Rex Smith: Rock & Roll Dream (HNE Recordings Ltd/Cherry Red)

Rex Smith
Rock & Roll Dream
(HNE Recordings Ltd/Cherry Red)

If you are of a certain age you know Rex Smith. In the early/mid 80s he was the host of the super popular “Solid Gold.” Prior, he also was a radio staple and a popular actor who appeared on Broadway, on “The Love Boat” and made for television movies, getting his big break in 1979’s “Sooner or Later.”

Many wrote off Smith’s musical career as an engineered crossover to help promote his television projects. And, that is partially true. But, few might remember that Smith actually started in show biz as a de facto rocker. Music was his original passion and Smith was a decent songwriter and guitarist. It runs in his family. His brother was the lead singer of the great classic rock band (and KISS-like) Starz. Blood runs deep and one Smith helped another land a record deal. A band was put together and two albums were released under the name Rex in 1976 and 1977. The sanitized rock had urgency and indicated that he and the band were being groomed for something bigger and better.

But, Smith had other plans. He’d been bitten by the acting bug and his leading man good looks made him ripe for the television picking. He was quickly cast in a network movie and, as he tells it, stardom came overnight. The morning after the movie aired he was mobbed in a shopping mall and he never looked back. A soundtrack album disguised as a solo album (also called ‘Sooner or Later’) was rushed out in 1979 and his career took a different path.

Still, Smith stayed true to his passions and continued to record and perform. His fourth album (and 2nd solo album) also came out in 1979. In between television and stage gigs he managed to record and release two more solo albums (1981’s ‘Everlasting Love’ and 1983’s ‘Camouflage’) for Sony Records.

Included here in the ‘Rock & Roll Dream’ box set are all six albums which Smith recorded for Sony between 1976 and 1983. It’s an interesting and fun listen to hear him transition from the power pop band approach to the AOR focus of his first two solo albums and then the grittier sounds of the radio rock friendly material on his final two albums, the last utilizing the help of Aerosmith’s Brad Whitford and produced by Ron Nevison (who had just come off of a success with Survivor).

Big thanks go to the fine folks at Cherry Red Records and their HNE Recordings Ltd imprint to green light a box set by this sideline rocker. The material is quality stuff and takes you back to a simpler time.