Reviews Zone

Rex Smith: Rock And Roll Dream 1976 – 1983 (HNE Recordings) 24th March 2017



4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)



Bumper six-disc box set, a total of 60 tracks, including three “bonus” mono singles, available on CD for the first time. Who is Rex Smith? Younger brother of Starz vocalist Michael Lee Smith, and may be better known for his roles on stage and screen; playing motorcycle police officer Jesse Mach in the 1985 TV series “Street Hawk”, as well as guest appearances on “The Love Boat”, “Baywatch”, “Daredevil” and “Caroline In The City”.

He also played Danny Zuko in the 1978 Broadway production of “Grease”, eventually becoming a household name via the popular daytime drama “As The World Turns”. Rex replaced Andy Gibb as presenter on popular US TV music show “Solid Gold” in 1982.

Prior to “Solid Gold”, Rex also had a prolific musical career, initially in the band Rex, before going solo under his own name. Cutting his teeth in the clubs of Atlanta, initially fronting the band Phaedra and then Trix, he was soon discovered by David Krebs of Leber-Krebs, then managers of Ted Nugent and Aerosmith. That led to a deal with Columbia Records. In 1976, Columbia released the eponymously titled “Rex” (CD1 here), and despite the singer’s teen idol good looks, this is a debut that mixes muscular, hard rocking riffs with plenty of melodic rock.

On many tracks, particularly ‘Ten Seconds Of Love’, Rex predates 80s ‘hair-metal’, with a sound that would not have been out of place on a Motley Crue or Van Halen LP. ‘Dead End Kids’ is as heavy as the title would suggest. Rex continued in this hard rock vein with 1977’s “Where Do We Go from Here” (CD2 here), but with a bigger, more stadium orientated sound. His fame and fortunes would take an upswing into the mainstream in 1979, when he was given a starring role in the TV movie “Sooner Or Later”, which led to the album of the same name, (CD3 here) featuring his first hit, ‘You Take My Breath Away’.

Moving further into a commercial path for “Forever” (CD4 here), also issued in 1979, the album showcases Rex Smith’s powerful vocal prowess, as well as creative song writing power. Releasing “Everlasting Love” (CD5 here) in 1981, Rex enjoyed a further bona fide hit with a duet on the title track, with Rachel Sweet. “Everlasting Love” also features ‘Still Thinking of You’, co-written with a pre-fame Michael Bolton.

Produced by Ron Nevison, famed for his work with Led Zeppelin, UFO, Heart and Survivor, 1983’s “Camouflage” (CD6 here) saw a return to a more rockier style, with guest appearances from the J. Geils Band’s Peter Wolf, Linda Ronstadt and Aerosmith’s Brad Whitford.

Each of the six albums is presented in its own “mini album” sleeve, and the extended booklet features rare memorabilia, as well as an essay from Malcolm Dome based on new interviews with Rex. The set also includes the three exclusive “mono” single versions. The old saying; “Never judge a book but its cover”, applies with this guy. “Dreamy” film/pop star looks, but ballsy rock music and a voice that really socks it to you. Well worth a re-visit or a first time listen.


By Sally Fox



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