Bruce Hornsby
(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

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Bruce Hornsby, a Los Angeles-based songwriter and pianist who was inspired by Leon Russell, debuted with The Way It Is (RCA, 1986), an album of soulful ballads that relied on a light-weight combo and jazz piano (The Way It Is, Mandolin Rain). Scenes From the Southside (RCA, 1988) includes the hits Jacob's Ladder, The Valley Road (a ditty that hides influences ranging from Keith Jarrett to McCoy Tyner), The Road Not Taken, and marks Hornsby's golden age. Around the same time Don Henley also had a hit with Hornsby's The End Of Innocence.

A Night on the Town (RCA 1990) showed the first signs of commercial decline, as Hornsby distanced himself from the "artificial" sound of previous albums (electronic backdrop, countless overdubs) and embraced a "rock" attitude (a real band and even a Jerry Garcia on guitar in the emphatic Across the River, ot at least a country-rock one. The truth is that the harrowing Fire On The Cross (with jazz veteran Wayne Shorter on saxophone and bluegrass veteran Bela Fleck on banjo) and the jazzy ballad Stander on the Mountain (Charlie Haden on bass) signal a more erudite stage of his career.

In the meantime, he had become Grateful Dead's keyboardist, and that experience helped him focus on the jazz side of his art. Harbor Lights (RCA, 1993), recorded by a basic trio of keyboards, bass and drums and augmented with a cast of pop superstars, is therefore a less entertaining but more profound statement of his art (Tide Will Rise, Fields Of Gray, with a melody borrowed from Ben King's Stand By Me, and Pastures of Plenty, which sounds like Grateful Dead); and Hot House (RCA, 1995) is his mature statement as an artist: lengthy melodic fantasies (Spider Fingers, The Changes, The Tango King, Country Doctor) that express a soul rather than a marketing campaign. However, Walk In The Sun and Big Rumble were still trying to sell this brainy style to the masses.

The ambitious double album Spirit Trail (RCA, 1998) is probably too much for Hornsby's limited originality, but still provided repertoire material such as Line In The Dust, Preacher in the Ring, Sneaking Up On Boo Radley, Sunflower Cat.

After the live album Here Come the Noise Makers (2000), Hornsby reinvented himself with Big Swing Face (RCA, 2002), a collection of songs that he "designed" and arranged, but hardly plays at all. The sound is updated to the latest techno/ambient/hip-hop production techniques (Sticks and Stones, This Too Shall Pass).

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