A MEANINGFUL title. Three years ago, the duo of Rex Fowler and Neal Shulman made a very good album for Elektra, which received critical acclaim but didn’t sell too well. Economics being what they are, Elektra presumably decided to let them go. There has been silence from the gentlemen until now.
Perhaps that accounts for the occasional tinges of desperation which creep into this record. The first album was made in Los Angeles, produced by Jerry Yester, and had help from Doug Dillard, John Sebastian and so on, and was a typically fine artefact of its time – well into a country rock mould, with at least two superb tracks.
In this time, they’ve moved to the East Coast, to Connecticut, in fact, got Paul Leka of Harry Chapin fame as producer, and hired a bunch of undoubtedly good, but seemingly unsympathetic session men to back them.
The result seems to me to be an unfortunate urgency which was missing from the first record…a duo playing at being a rock group rather than being themselves. This has a tendency to devalue the songs – some of which are presentable – and produce an uncomfortable lethargy sometimes, as if they’re conscious of having to sing slowly.
Also, the production aspects, like the pseudo Shaft ending to ‘It’s Going On Saturday,’ and the guitar breaks by John Tropea, seem not to fit their context.
Undoubtedly, there is a temptation to try something different when your first attempt hasn’t quite succeeded, and it’s just a shame that Aztec Two Step have apparently gone back three years towards the sound of that time, rather than waiting for the main body to catch up with what they were doing in 1973, which sounds great now.
However, as it’s not likely that too many people possess that first step, this second one has a very fair chance of appealing to the uncommitted.
© John Tobler, New Musical Express, 1 May 1976