I've always had a soft spot for good M.O.R. (middle of the road) rock but not acts like Anne Murray or Barry Manilow (retch!). Give me Runner, later Rare Bird, the Mamas & Papas, Unicorn—you know, the stuff that neither screams nor falls into itself. The Wilkins band is M.O.R. and is actually a father, a mother, and a 22-year old son, a true family ensemble. Mark Wilkins was discovered by one of my fave musicians, Tom Cochrane (of Red Rider fame), and his band The Elevators later became Photograph, whose sophomore release enjoyed the production of Daniel Lanois. Jan Wilkins had been a nomadic folkie performing in coffee houses in Canada, met Mark, and had Julian, a young gent possessing exquisite sensibilities on the piano and a past lead actor in productions of Les Miserables, Grease, Fame, and such.
No Expiry Date is smooth as silk. Mark and Jan are superb singers and Mark plays guitars in the folk / soft rock tradition. Julian adds in backing vox but truly has a wondrous hand on the keys, playing acoustic piano and electric keyboards. The guy was born with an ability to transpose keys at will, but there's a delicacy and feeling in him beyond that, a trait which defies explanation...when he isn't, that is, playing axe, sledge hammer, anvil, and air gun (seriously!). Add to them Jon Wheel Parker, who displays consummate taste on guitar, slide, and mando, and you have a very formidable combo that, frankly, more than once put me often in mind of Iain Matthews' forgotten but unbelievably good soft rock band Plainsong.
Canada must have something exotic in its waters. The country turns out so many fine musicians: Bruce Cockburn, Murray McLauchlin, Joni Mitchell, the aforementioned Cochrane, Neil Young, and God only knows the limit. The Wilkins stand solidly in that stellar array. Just about every cut on this CD is solid, thoughtful, tuneful to a wistful fault, and drenched in a relaxed, well-crafted, smile-provoking manner. In the pounding, keening, buzzing cacaphony that too oft dominates the airwaves, it's easy to forget that music like this is still being made.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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