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Fri
21
Nov

IN FAITH - There's A Storm Coming (Review)

information persons: 
section name: 
SCORE
content: 

 

90%
Produced By: 
Pete Newdeck & Tony Marshall
Running Time: 
47
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
UK
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock
Score: 
90
Label: 
Rocktopia Records
Artist: 
 
Now where did these guys come from? Dropping without a lot of warning comes the debut album from new UK outfit In Faith – featuring the talents of vocalist Pete Godfrey and guitarist Tony Marshall along with drummer Pete Newdeck.
The debut was recorded over the space of a year and was just released via Rocktopia Records.
This is an impressive slice of classic British AOR, following in the traditions of Dare, Ten and Newman.
 
 
It has a distinct 80s feel, without being dated and delivers a mix of feel good rockers, heartfelt ballads and those all-important AOR anthems.
The first thing I thought when listening to this album is that it sounded like a lost Harem Scarem album. Pete Godfrey has a huge vocal resemblance to Harry Hess and what I’m hearing here is an album that I think would fit perfectly between the debut Harem Scarem album and the classic follow-up Mood Swings.
In the same way as the debut Harem album saw a band finding their direction and musical path, so too are In Faith finding theirs and I can only imagine that their second album will be something potentially out of this world.
 
But back in the present, there is already something very special right here.
There are some straight forward melodic rockers in the form of the opener Radio and Church Of Rock N Roll, plus All Or Nothing and In Flames.
There are a couple of outstanding ballads with the heartbreaking Where I Want To Be leading the pack and the stripped back Leave Me Now.
Then there’s those anthems! Does It Feel Like Love is a hit single in another decade; Addicted is Harem Scarem at their old-school best and If That What Love Means is right up there for Song Of The Year – just perfect melodic goodness.
 

If you like your British melodic rock, have a soft spot for the Harem Scarem debut and like your music to represent a bygone era, then In Faith have delivered a very impressive debut that should be right up there on end of year best of lists. Can’t wait for more!
Categories: 
 
Fri
21
Nov

RATED X - "Rated X" (Review)

information persons: 
section name: 
SCORE
content: 

 

89%
Produced By: 
Alessandro Del Vecchio
Running Time: 
60
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Score: 
89
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
 
Any project featuring Joe Lynn Turner on vocals is going to get my attention. Add in Joe’s Mother’s Army partner Carmine Appice on drums; Carmine’s Blue Murder partner Tony Franklin on bass and star guitarist Karl Cochran and you have me standing to attention, ready to salute whoever’s idea this was.
But, what looks good on paper must deliver in reality. Rated X thankfully does just that. Under the direction of producer Alessandro Del Vecchio (who also adds writing credits, all keyboards, organ and backing vocals to his list of credits), the band delivers a knock out blues driven classic hard rock album.
 
 
Not unexpectedly, the style here is a mix of Joe Lynn Turner solo, classic Rainbow as well as adding parts of the Mother’s Army and Blue Murder sound.
The band overcame Karl’s recent health scare by bringing in Nikolo Koyzev and Daniel Palmqvist to complete guitar parts on several tracks, but Karl remains the driving force behind the album’s power.
 
It’s a joy to hear Appice and Franklin as a rhythm section again. The two really pack a punch on this record, with Tony’s bass groove rolling through the album and Carmine is simply all over these songs. Why add one drum fill when you can add three? I love it; the powerful rhythm section just adds so much power. And Joe Lynn Turner has seldom sounded better, his authorative rasp in full control.
 
Get Back My Crown is a ripping opener that throws me back to the debut Mother’s Army album.
This Is Who I Am is one of two tracks taken from the unreleased JLT/Chris Antblad collaboration. The song here is beefed up from its original form, with some shredding guitar and a ton of extra drum fills.
Fire And Ice is an organ drenched classic Zeppelinesque 70s rocker with drums again belting through the speakers through the chorus while Tony Franklin’s bass glides over the verse.
I Don’t Cry Anymore is another great JLT driven rocker, with the singer sounding in classic form.
The very cool and moody Lhasa has to be inspired by the Blue Murder track Valley Of The Kings. This seven minute epic has a very similar vibe, especially with Franklin and Appice involved.
Devil In Disguise is a pretty simple rocker after the complex preceding track.
You Are The Music is a quality slower track with a nice melodic edge.
Peace Of Mind is another quality untempo melodic rocker.
Maybe Tonight is a classic AOR track – the second from the JLT/Antblad sessions. Here it has been rocked up a little and expanded musically and is another highlight.
On The Way To Paradise picks up the tempo and the rock attitude once again for a straight ahead tour de force. Great guitar solo too!
Our Love Is Not Over is the big sentimental ballad of the album. Classic JLT here.
Stranger In Us All closes the album by firing us up again with crashing guitars and pounding bass and lots of organ once again.
 

