on stage. I always like to tell pals who have seen him front Styx when they come here in an arena that it’s a shame I didn’t go to the gig, but I saw Gowan play from a range of about 5 metres away to some bewildered dude at a bar in the Midlands somewhere!

        Did you get the Home Fields compilation over there or was is UK only?

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        1. Sorry my dudes, not hijacking the convo, just popping in to say I have found used copies of Home Field here in Canada. No idea if they were imports at time of purchase or whatnot, but they’re out there!

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