"It’s 26 years since Harley last used the name of the band with whom he enjoyed his biggest chart successes in Make Me Smile, Judy Teen and Mr Soft and recorded five albums, however to mark the 30 anniversary of Smile he’s dubbed his touring band Cockney Rebel Mark III and even recorded a new album, The Quality of Mercy, his first since 2000’s Yes You Can.
He’s in fine voice, at times sounding not unlike a cross between Sting, Gerry Rafferty and (on the superb The Coast of Amalfi) Chris De Burgh, and this is easily the best thing he’s done in years. Co-penned by ex Rebel Jim Cregan, opening track The Last Goodbye shows his ability to pen classic, radio friendly quality pop hasn’t dimmed with the years, a fact ably reiterated by the chorus friendly tumbling folksy Saturday Night At The Fair and the 60s sounding No Rain On This Parade.
But if the uptempo material shines, the slower songs positively glow. A father’s hymn of love to their child, Journey’s End (A Father’s Promise) mines a seam of Celtic folk influence, the God searching Save Me (From My Self) with its keening pedal steel and the closing plea for enduring love A Friend For Life are all stand-outs, but the centerpiece surely has to be The Last Feast, a seven minute throaty slow blues-rock burner that (referencing Phantom of the Opera) again finds Harley confronting God as he addresses the fear of mortality.
Giving it the full works after a spate of solo acoustic dates, no doubt fan demands will mean much of the set focus is on past favourites (hopefully Sebastian included), but there’s material here that will stand the test of time just as strongly."