 
A very fine debut collaboration from the folks that form Rated X. I hope this can continue as an ongoing touring and recording band.
The only point I would raise overall would be that the production could be described as a bit muddy in places and the drum and bass sound does vary a little from track to track.
But great energy in the performances, despite the challenges of getting the record recorded and mixed.
You wouldn’t want the album any longer than the 60 minutes delivered, but that said, there’s no filler here.

 

Categories: 
 
Wed
19
Nov

ADRIANGALE - 'Defiance' (Review)

information persons: 
section name: 
SCORE
content: 

 

93%
Produced By: 
Vic Rivera
Running Time: 
38
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
USA
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock
Score: 
93
Label: 
Kivel Records
Artist: 
 
Adriangale are another band back in quick time with another new studio opus after firing back to life in 2013.
Defiance is a fitting title for a band that has overcome the odds and continues to deliver.
There’s nothing better than a band that learns and keeps getting better and better with each album. And as enjoyable as each album from these guys has been, they have continued to get better and I’m pleased to say that Defiance is in my eyes, their best and most accomplished album to date. I’m being tougher with scores since the new site launch, so the 93% here is truly well deserved.
 
 
Taking the best anthemic AOR qualities of their past and toughening up the sound a little, upping the production value and delivering a crystal clear mix is what this album is all about.
Jamie Rowe sounds as comfortable singing here as I have ever heard him and the quality of Vic Rivera’s guitar playing on this album is world class.
I’ve always told him he needs to continue showing the world what he can do, as far back as his blazing work on the Rick Springfield tribute cover of Souls.
 
There’s not a weak or filler track on this album. Just 10 really enjoyable songs. No padding – just straight to the point.
 
The opening (and title) track Defiance sets up this album beautifully. Darker, a little heavier and a killer moody chorus.
Back To You is similar – a brooding moody verse that leads to an anthemic layered chorus. Love it. Adriangale at their best.
What About Love is a gritty guitar fueled rocker with lots of vocal harmonies once again.
Sometimes has a heavier than usual guitar riff which I love, added to with a blindingly good anthemic chorus.
The only big ballad of the album is the perfect moody Last Of My Heart. It has a great sentimental feel and lots of harmonies.
The closing track demonstrates that if Billy Idol is ever looking for someone to stand in for him, he should give Jamie Rowe a call and Vic Rivera can stand in for Steve Stevens.
Speed replicates the original Idol tune in pretty faithful fashion. It’s a cool addition to the original material.
 

Another album, another winner. Arguably the band’s best effort yet – at least in my eyes. There is no doubt that all fans of melodic rock should find something very tasty about this album, the songs and the layers within.
Categories: 
 
Wed
19
Nov

TANGO DOWN - 'Charming Devil' (Review)

information persons: 
section name: 
SCORE
content: 
87%
Produced By: 
Ty Sims
Running Time: 
40
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
USA
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Score: 
87
Label: 
Kivel Records
Artist: 
 
US rockers Tango Down follow up their acclaimed ass-kicking Identity Crisis record in quick fashion with the new album Charming Devil, featuring the same lineup, fronted by vocalist David Reece and riff man Scott Miller.
It’s a case of more of the same from the band here – ass kicking, high energy, American melodic hard rock, with harmonies throughout and plenty of riffing for the guitar-heads out there.
 
 
David Reece sounds in great voice here – it’s another polished performance from the veteran vocalist.
Plenty of highlights here with songs penned mostly by friend to the Kivel label, Jace Pawlak, either writing on his own or with guitarist Miller. Production is by Ty Sims, and one can hear the Bombay Black style harmonies throughout the album, with the band’s frontman Erik Johnson lending a hand there.
I will say though, the one detrimental aspect of the album is the bass heavy mix. Overall it’s bearable, but there are a couple of songs where it is truly overbearing and not easy on the ears to listen to without adjusting audio settings.
 
