Ian McDonald - Drivers eyes - 1999


Ian McDonald‘s name has always been associated to King Crimson or even to Foreigner. In some cases, he is also known for his collaborations with other artists like Steve Hackett or Michael Giles. But not this time. He now introduces his first solo album and that’s why there were so many different expectations from him. As a result, both positive comments and disillusions have been heard about the album since it came out.

First of all, we have to say an important thing about McDonald: he is a multi-instrumentalist who, due to the musical circumstances, has taken part in projects from several different styles (symphonic rock, jazz, F.M. rock and plenty of others). That’s why, as a professional musician, he cannot be required to focus only on one musical direction or style. Can we criticize that point? I personally doubt it, and the only thing we can criticize (in a constructive way) is the quality of his works.


So, now we can start with the critic of "Drivers Eyes". This recording includes 11 tracks, from which 3 are completely instrumental. The style presented since the opening song "Overture", is nice and soft rock, reminding of some eighties bands like Journey. At this very moment, the album’s line has been drawn. It has more in common with his works with Foreigner than with those of the first Crimson. It is only confirmed by the vocal parts sung by Foreigner’s Lou Gramm and Bad English’s John Waite. By the way, they are more asserted than John Wetton’s part on the album.

There are also some soft-jazz accents thanks to the saxes in pieces like "Sax Fifth Avenue", which is elegantly built on a calm atmosphere. If we talk about guest-star guitarists: Steve Hackett has a good appearance, he perfectly follows the music, but it is Ian’s saxophone that carries the whole melody. I think this is quite normal because it is a McDonald’s album and not a Hackett’s one. Peter Frampton, well… he is a good rock guitar player in a rock project. His performance is just like Hackett’s one: short. He makes a nice solo following the melodies, nothing more, nothing less, it carries its task embellishing the song.

Maybe the last two pieces might interest a prog fan. "Demimonde" follows a jazzy line with full of sophisticated instrumentation's. The album’s closing track "Let There Be Light" is a symphonic composition that also includes Gary Brooker (Procol Harum) on vocals and arrangements for a string section written by Ian himself.


Finally, can we say that "Drivers Eyes" is a progressive rock album? It seems not. Is it a bad one? Not at all, given that its production and quality are great. It is just a good record that includes more F.M. and melodic influences than symphonic or jazzy ones. If you’re looking for "In the Court of the Crimson King part II" or for "McDonald-Giles II: the Return", that’s not the case. But if you want to listen to this record and its quality without any prejudices against any musical style, then you will surely enjoy it.

author - date - rating - label

Enrique Gómez - April 2000 -   - Camino Records