Expando is legendary Eagles bassist Timothy B. Schmit's first solo album for eight years. Written and produced by Schmit, and recorded entirely at his home studio near Los Angeles, the album features a hand-picked selection of legendary musicians, including Graham Nash, Keb' Mo', The Blind Boys of Alabama, Garth Hudson (The Band), Dwight Yoakam, Benmont Tench (The Heartbreakers), Kid Rock, Van Dyke Parks, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Schmit's own son, Ben.
Timothy B. Schmit is one America’s most prolific musicians, with a solo recording career that has produced four albums prior to Expando
: Playin’ It Cool
(1984), Timothy B.
(1987), Tell Me The Truth
(1990) and Feed The Fire
(2001). He has appeared on a multitude of other artists’ recordings including Steely Dan, Vince Gill, Dan Fogelberg, Clint Black, Crosby Stills & Nash, Bob Seger, Jimmy Buffett, Ringo Starr, Elton John, and Warren Zevon, as well as his contributions to Poco and the Eagles (for whom he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame).
Though he’s released solo records in the past, only now is The Eagles’ Timothy B. Schmit really taking to the single life, having only recently embarked on a debut tour ‘alone’. His first collection of solo material since 2001’s Feed the Fire is an instrumentally insouciant affair that builds its arrangements from a basic acoustic structure upwards. Which isn’t to say Expando lacks spirit, or its share of sparkly songwriting; but its loose and relaxed feel is conducive to slipping into a mid-afternoon daydream.
As an acclaimed session musician with credits on records by the likes of Boz Scaggs and Don Henley, Schmit’s playing is perfectly perfunctory, in a complimentary sense – his may not be the most showy style you’ll hear, but it gets the job done efficiently. In places the fusion of the man’s abilities across a number of instruments does a good job of presenting a full-band vibe; elsewhere he’s ably backed by an array of contributors, including Van Dyke Parks who provides accordion on Secular Praise. Consistency is achieved, and that Expando can induce a little welcomed lethargy is primarily the product of a purposefully dynamic flatlining. Arrangements are accomplished, for sure; but only the most fervent fan is going to immediately identify absolute stand-out selections, rewinding them before moving on.
With repeat plays, though, the nuances become that bit clearer, Expando becoming something more than the pleasing background fare it feels like first and second time around. Parachute packs a foot-tapping pop melody into its fidgety frame, coming across something like a grittier, grizzlier Crowded House. The lyrical imagery might be fairly transparent, metaphors as decidedly clichéd as any X Factor finalist’s ‘it’s the taking part that counts’ speech, but Schmit is a player first and a poet second. Though, mercifully, he never overdoes the schmaltz.
Not that he doesn’t flirt with sentimentality – Friday Night is perhaps a little too sugary for some tastes, but you can’t fault the sincerity in the man’s delivery, which never lacks conviction. You believe him when he’s telling you he used to dig surf music, or that all he really needs is a little compassion. There’s something particularly reassuring about Schmit’s limited-range vocals, which infuse this record with an attractively warm glow.
Which ultimately has you returning for more, leading to the discovery of the facets that make this Schmit’s most satisfyingly complete solo offering yet. --Mike Diver
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