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There’s a saying that applies here, not just because it’s relevent to the title at hand but also because it shows how rock artists who think outside that box can seem to have two distinct personas.

Like night and day.

Nights can be great. They’re the time for going out, hitting the town and cutting loose and sometimes things seem even more alive at night, like living life in a heightened reality.

But let’s face it, daytime is when everything comes into focus, when you’re expected to be at your best. So it was for James Wayne when it came to assessing his output, as the sun shone brightest for him when he was 100% committed to rock ‘n’ roll.

By contrast nighttime is when he stumbles around in the dark by trying to play something he never was suited for to begin with.


Was I The One Among Them All?
There are two divergent truths we spout around these parts when it comes to rock artists expanding their vision. The first is we take exception to those who view pop material and arrangements as a more desirable career course.

The second is that we appreciate it when an artist tries something new and unexpected, for creative experimentation is what allows music to stay fresh over time.

Here James Wayne is definitely stepping outside his comfort zone and trying something that he hadn’t shown a prior interest in, which is good… in theory.

It’s bad however that to do so he’s veering closer to pop, even though with his oddball vocal tone and unusual story narratives means it’s not going to be resembling anything Bing Crosby or Perry Como would be recording.

Though we’d obviously rather he’d remain basking in the sunshine of rock ‘n’ roll, there’s still bound to be something interesting to see When Night Falls and so we’ll somewhat reluctantly cross back over the tracks to the nicer part of town with James Wayne as our unlikely guide.

We’re probably not dressed right for it, we definitely are going to get some sideway glances when we swagger into those high class nightclubs, and there may even be a few proprietors who turn us away from their doors, but what kind of rockers would we be if we let that stop us from running roughshod over their hallowed ground every once in awhile just for the hell of it.


My Dreams Do Not Come True
First thing’s first… that saxophone! It’s an instrument that has become the cornerstone of rock ‘n’ roll in the genre’s first decade after being slow to catch on in jazz and even slower to find a foothold in pop, where trumpets and strings were the normal fare, but if you want to hear how the sax was slowly being adapted as a potential pop-accoutrement, look no further than the introduction to this record where it surges and slides with a far classier visage than any rock song had done to date.

It does start to dig deeper for a harsher grittier tone eight seconds in, but you can’t shake free of the thought of it cascading around a glitzy bandstand in those first few bars.

That transition mid-way through the intro makes you think that maybe James Wayne would settle matters and quit this ill-fated dalliance with a more refined musical suitor and return us to the seedy environs of rock ‘n’ roll.

But no, he’s going all in on this ploy, crooning in a manner ill-befitting a rock star with some classic sides to his credit, sounding none too comfortable doing it, but hoping his sincerity will overcome the severe technical limitations of his voice.

It won’t. Of course it won’t, how could it? His wobbly tone, staggering in and out of key like a drunk on a wet slippery sidewalk, isn’t going to make any girl long for him, nor will any guy in the listening audience take their cue from him and think that singing this to their own sweetheart will help them get to the next base when they’re alone together.

But that being said When Night Falls, simplistic though it is both melodically and lyrically, does have a solid foundation, provided it was in better hands than his to deliver. Though the overall theme is fairly trite, his lines show good craftsmanship and while the gently swaying melody is hardly very inventive, it does have a hummable quality that makes it modestly endearing.

But that does not mean it’s worth hearing more than once because Wayne can not for the life of him do it justice, sounding more like a total amateur trying to sing in front of an assembly who are responding with harsh disapproving silence as he struggles to make it to the end without passing out.


When I Awake
Every artist has the right to pursue whatever strikes their fancy, just like every reviewer has the right to criticize those pursuits when they fail to impress… or, in this case, when they are misguided and ill-conceived to begin with before even getting to how poorly executed they are.

Yet James Wayne’s efforts were sincere and so considering how good he’s been when pursuing uncharted roads solidly within rock’s boundaries we can cut him some slack here… not with the grade, which is more a reflection on the final results, but on the attempt itself.

Some artists seek pop acceptance because they – or their label or managers – view the potential for supper club bookings and pop radio exposure to be much more advantageous for their careers than chitlin’ circuit tours and trying to make a living off the sticky nickels and dimes that go into the jukeboxes where rock records live and die.

But that’s clearly not the case with James Wayne. He’s already shown he’s just a musically curious soul and it stands to reason that he’d want to see what he could do with a pop approach if he tried, if only for his own peace of mind.

But now that he got it out of his system we probably don’t have to worry what type of music he’ll be playing When Night Falls. That’s when he’ll cross back over the tracks, shed the jacket and tie and jump on the bandstand and give the rest of us what we came for.

Not every trip is worthwhile after all, and though it’s arguably interesting to watch him try his hand in another field, we knew how this would end before he even started out.

Rock music and pop music might share some notes and a few structural similarities in their compositions, but the manner in which they’re played is like night and day and this record proves it once again.


(Visit the Artist page of James Wayne for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)