A lot of successful rock musicians with long careers might just want to sit back, put their feet up, and enjoy their memories of hit songs, wild concerts and a few wilder after-parties. Al Harlow, singer, guitarist and songwriter with the band Prism, does like to cozy up in his Roberts Creek digs and does have a lot of memorable times to ponder. But sitting back he is not.
Not only does Harlow still hit the road with long-time Vancouver band Prism – playing as many as 35 shows a year in the pre-COVID days – but he’s still recording new songs, more than enough to fill the solo album he’s releasing on Feb. 14 titled Al Harlow: NOW. It’s a project he’s been devoted to for the past five years, although one that, to start with, wasn’t even his idea.
“I got a phone call [in April 2016] from Kevin Stewart Swain and Scott Young (of Alchemy Sound Studios in New Westminster) and they said, ‘So, we’ve got you booked for a vocal session. Come on over,’” Harlow recalled in an interview. “I showed up and I’m looking around wondering where the other backup singers are. And Kevin and Scott said, ‘Oh, it’s just you. We want you to sing the lead line on this.’”
They proceeded to lay down Harlow’s vocals on three more tunes, when he said he finally had to ask what this was all about. “They sat back and said, ‘Okay, buddy, we hope you have 10 more songs here, because this is going to be your solo album.’”
It was a project Harlow’s musical friends and colleagues knew he’d love, but perhaps not one he’d initiate himself. So, they’d started it for him. “I mean, how sweet is that?” said Harlow.
Ten songs made the final version of the album, eight of them written or co-written by Harlow, who, with more than 45 years in the business, knows his way around a good pop-rock tune. Prism is, after all, the band whose anthemic hits like “Spaceship Superstar,” “Take Me to the Kaptin,” and “It’s Over,” along with Harlow compositions like “Take Me Away,” and “Flying” have been on rock radio playlists since the late 70s, with accompanying videos that are still YouTube staples with literally millions of views.
Nearly a dozen musicians in all were brought in to play instrumental tracks on Al Harlow: NOW, including Coast musician Jamie Bowers, who had toured with the band in years past. Anyone with a taste for guitar-driven pop rock is going to take to this album. The first track and the record’s first single, “Let It Go,” is a rocket-ride of a tune that should draw attention to this classy and diverse collection. The final track, “The Way of the World,” was written by Harlow along with a couple of other composer names that might be familiar: Jim Vallance and Bryan Adams.
Samples from the album can be heard his website, at alharlow.com.
“At this stage of life, it feels a bit strange to go all-out on a rock recording,” Harlow said.
“Some of us old guys who still have the fire burning inside cannot help it – it’s what we do. I’m just hoping this album reaches its audience, and I can tour behind it. Thank the good Lord we can still do this.”