ROD ARGENT: MOVING HOME (1978)
1) Home; 2) Silence; 3) I'm In The Mood; 4) Summer; 5) No. 1; 6) Tenderness; 7) Pastorius Mentioned; 8) Well, Well, Well!; 9) Smiling; 10) Recollection.
This is NOT an «Argent» album; it is a «Rod Argent» album, his first official solo project, after which he retreated into session work shadows for a whole decade. Technically speaking, this should certainly not have gone under the «Argent» session; but factually, it is not all that far removed from Circus and Counterpoints, and there is always room for a little cheating — in a way, Moving Home is not so much a new beginning for Rod as an album that, on the contrary, closes the book that was started in 1969. Hardly on one of its more interesting pages, but still, given the circumstances, it could have been much worse.
The legacy of Argent (the band) is all over this album: lush balladry, portentous attitudes, and jazz-fusion textures are on every track, sometimes even all of them at the same time. But there is no drive to make a really big statement. Even when things get «pompous», it is a homely sort of pomp, never backed with mighty crescendos or lots of physical force applied to the instruments. You'd think that on an album where Rod Argent is responsible for the keys, Phil Collins for the drums, and Gary Moore for the guitars, testosterone would be running high on a permanent basis — wrong! Even Moore mostly sticks to acoustic playing.
Naturally, if you are all set on making a «homely» album, conveying a peacefully tranquilizing message, you will probably be more successful with the «ballad» rather than the «rocker» form of things. So the only track here that could be called a minor classic, and deserves inclusion on any collective Zombies/Argent anthology, is ʽHomeʼ itself, with a nice, soulful vocal part and almost gospel harmonies in the background. Synthesizers are used as a substitute for strings and church organ at the same time, and produce a fine effect — unlike so many other songs here, where, unfortunately, the selected keyboard tones mostly range from boring to stupid.
For instance, ʽSilenceʼ is a potentially decent upbeat art-pop song, hopelessly spoilt by a moronic «bubbling» synth bass line and several layers of electronic keyboards where pianos and older-fashioned Mellotrons could have worked much more effectively. The same keyboards also spoil large parts of the fusion-esque instrumentals (ʽNo. 1ʼ, ʽRecollectionʼ), and occasionally poison the fun in other places. All of which is strange, because, up to this point, Rod seems to have exercised good taste and restraint in his complex mix of acoustic, electric, and digital instruments. Here, every now and then he seems to be losing his head, going crazy over some new electronic toy or other. This prevents me from taking Moving Home too seriously.
Another bad piece of news is that most of the «energetic» compositions never really come together. The «modern jazz» number ʽI'm In The Moodʼ wastes some pretty nimble Phil Collins percussion over a piece that tries to present Rod as some sort of jazz pro, but come on now, who are you kidding. And I was subtly hoping that ʽWell, Well, Wellʼ could turn out to be a John Lennon cover, but it is a completely original piece of piano-driven funk aiming for a «badass» attitude (the lyrics seem to be a harsh attack on musical criticism) that fails completely — Rod could never sing or play «badass-wise» even if his life depended on it. I mean, I have no idea: in real life, it is theoretically possible that he can punch his fist through a brick wall without feeling pain, but there was hardly a time when he could believably vent his frustration on record.
So, once all the nits have been picked and squeezed out, this leaves us with ʽHomeʼ, ʽSummerʼ (not a very memorable, but a very cute-sounding piano ballad with «aethereal» vocals), and ʽTendernessʼ — decent, medium-fast moving Brit-pop reminiscent of classic ELO. And while, on the negative end, the inclusion of the ridiculous ʽSmilingʼ is a serious incentive for a negative rating (calypso should be left to calypso artists, period), on the whole, this is one of those classic «on-the-borderline» thumbs up cases when there is very little to love, very little to hate, but the final feeling hovers around «well, that was kinda cute» rather than «Jesus Christ, life is way too short to waste it in such a pointless manner».
As it happens, Moving Home is that final part of the slide when the journey still goes on, but the speed is decelerating and the feet are already dragging on the ground. Worth owning by Rod fans, but it is quite understandable that the guy went on a lengthy hiatus in its wake — because, want it or not, everything that could be said had already been said, so why say it again?