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Harbor Lights

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Album Review

Leaving behind the Range, Bruce Hornsby trades heartland rock for a cooler, jazzier sound with Harbor Lights, an album that nonetheless retains his affinity for sincere portraits of American life, love, and heartache. The title track is a humid, celebratory song that evokes a romantic summer evening in the South, setting the stage for a collection of humanistic songs. If the album has an underlying theme, it's the necessity of seeing yourself and the ones you love through the hard times as well as the good. The purely upbeat songs, like "Rainbow's Cadillac" and "What a Night," are counterbalanced by the sober "Fields of Gray" and "Tide Will Rise," and the cultural commentary of "Talk of the Town." The music is uniformly excellent, with Hornsby's piano work blending seamlessly into the rich arrangements. Each song usually ends with an extended instrumental section, but these flow naturally instead of feeling like tacked-on jam sessions. And Hornsby isn't just showing off here, as he lets other voices, like Branford Marsalis' sax and Pat Metheny's guitar, get their say. In later albums, Hornsby's focus on music would tend to overtake his lyrical content, but Harbor Lights marks the point at which he found the right balance between virtuosic playing and personal storytelling.

Biography

Born: 23 November 1954 in Williamsburg, VA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Possessed of a breezy, nonchalant style that belies his technical gifts, pianist Bruce Hornsby writes powerful songs from the heart that touch on several distinctly American traditions: pop, jazz, bluegrass, and '60s soul. He worked for a while as a studio player and songwriter, and had his first hit in 1986 with the stirring and philosophical "The Way It Is." After that, he continued to release albums that honored his own muse rather than the marketplace, and put together various backing bands to...
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Harbor Lights, Bruce Hornsby
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