Great White were one of those bands I managed to catch onto before they made it big. My cassette copy of their 1984 debut has been played to death, and I’ve gone through two copies of their long-awaited followup, 1986’s Shot in the Dark. After that they hit the big time with a saucy combination of catchy blues-metal and the lascivious videos/cover art that adorned hair metal in the late ’80s. Sadly, the 2003 Station nightclub fire that left 100 fans dead is their legacy.
Let’s quickly get this out of the way: Jack Russell’s Great White is NOT Great White. The original band is still together and working, with longtime members Mark Kendall, Audie Desbrow and Michael Lardie in the ranks. Russell’s band features no current or former Great White members except the singer himself. And to be honest, Russell’s version of the band sounds nothing like Great White does or used to, so using the name on He Saw it Comin’ is wildly misleading.
Things start out in promising enough fashion, though. “Sign of the Times” is a mildly driving hard-rocker that shows Russell’s voice is still in prime condition. However, the album opener is not indicative of the rest of the songs. “She Moves Me” is pure pop rock, blander than a pail of melted vanilla ice cream, and “Crazy” is something one might expect on a Bret Michaels solo album. This is not what one expects from an album bearing the Great White moniker.
The mediocre outweighs the good, but there are a few bright lights. “My Addiction” is the best song here, a bluesy number with a great arrangement and stellar solo. Sadly, the lyrics are somewhat misguided. Everyone knows about Russell’s addiction battles, and this song seems to glorify his issues rather than offer contriteness. Aside from the cheesy intro, the title track is also a high point despite the Foreigner-like piano line. Again, the lyrics come across as defiant; as if Russell is singing to his former bandmates “I’ve fallen down a thousand times, a thousand times I’ve risen.” The man seems incapable of humility.
Aside from those few moments the album is forgettable, especially the closing track. Whose idea was it to end the record with a doo-wop number? If you see the name Great White on He Saw it Comin’, you are entitled to expect a certain style of music. Sadly, that style is almost completely absent here, leaving us with a well-performed but ultimately empty pop-rock record. Move along, folks, nothing to see here.
(released January 27, 2017 on Frontiers Music)