Dennis Churchill Dries will be best remembered to rockers of a certain vintage as the singer and bass player with White Sister and, latterly and (almost) simultaneously, Tattoo Rodeo. The former’s self-titled 1984 debut, produced by Gregg Giuffria, is one of the most under-rated and overlooked classic albums of it’s generation, although the disappointment of follow-up ‘Fashion By Passion’ perhaps spurred Churchill Dries to try his luck with Tattoo Rodeo, with whom he recorded two albums – ‘Rode Hard, Put Away Wet’ in 1991 and ‘Skin’ some four years later, before they in turn called it quits in 1998. There was a TR reunion show in 2006, and talks of new material, but all was scrapped after the death of drummer Rich Wright. Then, in October 2008, to the astonishment of just about everybody, DCD re-united with original White Sister members Rick Chadock and Gary Brandon to play Firefest. Another appearance at the same event the following year led to talk of new WS music – before, in October 2012, tragedy struck again Chadock lost his battle with cancer…
Churchill Dries was crushed by the loss of his music partner and closest friend of 35 years and retreated into solitude. However, he soon began writing again, as a form of therapy and, last year, reunited with with another old friend and collaborator, Paul Sabu. “I believe that Paul came back into my life for a reason… and that Rick had something to do with it!” says Churchill Dries of the unexpected reunion. “Can it really be a coincidence that another great rock guitarist/vocalist/engineer fell into my lap after working with Rick exclusively for 35 years? No…” The result is ‘I’ – Churchill Dries’ debut solo offering and his first new material in 20 years – produced, engineered and mixed by Sabu, who also played guitar on the album.
Right from the opening parp of ‘Heard It On The Radio’, with it’s electronically sampled background vocal, clean cut melody and appeal to “Hey Mr DJ, don’t keep me hanging on…”, ‘I’ transports the listener straight back to those heady, big hair days of the mid- to late-80s. It also immediately shows that DCD is still in great voice, albeit singing at the lower end of his range than back in the day, and, along with Sabu, more than capable of delivering a well-crafted pop-rock song of the type that instantaneously lodges itself in your harmony banks and wants to send you dancing around the room with a hairbrush in your hand. The title track, with its a cappella introductory verse, really displays the strength of DCD’s voice, as he delivers a soaring performance, even if the song does sound a tad twee in its choruses, especially in the delivery of the backing vocals, which detract slightly from the power of the singer’s own execution.
The only problem with ‘I’ becomes obvious as early as ‘Home’, in that the album contains just too many mid-paced and slow songs. This is not to detract from the quality of the tunes themselves – and especially not from DCD’s at times positively spine-tingling exposition of his art – but it merely means that the underlying latent energy which obviously lies simmering just below the surface fails to find its way into the overall aural experience with the verve and vim it deserves. Having the said that, the likes of ‘Unbroken’ sparks with a crunchy fizz, while ‘Song For The Living’ is a soaring, passionate ballad about hope overcoming adversity which features one of the singer’s most impressive performances on an album which marks an equally impressive return to the musical arena by one of AOR’s most under-exposed but, on the strength of ‘I’ alone, most talented exponents. Let’s hope that DCD has many more fine tunes for us – and that he doesn’t leave it another 20 years before allowing us the pleasure of sharing them.
Heard It On The Radio / I / Home / Unbroken / Song For The Living / Pictures / Can You Feel It / Pieces / She Loves You / So Good To See You / Home (Acoustic Version)
Recommended listening: Song For The Living
‘I’ is out now on AOR Heaven.