My memory of “Hold On” was that it was catchier than it is. I’m not saying it’s not catchy, it totally is. But I’m not sure it’s as memorable as I remembered it being. (I have some vision of somebody – in a film? – singing along to it.)
Certainly one of my issues is the material, which mostly feels subpar. Is “Release Me” really that catchy it hit #1? I appreciate that they wrote or co-wrote over half the album, but they are not their parents. (I know, that’s not fair. But it’s also very evident. I am not a huge Brian Wilson fan but wow could they use him. And I really am not a fan of John Phillips, but his sense of melody would also be helpful.)
The other material isn’t necessarily better – aside from the Tim Hardin cover, obviously – and it feels like it’s more there to flesh things out, not because they weren’t great at writing. There’s one song written for them that is musically on the level of “Hold On” (“Next to You”) but it has lyrics I don’t like. (And, um, pan flutes.)
It’s possible I would like the material more if the the arrangements weren’t so middle-of-the-road. It’s pretty damn clear that a) this was recorded at the end of the ’80s and b) everyone really wanted to play it safe. Even the song with Joe Walsh has his guitar safely down in the mix so nobody gets carried away. There are some really good musicians playing on this record! But the sound is of a record label worried about offending the demographic. I get that the singers are the stars, but the arrangements could have some dynamics to them. It would help the vocals, really.
And of course the whole thing is glossy as fuck. It’s 1990 and this music is as middle-of-the-road as it gets. So rough edges are not allowed.
But it could be worse: the material could be worse and there could be more gated drums or there could be a soprano saxophone or some shit like that.