Speed Of Thought


Lightspeed Entertainment, 1999


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


It's been some time since Eric Schenkman has been seen in the rock & roll world. Since departing from his former band Spin Doctors after their sophomore release Turn It Upside Down, he's kept a relatively low profile, though he did appear on Natalie Merchant's solo effort Tigerlily a few years back.

Now, it seems that Schenkman is ready to test the waters of being in a band again, teaming up with former Mountain drummer Corky Laing to form Cork. Their debut effort Speed Of Thought has its moments, but overall shows a pretty nice sized coat of rust on these two musicians.

Now, some people might not think it fair to compare the 21st Century work of these two musicians to the songs of their former bands, but in some cases, the music almost begs to be held up to that light. Granted, a song like "Pull That String" isn't quite as hippy-trippy as "Little Miss Can't Be Wrong" or "Jimmy Olson's Blues" from the Spin Doctors, but Schenkman does try to capture the groove of those songs and attempts to put a new musical spin on it. Likewise, when you hear tracks like "Bone Daddy," you can almost imagine Leslie West or the late Felix Pappalardi laying down a vocal track.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

This being said, Cork does strive to create its own unique musical voice while respecting the ghosts of the members' past. Unfortunately, it takes some time before Schenkman and Laing sound like they're comfortable in this skin. It's not until nearly the halfway point of the disc, on "Midnight Rose," when Schenkman and Laing (as well as guest bassist Noel Redding, ex- of the Jimi Hendrix Experience) really sound like they're confident in their songwriting and performances. This continues on tracks like "Waiting (You're All I Need)" and "Sin City".

For all of this, Cork suffers from one major problem: vocals. Neither Schenkman nor Laing is a particularly captivating vocalist. I don't know whether it was intentional or not, but Laing almost croaks out the vocal track on "Bone Daddy," kind of like Dr. John with a head cold. Schenkman tries, I'll give him that, but he just doesn't have the charisma or the range as a vocalist that this material almost begs for at times.

Likewise, Speed Of Thought takes far too long to get up to speed - though, in the album's defense, repeat listens tend to show more swans behind the former ugly ducklings. For each track that falls short like "Hail Mary" and "Genuine," there's a track that reaffirms your belief in the band like "Falling" or the album's closer "In This World".

Still, I almost expected greater things from Cork, knowing the musical past of its members. (Then again, I remember my disappointment with West, Bruce & Laing; Why Dont'cha is a record I haven't touched in well over a decade.) With the rich backgrounds of both Schenkman and Laing, I admit I expected them to have the Midas touch when it came to Speed Of Thought. Guess the touch has a layer of varnish built up on it - but I think it's something they can overcome.

Speed Of Thought is a tentative first step back for both Schenkman and Laing, and is a disc that requires the listener to invest some time into it. If you take the disc on its own value, you'll undoubtedly find things to like about it. If you pick it up expecting a Spin Doctors of Mountain clone, you'll be sorely disappointed. If you expect to hear a meshing of the two sounds, well, you will - but it might not be just what you expected.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2000 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Lightspeed Entertainment, and is used for informational purposes only.