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Chris Ward

One Step Beyond – 1996 (Giant)

Reviewed by Eric Zehnbauer

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CDs by Chris Ward

When the promotional publicity package for a new artist mentions more about Chris Ward's"unique" background as an ex-cop and ex-Marine than his musical credentials, a note of suspicion is already raised.

While not a total failure, this effort shows too much of the cookie-cutter sameness that has plagued the recent "hat act" stampede. Unimaginative writing and uninspired playing do little to make these tunes leave a lasting impression. Notably bad is the horrible Mutt Lange-penned ballad, "Only God Could Stop Me Lovin' You." There are a few bright points. "Fall Reaching," which had been the first single, is an above-average,inspirational ballad. "Love Me to Death" is a humorous, funky honky-tonkerfeaturing some good harmonica work. Perhaps the best track is the only one which Ward helped write, "Back to Earth." From the first line, "Jim Beam me up Scotty..." this is a funny and rollicking shit-kicker of a song. It's as if the band finally woke up and was allowed to cut loose.

Ward finally got his lucky break with this album, but he needs to set set himself apart from the pack to assure success. So here's some free advice: Dump the sappy ballads and rock out a little more, and do some more of your own writing.