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Richard Page Tag

Life is full of happy accidents — I was in the midst of setting up an interview with Gary Wright via his publicist and mentioned to him that former Mr. Mister vocalist Richard Page (Wright’s current tour mate) had a new solo album out. Wright relayed to his publicist that Richard was willing to speak with me if I had interest in talking to him. Interest? You’d better believe that I was interested.

As the lead vocalist/bassist for ’80s pop/rock quartet Mr. Mister, Page found incredible (although short-lived) success when the band released their second album Welcome To The Real World, an album that went straight to number one, lodging two number one singles, “Broken Wings” and “Kyrie” in its wake. Go On…, the follow-up to Real World, failed to match the success of their previous album, and the band’s follow-up release Pull was shelved and never officially released (although we’ve got some news on that one that will make you smile).

After a period of recording silence, Page made his return in 1994 as the vocalist for producer Patrick Leonard’s Third Matinee project, an excellent yet sadly ignored follow-up to Leonard’s previous Toy Matinee release. Page made his official solo debut two years later with the release of Shelter Me, an album that showcased the continued lyrical growth that had been previously displayed on the Third Matinee album Meanwhile (and musically, his solo releases have evolved from the sound that many were familiar with on the Mr. Mister albums, embracing a more jazzy/adult contemporary vibe). Another recording break would follow, with Page focusing in on songwriting and enjoying life with his family.

Maybe eight or ten years ago, if you’d wanted to make some pretty decent money on a minimal investment, all you had to do was find a CD copy of Styx guitarist Tommy Shaw’s 1984 solo debut, Girls with Guns, at a yard sale or in the used bins at your local strip mall record store (you remember them, don’t you?), then turn around and put the copy on eBay.  I once saw a one go for upwards of $200, and it made me longingly recall the time I saw a $10 used GwG at the Keystone Music Exchange and didn’t pull the trigger on the purchase.  And my fists shake with rage at the memory once again.

“Lonely School” was the second single off the record, a follow-up to the album’s more raucous title track, and it’s notable for containing just about every element that Shaw hated in Dennis DeYoung’s music, the primary reason he left Styx.  It’s a keyboard-heavy tune, for one thing; the guitars (Shaw’s stock in trade) mainly provide bits of color here and there, until the solo break after the second chorus.  There are key changes aplenty — into and out of every chorus, to be exact — which serve to adhere the verses to the chorus with a kind of musical Elmer’s or Scotch tape.  The background vocals —”ooh’s” and “ah’s,” mostly, give the overall track a kind of Mr. Mister-ish feel (a full year or two before any of us had heard of Mr. Mister.  Then again, I’ve never seen Tommy Shaw and Richard Page in the same room.  Hmmm …).

(Oh, and ignore the tom-tom percussion that opens the song; no one in rock should be allowed to use the things, with the exception of Neil Peart, who makes them sound like a hailstorm, a headhunter block party, and the march of an advancing army, because he’s Neil-fucking-Peart.)

In truth, “Lonely School” lacks any obvious full-on rawk bombast, the kind Shaw was exposed to daily in Styx and would absolutely master with Damn Yankees (“High Enough,” anyone?  Huh?  No takers?  Bummer).  Indeed, one might be tempted to wonder what’s so powerful about this particular ballad.

In one word: potential.