The Outfit, Sense of Soul (Alma Records, 2001)

If you live in Toronto the band called The Outfit is sure to be familiar to you, as they are based there and are firm favourites in local venues. On the other hand, if like me you don't hail from the Big Smoke, well, in the words of the Beatles "...may I introduce to you" -- err -- The Outfit. They are individually James Russell on vocals, Chris Hawley on vocals & acoustic guitar, Marc Ganetakos on lead guitar, Peter Cardinali on bass, Diesil on drums, and Jeff Dalziel on keyboard. James Russell and Chris Hawley are the song-writers and all the songs on this album are penned by them.

This is a very nice album of music that sits in the easy listening category of pop music. The songs are all well written with good lyrics. I hope you understand my Beatles introduction to the band when I tell you the influence of Lennon & McCartney in their songwriting is very strong and unbelievably good. If John Lennon could hear them I think he would approve. If the Beatles had survived to 2003, this is the direction they may have taken. Before reading the sleeve notes and on first play the thought crossed my mind that they were one of many Beatles tribute bands. But I am not going to steal any thunder from Hawley and Russell because these songs are superbly crafted and beautifully sung in their "own write." The phrasing and harmonies are extraordinarily good. The whole band is very tight and blends together well. The lead guitar of Marc Ganetakos is just right, weaving in and out with some nice licks.

The album was recorded and produced at the Post Office Studio, Toronto, by Peter Cardinali, Darrel Moen and Jeff Dalziel (who also is responsible for the mixing). All three should take an extra bow, as it is one of the best-produced albums I have heard lately.

As with nearly all pop songs the lyrics deal with 'love' or 'unrequited love' in one form or other. Titles like "Come on Back to Me," "Daydream," "Go Home," "Here to Stay," "Downstairs From Mummy" make it hard to pick out just one favourite, but "Go Home" comes high on my list. It has a great "Guns & Roses" feel to it with the guitar solo from Marc.

Summing up: this is a brilliant debut album for the band and should stand them in good stead for the future. I will be looking forward to seeing what else they can do. The singing is par excellence. If you are a fan of Lennon & McCartney, ZZ Top and Guns & Roses, etc., and like music with a Sense of Soul get this album. It is brilliant, and the more you listen to it, the better it gets.

To add to your enjoyment, the CD is enhanced with a couple of video clips; one is the song "Come on Back to Me." You will need to pop the CD in your computer CD drive and open MS Media player to see them. Alternatively you can visit The Outfit here. For an old ex-rocker like me, it brought back a lot of memories.


[Peter Massey]