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.