I think the album starts strongly with "Take Me to My Heaven" a blistering track that features John on both lead guitar and acoustic piano. The second single "Song For You" is next and is followed by "It Wasn't Love At All" and "Ready to Spread Your Wings". While both are nice songs with the latter very much in the balled mould, to me they are not classics. Both have good intros, the tunes are nice, the vocals melodic and the words are adequate. But I expect more from John Miles. E&MM had similar views. "Miles is clearly now being promoted a solo singer, which is a shame for the band was a powerful unit. It is for this reason that the bulk of the first side doesn't have the power of previous Miles recordings". It may be the band as E&MM suggests but I think it may owe something to the production. I think Gus Dudgeon gives the album a roundness, which may appeal to certain quarters but verges on being a bit bland. "I'll Never Do It Again" ends the first side. This is the second track that was written in a night during the recordings. E&MM said, "There are also very few of those blistering guitar solos which were highlights of his records and concerts alike. It is only on `I'll Never Do It Again' that any hint of former punch shows through." They continued, "Miles was one of the great rock n roll guitarists of the seventies and on this track he shows he hasn't lost it". The track's subject is one that many men will identify with: Over-indulgence, (not that I ever have) and subsequent regret. John again features on both guitar and acoustic piano. The only other track where he plays piano is on the aforementioned "Right To Sing".
Side 2 starts with Heart Of Stone, which E&MM described as "a snappy disco track, which could repeat Miles previous success in America with `Slow Down' (the first disco single by a white artist to make it into the Billboard chart". Could this have happened? Who knows? However, I do know that an extended remixed version was made so it may well have been considered. When I first heard it I thought it was a bit repetitive but I now think it is one of the highlights of a brilliant second side. I also enjoy hearing the voice box that we associate with "Slow Down". "Home" then follows and is reminiscent of both "Lady of My Life" ,but with less of a Stevie Wonder feel, and "Time", a lovely track that you can wallow in. "Close Eyes Count To Ten" has a lot going for it, great intro, great tune superb guitar solos by firstly Martin Jenner and then John Miles and good verses. However, I just don't like the chorus. Is it just me I wonder? E&MM thought it had "more than a hint of `What a Fool Believes' and features Martin Jenner on lead guitar whose languid style contrasts well with the fury of Miles second solo". "Carrie" is the penultimate track of the album and is another classic. Another fantastic intro with verses and choruses to match. I think it shows John doing what he does best. E&MM said "Carrie (no relation to the Cliff Richard bit of the same name) is back to Miles' old style and boasts some fine orchestral touches from Duncan Mckay, which with the counter-melodies from Miles' guitar in the chorus add an extra music depth to the song." If "Carrie" was the penultimate song then "The Right to Sing" was the ultimate song on the album. Keeping the best till last.
The final words in this review belong to Shakespeare: "If Music be the food of love, Play On"
Stephen Carson

Well, what can I say about Play On. The signs seemed good for this LP. Lots of money was being spent on the production side with the top producer Gus Dudgeon, rightly famous for his work with Elton John, being captured to twiddle the Knobs and add his wealth of experience. This seemed like a great move.
Many people had compared John Miles to Elton. Both artists excel at ballads and both are more than capable of doing the rocky stuff, the main difference being that John Miles plays the guitar as well as keyboards, and writes the better songs! The number one failing with Miles High was that it was a low budget production, with no promotion. Everything was being changed for Play On. I was hoping for a High Quality LP with John writing songs in the same style as Fella in the Cellar and Pull The Damm Thing Down, and then Gus Dudgeon giving them the sort of treatment that he gave to Elton songs such as Funeral For Friend and Philadelphia Freedom. Play On should have been a Classic.............but it's not by a long way!
The initial signs were promising. The Right to Sing, the first single, had all the ingredients of a great ballad, wonderful production and excellent musicianship. But, is it only me who has a problem with the lyrics? The plainly obvious reference to the Music classic seemed a slightly cynical marketing ploy to get airplay and get people to treat the song as Music, The Sequel. The message of the song is fine but I just feel John could have moved forward instead of harking back. The single did ok, getting lots of airplay and went top 80, although it deserved top10. I also remember it getting a warm response when played live on the subsequent tour, one of those tracks where the audience clapped when the song started.
The next song I heard was the second single, Song For You. I remember when I first heard it. I was in a mini bus with 10 heavy metal friends on my way to see Whitesnake in London. When the song came on the radio I told everyone to shut up so they could enjoy the latest Miles epic. I still wince at the memory as this piece of sugar-sweet powder pop bounced round the denim and leather clad occupants. It got worse when they all started clapping along with happy grins on their faces!! Oh well, it's just a single I thought, the LP is bound to have great tracks on it. Wrong!! When I first heard the whole LP two things stood out. It was John Miles singing all right, but these were not John Miles type songs, also where was the guitar- one of the UK's best guitarists releasing an LP where he hardly played the thing! Unforgivable!
Ok, I think Carrie is good, I like I'll Never Do It Again and it was a good opener for the subsequent Tour, and Right To Sing could have appeared on any previous Miles LP and stood out as a great song. But the rest to me is pure pop, not designed to appeal to existing fans, but to a wider audience used to Kajagoogoo/Culture Club/ Phil Collins who were all popular at the time.
Why did all this happen? Quite simply the marketing men took over the whole project, perhaps with John's agreement. He needed a hit and these people knew how to get one. So John wrote some up tempo pop tunes, EMI drafted in some top pop session men from Cliff Richard's band and 10cc, Gus Dudgeon overproduced the whole thing with extra helpings of pop music sheen thrown over the top and squeezed the guitar and any originality John had put in, out of the mix. It's a clinical, soulless record, lacking in the imagination, style and quality that John is so capable of.
Remember this is the same chap who wrote Overture, Nice Man Jack, You Have it All........In some ways Play On was ahead of it's time. If you look at the pop charts now, with teen bands all trying to outdo each other with catchy saccharin pop songs then Play On would now provide at least six songs that they could use with little updating required.
I am sorry if this review upsets people, but I have been waiting to write a review on Play On for years and perhaps my feelings have festered away all this time and produced all this negativity. I suppose my main, and final point, is that this was such a wonderful opportunity missed. John was totally capable of doing a commercial LP if that was what he wanted to do. But Play On submerged his talent and skill and tried to turn him into something he is not.
Phew, nice to get that off my chest!
Better do a top 4

