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Bargain Bin Babylon: Le Roux: Up

Bargain Bin Babylon: Le Roux: Up

You’ve heard of a stairway to heaven. What about an elevator?

You’ve heard of a stairway to heaven. What about an elevator? Because that’s what the cover of Le Roux’s Up looks like. A sleek, ’80s elevator opens above the golden clouds, taking the chosen directly to the pearly gates. I guess. This promising ’80s find is a no-brainer buy, and it delivers exactly what you’d expect with few surprises.

Le Roux isn’t some completely unknown band whose records wind up in the bargain bin on the regular. Some people have heard of them. Originally called Louisiana’s Le Roux, the band was, you guessed it, from Louisiana. It’s easy enough to guess the band were thinking of dinner when they named themselves after a good roux sauce. The group wasn’t limited to a modicum of success in just their home and surrounding states. Its self-titled debut was released in 1978, and Keep the Fire Burnin’ was recorded the following year. But 1980’s Up seems to be the band’s breakthrough and career highlight, overshadowing even later albums.

The music here is classic AOR. A fairly large lineup consisting of Leon Medica (bass), Jeff Pollard (guitar, lead vocals), Tony Haselden (electric guitar), Rod Roddy (keys), David Peters (drums) and Bobby Campo (percussion) compose several tracks that sound exactly like what you’d expect from ’80s light rock. The best examples of this are “Let Me Be Your Fantasy” and “Roll Away the Stone.” Despite what the band’s pedigree and earlier albums might suggest, its sound doesn’t bear that much country influence. Most tracks are fueled by Roddy’s keys and Pollard’s gritty guitar. That makes perfect sense, considering most songs were written by Roddy and Pollard, either in collaboration or separately.

“Roll Away the Stone,” alongside closer “I Won’t Be Staying,” actually stands out on the album as one of the rare slower ballads. Most tracks, like “It Could Be the Fever” and “I Know Trouble When I See It” put a lot of emphasis on grittier rock arrangements and rock vamping from Pollard. On the latter, it’s easy to imagine Pollard doing his best Mick Jagger impersonation when performing. Later on the album, “Crying Inside” is the best blend of rock ballad and unrestrained guitar solos. Clocking in at about three and a half minutes, the track trades vocals and solos back and forth, with Roddy’s synths adding to the overall frenzied atmosphere. It’s not the best track here, but it tries to bring together several approaches in one song.

The problem with Up is that it remains easily forgettable. In the context of revisiting the album in the present, Le Roux recall much more famous contemporaries like Toto. But that was likely an obstacle for the band at the time, as well. While it looks like the band put out a total of five albums, not including compilations, they never became widely known – or even widely remembered. Just as it is now, the music is a bit too generic to make a lasting impression.

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