The Greatest Show On Earth
Dave Stewart has played in numerous bands, penned a Broadway musical and produced and written songs for some of the biggest names in music. His experience shines on his latest solo project, The Ringmaster General. A follow up to 2011’s similarly star-studded The Blackbird Diaries, this album features Joss Stone, Orianthi, Jesse Baylin, Alison Krauss and Diane Birch. For an extra dose of country, power couple John and Martina McBride welcomed Stewart and friends to record in their Nashville studio. The product: a record bursting with passion, personality and variety.
That “bursting” is quite literal. “I Got Love,” the opening track, explodes like a human cannonball. Joss Stone belts and coos about the throes of heartbreak, with the help of a small chorus sounding like a southern Baptist choir. Just in case the crashing cymbals, groovy guitar and vocal chops weren’t impressive enough, the song includes a saxophone solo that appears naturally, but somehow adds an element of surprise. From there, the ringmaster general has his audience hooked.
“Girl In A Catsuit” exemplifies the Ringling Brothers aspect of the album. Guitar goddess Orianthi shreds nonstop, inspiring the controlled chaos of caged motorcycle daredevils. But soul-bearing piano ballad “A Different Man Now” features the general singing alone, contemplating time and personal evolution. Songs like this one remind listeners that, in the end, this record carries his name.
When it comes to country rock albums, range of song style is the key ingredient to avoid tiresome twang. Stewart, no virgin to the world of production, masterfully covered his bases. Few records have been more aptly titled; Stewart performs the role of ringmaster on wild tracks, encouraging vocal runs and instrumental improvising, but he poses as a composed, weathered general in others. As the album closes, Dave Stewart, both ringmaster and general, takes a powerful bow.