Album Review: Brent Spiner – Ol’ Yellow Eyes is Back

Brent Spiner Ol' Yellow Eyes is Back Album Artwork

Brent Spiner is probably more known for his role as Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation than he is as a singer but here we have his debut album which was released June 11th 1991. ‘Ol’ Yellow eyes is back’ is reference to both his character on Star Trek whose eyes were a golden yellow as well as a reference Frank Sinatra’s Ol’ Blue Eyes Is Back album. This album has Spiner singing old pop classics from the 1930’s and 40’s with an orchestra to accompany him. Several members of the TNG (The Next Generation) cast also helped him out, performing under the name ‘The Sunspots’ LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Jonathan Frakes and Patrick Stewart provide back-up vocals for the track ‘It’s a Sin (To Tell a Lie)’

‘Time After Time’ opens with a beautiful little piano number that just instantly takes the listener to a time since past, when things weren’t necessarily better or worse but people wore fancier clothes and usually a hat. Spiner’s voice suits the music well, he knows how to project and when to go slow and when to pick it up a bit, he could easily have made a living as a Lounge singer in the same vein as Frank Sinatra or James Darren. This song belongs in the category of tracks you should listen to with eyes closed, preferably while sinking into a nice plump arm chair if you do then this song will most definitely take you away.

‘The Very Thought of You’ opens with a slightly jazzier piano accompaniment, and Spiner changes up his vocal style yet, deeper and more smoky which works with the track perfectly. I think all of these tracks will have the same quality as I mentioned in the track above, they are just meant to be listened to and experienced rather than reacted to. It has an excellent sax section towards the end of the song, that sounds just a little far off, to give the entire song an atmospheric quality, as if the music was meant for the room and not the listener.

‘More Than You Know’ I know that the musical part is done by the Star Trek crew and I want to take the time to mention how talented they are, because while Spiner is a talented vocalist who gives these tracks his all, he wouldn’t hit the same chord…pardon the pun…without the music to back him up. They lend legitimacy to him singing these old tracks and they work perfectly with his strong singing choices. This would be a perfect song to dance too, and it does really make you pine for another time, obviously just the music, not the unthinking acceptance of racism, and polio being rampant but hindsight is about looking back as what could be done better and if we did the 30’s and 40’s again maybe we’d go all in on swing music and jazz and less so on lynchings and prohibition. Anyway I got slightly off track there…pardon the pun…this song and so far all the tracks on this album captivate and fill me with a sense of nostalgia for the past and that’s the highest compliment I am capable of giving.  

‘Toot Toot Tootsie’ explodes, it’s filled with all the innocence and the camp that the era in time was known for, the swinging and the pomp, it’s also the first upbeat track on the album and while I enjoyed the first three tracks, number four shakes things up and really shows what Spiner can do with his voice when he wants to, capably backed up again by the Star Trek Orchestra as I’ve decided to call them.

‘Embraceable You’ now I decided to review this album now, in 2017, meaning the album itself is roughly 26 years old, four years older than me in fact and the songs it covers are all from the 30’s and 40’s making the music itself even older but something about this song just resonates with me. I think it might be because I already liked the track, which arguably one of the more famous, or at least more recognisable tracks on the album but I think it stands apart from the original and is just as good. Spiner knows just how the track is supposed to go and he doesn’t let the listener down, I was almost in tears listening to it, it’s that perfect blend of romantic and melancholic, backed up by the ever present Star Trek orchestra who don’t miss a beat…pardon the pun.

‘It’s a Sin (To Tell a Lie)’ Opens slightly differently from the other track because it has an acoustic guitar to kick things off. I was very excited for this track because he was backed up vocally by his fellow Star Trek alumni and their harmonising really added something to Spiner’s voice that I didn’t know was missing in the previous tracks. Patrick Stewart’s stoic voice was also a strong addition, i did feel the section where he took over the song was slightly jarring to the song as a whole and so I might only have liked it because I like the actor but I think once you know it’s coming it is a welcome part of the track.

‘Long, Long Time’ opens to a lovely whistling intro, that lends a cheery quality to the track. Now I’ve watched all of Star Trek: The Next Generation about five times so I am intimately familiar with Brent Spiner’s voice, and you never forget it’s him singing he doesn’t become the singer who first sung the track but he does make the song his own, he knows how to hit the high notes and the low notes and has a good control over his vocal range to reproduce the songs well.

‘Carolina in the Morning’ Another track I’m very familiar with and I like what Spiner did with it, sure many people in the 90’s who bought this album probably bought it for the camp value the same way Shatner’s spoken word record ‘flew’ off the shelves but I think that anyone who did buy this album and actually listens to it would be surprised to find that it’s really good. You get to hear Spiner slip into a variety of different songs and show how his voice can fit them really well. I think this is one of my favourites on the album, although I think it might have been better as a closing number but that’s just because its swing and energy would be perfect to go out on.

‘Marie’ opens with a soft, gentle piano number, that seems uplifting, and then Spiner joins in, he can manage the high notes of this track really well, his voice seems well suited to softer numbers. Another track I think would have been good as a closing number, I’m not sure why, you’d have to listen yourself and tell me what you think but If I was forced to come up with a reason I’d say that despite being lower and slower than the last track it’s still as epic and so I think that qualifies it to end the album.

‘Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart’ is another upbeat number, with full Star Trek orchestra. I like that these are used sparingly because there obviously a lot of swinging numbers from the 30’s and 40’s but Spiner balances up his album really well by spacing them out. Saying that, he does slow numbers well but where his talents are best demonstrated is during these more upbeat numbers, they just suit his voice that little bit better.

‘When I Fall in Love’ opens with a nice little guitar intro that works really well with his voice, I say that quite a lot but he was really clever about his choices in this album and I think that should be admired. As I said in the previous track he balances the upbeat and energy filled tracks with the slower and more emotionally heavy ones so it was no surprise that this track was one of the latter, and it is certainly a really good number. We hear a trumpet about the halfway mark that I just loved, I usually don’t call out specific instruments, except in the intro but the trumpet really did a good job without overshadowing Spiner.

‘Goodnight, Sweetheart’ has a lovely opening, that again shows the talent of the Star Trek Orchestra and is another example of how well Spiner can sing, I said a couple of times that other tracks would make good closing numbers but I think this track does that job really well.

So that’s what I’ve got to say about Brent Spiner’s Album ‘Ol’ Yellow Eyes is Back’ and if you want to get yourself a copy then you can download all of the tracks here.


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