Since releasing her debut solo record in 2017, Janet Gardner has been actively making up for lost time, it seems. “No Strings” marks her fourth album (I believe I lose track!) since then and her second with her real-life partner Justin James officially credited in the duo. Similar to their 2020 effort “Synergy,” this record can best be described as a modern take on the hard rock of the 80s.
The album kicks off with “Livin’ Free,” effortlessly capturing the spirit of arena rock. The energy is there on tracks like “Turn The Page,” and let’s be honest, “85” fully lives up to its name – any more 80s and I am at the school disco trying to get some poor girl to dance with me (their eyes said no, their lips told me to piss off).
In comparison to “Synergy,” “No Strings” is less sexually charged. The title track, a power ballad, is not what I was expecting, let’s say…
Justin James, who has made a name for himself as an in-demand guitarist and producer, brings his expertise to the table. Tracks like “Into The Night” and the superb “I’m Not Sorry” exude a polished sound, the latter reminiscent of Bon Jovi’s B-side tracks (this is a good thing, Jovi always took chances on those), making them sound like a million dollars.
In the 90s, before Kurt got bored and wanted entertaining, a song like “You’ll See” would have undoubtedly earned a gold disc. Now it’s just ace, and the same goes for “Drink,” which concludes the album on a high note, rousing the rabble for a good old bluesy knees-up and sod the hangover.
Janet Gardner finding rock n roll again is a wonderful thing. She has always been talented, but now she has discovered her muse, and the fire within her is unmistakable. “No Strings” is a testament to that.
Credit to them both, though, for having the ability to capture the essence of a bygone era while adding a modern twist.
REVIEW: GARDNER JAMES – NO STRINGS (2023)