1 Right to Sing
2 I'll Never Do It Again
3 Carrie
4 Err.............???!!!! No sorry, can't bring myself to name one.
Richard Townsend

Play On was the last John Miles album I managed to find in the second hand record market. Does this indicate that it was not a good seller, or that the owners are very reluctant to pass it on. I feel sure it must have been the latter, as I would hate to lose my copy. Now for the tracks:
Take Me To My Heaven - a good, solid track to start the album, although I find it tails off towards the end with too much repitition.
Song For You - although the rhythm is similar to the first track, the melody is much more interesting, as are the lyrics.
It Wasn't Love At All - a very catchy melody, over a very firm backing track, although to me, not very memorable.
Ready To Spread Your Wings - as I am really a ballad person, and have always preferred the slower John Miles tracks. This one is no exception, with very poignent lyrics.
I'll Never Do It Again - another track with an excellent driving beat, with very little to fault it. Also the first track with an obvious guitar solo, although far too short.
Heart Of Stone - is one of the two tracks that I don't really like. I find it difficult to say why. The rhythm backing is too stacatto for my taste, and the backing vocals are not up to standard.
Home - you can expect a favourable comment from me on this one, and you get it. To me a real "lump in the throat" track, benefitting from some excellent harmonies. I would have preferred to have heard John's guitar rather than the solo saxophone though.
Close Eyes, Count To Ten - this is the second of my less than favourite. It sounds as though it is going somewhere, but never seems to arrive.
Carrie - long before hearing the John Miles original, I knew the version from the Hollies. I liked it then, but it is a pale imitation of the original. It is a shame we are only voting the top four, as this is definately a candidate.
The Right To Sing - this track has really to be listened to, as the lyrics mean so much, and John delivers them from the heart. As Stephen pointed out some while ago, it reflects problems John was having earlier with his work. A great track, with such a beautiful guitar solo, although like those on the whole album, too short.
To summarise, I enjoyed Play On immensely, and found it a very worthy release. Perhaps the change in the band helped, I don't know. Before my top four, I must just mention Back To The Magic, left out of the album, but released on the B side of the Right To Sing single. Had this been on the album, it would have been another contender for my top four. However, as the album stands, my list is:
1) The Right To Sing
2) Home
3) Ready To Spread Your Wings
4) I'll Never Do It Again
John Webster

Play On was eagerly anticipated by me and, to be honest, although it turned out to be quite different from all that had gone before, I loved the LP.
The anticipation started when the then "fan club" did an interview with John at the end of or during the recording, I remember some of the lyrics from the right to sing being quoted in the newsletter and the obvious similarities to Music being mentioned. Also an old pal of mine from Scouts was an engineer for the LP ( Colin Leggatt ). The only track I skip when playing the disc now is "Carrie" but even that is only occasionally. Basically I like all of the LP although there are no real classics it still gets played an awful lot!
Favourite tracks are:

Take me to my Heaven - I really liked the chorus and the way it ends so abruptly.

It Wasn't Love At All - I think John's vocals are great on this, but also I think the backing by Katie Kissoon is excellent. I seem to remember Pete Wingfield "18 with a bullet" Did the backing too.

I'll Never Do It Again - I love this track as one of my all time favs.

Heart Of Stone - Fantastic track to open side two.

