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Chuck Wicks

Turning Point – 2016 (Blaster)

Reviewed by Jeff Lincoln

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CDs by Chuck Wicks

Talk about a long break. Chuck Wicks' "Stealing Cinderella" cracked the Top Ten and entered the daddy/daughter dance pantheon forever, way back in 2007. That single was from Wicks' debut record, "Starting Now." Now here we are, and the pride of Smyrna, Del. is ready at last to deliver his sophomore effort. It's true that Wicks has kept busy, moonlighting as a TV host, dancer, actor and general pinup pretty boy. But the years have not been entirely kind. There were painful breakups covered in the tabloids. Then came an ignominious drop from his record company when the post-Cinderella singles didn't perform up to snuff.

Because of that back story (and the title "Turning Point"), the listener might expect one of those Oprah-ready albums filled with songs about rising above your troubles. Surprisingly, Wicks does what he does best. This is a mostly happy record, celebrating young, breezy, butterflies-kind of love. There's plenty of shout-outs to lazy weekends with your gal ("Saturday Afternoon"), smiling over burnt toast and swooning at every hair flip ("Whole Damn Thing"). Problems and goals are for suckers, when you've got your baby, a dirt road, or a beach spot ("Salt Life"). Once in a while, the girl gets away -"She's Gone" really swings for the fences. It's got enough banjo to meet the minimum qualifications of country, but it heads into a wall of sound straight out of arena rock. The best track of the bunch, "Us Again," has a big-chorus burn, with an emotional punch of longing behind it. The song as a single didn't register that well on the charts, though, so Wicks may still be going through a rough patch.

It could be that Wicks is lost in a marketplace with a lot of similar fellows. His face is probably his best calling card - it can't hurt with a certain block of fans that he competes in Iron Man challenges and looks like the second coming of Donny Osmond. But vocally, he sounds more suited for Contemporary Christian radio - lots of clean high notes, with minimal bass or any hint of danger. Maybe a more emotionally raw record is what's needed: if Wicks owned his pain a little more directly, instead of smiling through it, it might emotionally connect better with the songs and listeners. At a minimum, he needs to record more than once a decade.