Crack of Dawn – Spotlight
Spotlight’s ten songs can be deemed a comeback for Canada’s Crack of Dawn, but they deserve judged on their merits free from the sentimentality of seeing an once promising young band returning to the scene in a bid to practice their craft and reclaim past glories. Fortunately, Crack of Dawn has produced an outstanding set of songs to help move them far beyond mere cliché and, instead, we can talk about how the long layoff and a revamped lineup have resulted in the band’s complete revitalization. Crack of Dawn returns to their base sound heard with these songs, but they are presented in completely modern productions that achieve the kind of balance you hope for with these kinds of songs. The material largely confines itself to the R&B and funk spectrum, but occasional wayward strands from outside that come into the music with memorable results.
Spotlight begins with the song “Crack of Dawn” and it’s the kind of song that, indeed, seems to herald the beginning of a new day for the band. Everything here is surging, but never in a crude way; instead, these musicians come off as an unit who have played together for years and, knowing this is their chance to shine, decide to turn on the jets. It’s a solid R&B opener as well, but Crack of Dawn segues with the second, third, and fourth tracks into the funk parts of their musical identity and listeners new and old will be grateful for the ride. The second song “Somebody’s Watching” and fourth “Keep the Faith” are the funkiest of the three, though the latter is enhanced further by a smattering of American gospel influences working themselves into the music. The third track “Booby Ruby” makes no pretenses to being deep feeling or serious as Crack of Dawn slips more into “let’s get it on” mode with a fun, enjoyable performance all around.
“It’s Alright” brings some previously unheard sounds into the mix while emphasizing a vocal arrangement that’s quite good. Charles Sinclair’s bass pops out of the mix and the drumming keeps a propulsive edge on the song that gives it electric energy. The backing vocals accompanying Dunston are the final bow on an overall sharp package. There’s almost a “jammy” sense to the song “Ol’ Skool” as it practically sounds like the various vocalists are riffing with each other about their favorite traditional R&B and funk – the love for this music really comes through while still succeeding as a song capable of standing on its own. Carl Otway’s drum roll brings the band into “Seasons’ Change” and we’re immediately aware of being in the presence of Dunston’s best vocal yet. The way he glides through each line of the song with the calm assurance of a titan striding the stage guarantees this song is a potential showstopper live in concert. Lead guitarist Carl Harvey unreels some tasty blues licks after the song’s midway point.
Otway’s drums are the springboard for the title song as well and this continues in one vein similar to its predecessor – Crack of Dawn comes closer to blues here, torch song nearly, than anywhere else on Spotlight. The relaxed musical attack of the song gives it extra weight with listeners and its sure to rank among the favorites for many. The closer “Changes” is the perfect conclusion to the album as it underlines their musical strengths while still concluding things on an upbeat note acknowledging the road behind them and staring down the future with bright ideas and abundant energy. This is one of the most accomplished R&B/funk/soul releases I’ve heard in quite some time.