Close behind is the Right To Sing but by the time the LP came out I had played it to death so at the time I tended to skip the track. It was though an excellent single as was the B side - Back To The Magic. I believe it was John's only single ever to come out as a picture disc - at the prime price of £ 1.49 !
Can't remember the month the LP came out ( I think it was late summer ) but Stephen will tell us. I can remember eagerly anticipating the singles ( although Song For You was a little radio 2)! - I also picked up a couple of copies of the Right To Sing when I was over in Germany following the David Bowie "Serious Moonlight" tour.
1984 saw a small tour which I was lucky enough to get the front row, dead centre tickets for the concert at the Hatfield Forum on Saturday Feb 18th. This was the second time John had played the venue ( the first was at the end of 1977 when he was supported by John Couger)
If John ever reads this I'm sure he will remember the gigs with great fondness and will be sad to hear that it was knocked down earlier this year. I took a camera to this gig and have just dug out the photos , including one of the poster advertising the gig - I'll have to scan it and get it on a web site as I doubt the newsgroup allows jpegs. I remember before John came on stage someone passing around cards with numbers on which we were asked to hold up when John and the band did a tap dance - it caught him by surprise. One of the photo's shows John being "flanned" with a custard pie again he took it in great spirit! Good times - let's hope for some more in 2001
Chris Greenwood

Play On Faves: This album seems like quite a departure from the previous albums we have reviewed - session musicians all over the place and such elaborate arrangements. My favorites are as follows:
1) "The Right to Sing" I love the simplicity of the vocal and keyboard opening with the build up to some absolutely fantastic guitar. Like Richard, I insist on some fabulous guitar, but I also want to be blown away by some top-of-the-line JM vocals. On this song, I have it all, plus a nice arrangement and sentiment.
2) "Home" This ballad starts with such nice quiet rhythm and allows JM's voice to soar over the background vocals. The interraction with the sax makes this song very appealing to me.
3) "I'll Never Do it Again" Love the high energy and compelling ryhthm on this track 'til finally, the irresistible guitar - worth the wait!
4) "Ready to Spread Your Wings" This is such a nostalgic ballad. I like the less elaborate arrangement - The combination of electric piano (or keyboard?) seems perfect as lead in to a perfect vibes moment. Really nice. No guitar, of course, but JM more than makes up for it in the vocal. (Incidentally, I wonder if the Pete Wingfield listed for electric piano & synthesizers on this track could be the British actor (his bio shows music school (piano & flute). Credits include a regular on Highlander & Highlander: End Game, now on Queen of Swords and much more -Yes, I admit to some "quality" TV viewing.)
Jean Hickman

Finally, the Play On album: I'm not ready to do my proper bit yet, but I had to add a few comments in light of Richard's review. Firstly, what about Heart Of Stone? You don't mention that, yet it's a killer track with a beautiful voicebox solo. When JM performed it on the tour, it went down really well, with JM doing all of the guitar. I always remember at Nottingham I had a perfect seat right in the centre, so the stereo PA sounded great, and I was the first person in the place to clap when JM announced Heart Of Stone!
I remember as well that when they finished Right To Sing, there was more applause for it than for any other song they did, including Music: JM almost seemed stunned by how well the song was received. By the way, does anyone else have the shaped picture disc version of the single? I can't be the only one. By the way, I'm not quite sure what you mean about the references to Music, or am I being dense? I got the feeling at the time that JM intended the album to be a cheerful, summery collection of songs, largely aimed at a slightly different audience, as well as including one or two for the old faithful fans. I have to say that it is the JM album I play least, yet Right To Sing and Heart Of Stone are, for me, two of the best songs JM has ever done. In the concert, if I recall correctly, they only played three tracks from the album, the two just mentioned and I'll Never Do It Again. This seems to indicate that JM knew it wasn't really the stuff that his die-hard fans wanted to hear in concert, and ensured that the concert depicted the REAL JM that we all know and love!
Finally, the comment about top session men from Cliff Richard's band and 10cc... I presume you are referring to Duncan McKay who did play with 10cc for a while. However, by the time of Play On, he hadn't been with 10cc for ages (he's only actually on one album really). Mel Collins has been on recordings by 10cc but has never been a member as such. Sorry, but I'm a huge 10cc fan, and wouldn't want people to associate JM's least outstanding (overall, but not individual tracks!) album with 10cc, who can always be associated with very high quality music! Certainly it wasn't the album I had hoped for from JM at the time, and I found it disappointing that there were just so many musicians pitching in, with JM leaving out most of the instrumentation for others to do. And what happened to Barry Black? Why wasn't Bob Marshall playing on anything? Anyway, I'll leave it there, and I'll send in my top four tracks shortly - I expect you can guess most of them from what I've already said! Rock on everyone, and let's hope we can persuade JM himself to grant us a meeting next year!
Bimal Jangra

Having taken note of John's comments a couple of days ago regarding past album reviews, I've put my bunch together. As there are so many I haven't commented on the individual tracks (I'd be at it for hours), so with no further ado the run down is as follows:-
1) Take Me To My Heaven
2) The Right To Sing
3) Song for You
4) Ready To Spread Your Wings
Zoë Pinchin

1) Right to Sing
2) Take Me to My Heaven
3) Song for You
4) Ready to Spread my Wings
Malcolm Leeves

1) Right to Sing
2) Take Me to My Heaven
3) Ready to Spread my Wings
4) I'll Never Do It Again
Dan McVeigh