Published on October 31st, 2019 | by Justin G.
Mark Baker: The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be (MelodicRock, 2019)
I have to admit I didn’t recognize Mark Baker’s name when this release was announced. I should have trusted the MelodicRock label though, because this collection – titled The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be – is melodic rock gold. It turns out Mark Baker is a songwriter and producer who penned songs for the likes of 38 Special, Triumph and Boulevard, and had a major creative role on two classic albums: Signal’s Loud & Clear and House Of Lords’ Demons Down. Now do I have your attention?
The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be is a collection of songwriter demos from the ’80s and ’90s. It includes several previously unreleased Signal-era recordings featuring Mark Free*, the early Demons Down demos and several other gems featuring vocals by Bill Champlin (Chicago), Freddy Curci (Alias) and even a couple where the vocalist is unknown/uncredited…have fun guessing. The House Of Lords demos are of course very interesting, but the Mark Free/Signal material is what puts this collection over the top. There’s almost an album’s worth of absolutely top shelf AOR/melodic rock songs that feature Free in his prime.
These demos have been painstakingly curated and feature new remastering by J.K. Northrup, but they are demos. The audio quality is great, and of course the session musicianship and especially the vocals are too, but there is a “rough draft” vibe to these songs. Keep that in mind going in and you’ll have zero problems with what you hear here.
This is a real pleasure for classic AOR/melodic rock fans. It’s like a peek behind the curtain at a classic era. Fans of Signal and House of Lords in particular should get their hands on this set before it disappears (it’s moving fast, according to the label).
*I know she’s Marcie Free now, but these recordings were made pre-transition, so I’m crediting them accordingly. It’s not a slight, or avoiding the obvious.
Summary: Unearthed melodic rock gems