An iconic musical Americana
ctrx | 'bout to show you how the EAST COAST rocks... | 01/04/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Already an accomplished musician and songwriter, Bruce Hornsby released his debut "The Way It Is" with his band The Range at age 32 in 1986. Earning top 40 hits and Grammy recognition, its impact was immediate. A Virginia native, Hornsby presented a unique, distinguished sound, identifiable by his remarkable, whimsical piano playing. Both a brilliant songwriter and vocalist in addition to his keyboard prowess, Hornsby employs some '80s production elements in synthesizers and electronica, as well as some distinctly southern musicianship by the ever-underrated Range. Seven of the nine songs were co-written by Hornsby's brother John, and the songwriting is fantastic, marked by expansive arrangements, extremely accessible melodies, soulful and inspired performances, and expert musicianship. With a voice that can be equally haunting as endearing, Hornsby delivers feel-good rock numbers, phenomenal ballads, and socially conscious tunes such as the infamous title track. One of the finest debuts of the 80s, "The Way It Is" has aged extremely well and introduced a truly immense talent.
Hornsby's heartland rock depicts an Americana distinct among Springsteen's mid-Atlantic summer towns, Henley's sunny open highways, and Mellencamp's optimistic Midwest. Hornsby paints vivid portraits of American life in the mountain ranges, winding rivers, jagged coasts, towering forests, and stretching farmlands of his beloved Virginia. Not as personal as his aforementioned contemporaries, he maintains a hopeful outlook for love and happiness even during tough times both emotionally and economically.
Opening with the soaring electric guitars of "On the Western Skyline," Bruce paints a charming small town in middle America, true to his formula, with a can't-miss hook and upbeat yearning. Both "Every Little Kiss" and "Mandolin Rain" are among his finest songs, both featuring poignant piano playing woven into gorgeous ballads. These songs are truly timeless and boast perfect arrangement. The inspiring "The Long Race" precedes the title track, a #1 hit. "The Way It Is" is anchored by a simple yet irresistible keyboard cadence, later immortalized in 2Pac's "Changes," and socially conscious sentiments, with tales of injustice, racism, and discrimination. The amazing balance of sadness and hope, along with the catchy melody and production, make this track truly iconic. The final four tracks are classic Hornsby, with dense instrumentation, lyrical depictions of stunning landscapes and the people who inhabit them, and wonderful songwriting. Perhaps the best among them is "The Wild Frontier," a hard-rocking anthem denying the bustling indulgences of city life in favor of the simpler, more beautiful environs of rural America.
"The Way It Is" still strikes me as a poignant, soulful, and powerful album after nearly 25 years; the flawless tracklist, beautiful melodies, playing, and lyrics remain as effective as the day it was released. Hornsby would prove himself a true renaissance man over a long career, impressing fans with successful ventures into jazz, bluegrass, solo projects, and other bands. However, he may be forever defined by his iconic debut, and while his other music should never be overlooked, "The Way It Is" was a definitive, if early, moment for a landmark musician."
That's Just the Way It Was!
Sylviastel | 02/02/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Bruce Hornsby and the Range were in my opinion a bit more country than pop rock or rock n' roll when they came out in the 1980s. As I get older, I appreciate them more. They have a country style sound mixed with a rock beat. The songs like "The Way It Is" is about post-segregation America. I love that song because it's serious but yet you can listen to it a thousand times without getting bored with it. "Mandolin Rain" is another favorite of mine on this disc. Just remember when we only had audio cassettes, there was about 10-12 songs (5-6) on one side. Things have changed a lot. I can't wait to order more. As I get older, so do my musical tastes. Still, Bruce Hornsby and the Range made a spectacular musical debut in the time of big hair bands that they stood out. They were not big hair of the time. They have their own style and they are true to it."