At its most intense, John Waite’s world-worn, white-bread croon captures suburban heartache as profoundly as soul music ever captured the heartache of Georgia’s back roads or Chicago’s ghettos. Waite has had a way with a well-turned cliché ever since his ’70s sojourn in the proto-pop-metal Babys. On Bad English’s self-titled 1989 debut set, former Journey guitarist Neal Schon and keyboardist Jon Cain gave Waite fancier arrangements than he was accustomed to, and he fell flat. But on Backlash, musicianly pretensions are kept in check, and Waite navigates through the beefy riffs of ”Rebel Say a Prayer,” the lush Mediterranean strums of ”Time Stood Still,” and the cute Merseybeat na-na-na’s of ”So This Is Eden” like a mall-bound Magellan. Taken together, the album — with its unceasing references to rain and rivers — inevitably bogs down, but heard one at a time over the FM in the Ford, even its platitudes, given Waite’s delivery, add up to a hack-rock miracle or two. B

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