Song highlights include the opening track Bad Reputation, a solid, attitude filled track to push off in style.
The title track Charming Devil is a cool rocker, but the pounding bass heavy mix really takes away from my enjoyment of it.
Too Many Roads is one of the best rock power ballads of this or any year. Reece sounds amazing and the added piano adds texture to the already impressive song. The huge chorus knocks it out of the park.
Change My World is another catchy tune while the ultra-catchy, anthemic Tomorrow Never Comes is as impressive as it gets on Charming Devil.
Closing the album is the second ballad of the album, even if it’s sentimental with a kick. Another classy tune.
 

I favor Identity Crisis over this new album, but songwise it’s a very close call. Both albums feature some real gems and fully deliver on expectations. But the mix here has definitely impacted on my overall enjoyment of it.
American melodic hard rock is alive and well with Tango Down and long may it continue.
Categories: 
 
Fri
31
Oct

MR. BIG - The Stories We Could Tell (Review)

information persons: 
section name: 
TRACK LISTING
content: 
- Gotta Love The Ride
- I Forget To Breathe
- Fragile
- Satisfied
- The Man Who Has Everything
- The Monster In Me
- What If We Were New
- East / West
- The Light Of Day
- Just Let Your Heart Decide
- It's Always About That Girl
- Cinderella Smile
- The Stories We Could Tell
section name: 
SCORE
content: 

 

94%
Produced By: 
Pat Regan
Running Time: 
61
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Score: 
94
Label: 
Frontiers Records
Artist: 
 
It is an emotional time for Mr. Big as drummer Pat Torpey recently announced he was dealing with the onset of Parkinson’s disease as the band regrouped for their second post-reformation studio album.
But they managed to do it, adding another chapter to the Mr. Big story, and delivering a different beast to the last album What If…
 
There’s a different vibe to this album, most likely down to the change of producer, from Kevin Shirley (who likes recording live in the studio) to Pat Regan, who takes the more traditional route.
A couple of interesting facts from the recording sessions explain the vibe of this album – one was that the guys were all individually busy, so many parts were recorded without the others present as schedules permitted time to record, and the other was the revelation from Billy Sheehan that drummer Pat doesn’t actually play live drums on the album. Instead, the two Pat’s worked together on programming drum parts to match Torpey’s style and energy.
In fact, that part of the process held up the release of the album, forcing a slight reschedule and some last minute deliveries of the master.
But I’m impressed with the job done here. Both from Pat Regan for the overall sharp, traditional Mr. Big style production (he also worked with the guys on ‘Get Over It’ and the side project ‘Influences & Connections’); and also from Pat Torpey, who delivers perhaps the best programmed drums ever.
Eric Martin sounds fabulous as always as does Paul Gilbert with his flawless master class of riffing and soloing that continues throughout.
I don’t think Billy Sheehan’s bass is as prominent in the mix as last time around. The technical flair and authority is there, just not as promiinent in the mix as on What If.
 
The hour long album touches on a few aspects of the band’s sound and career to date. There’s definitely some of the bluesy ‘Get Over It’ influences here, despite that album not featuring guitarist Paul Gilbert; there is also some touches of the debut from way back in ’89 as well as Bump Ahead and of course the most recent release What If.
There is also a strong influence of 70s rock n roll throughout, a loose bluesy vibe that blends into the band’s sound.
All in all, it’s Mr. Big and its good!
 
I think the album runs a little long as there’s a couple of tracks in the back half of the album that more or less repeat what’s come before, if the album had been cut to 11 tracks it might have been a little more concise.
 
Gotta Love The Ride is a bombastic bluesy rocker. A solid groove, nice guitar solo and a chorus that seems restrained but gets better each listen. A cool track!
I Forget To Breathe is another up-tempo blues based rocker with a big groove. Billy's bass not nearly as prominent in mix as last album. Another pretty simple chorus....but it rocks and I like it. I'm hearing some 'Get Over It' here. Great guitar solo.
The wonderfully melodic Fragile was my pick of the album from day 1 and continues to be. A real Mr. Big sounding track with the same type of vibe as the equally brilliant "Undertow".
Satisfied took some time to grow on me. Back to the 70s blues rock again and I'm a 80s guy, so I wasn’t sure, but it has grown into a fine track. A very melodic vocal bridge that hints at a big chorus that doesn't arrive.
Its ballad time. The Man Who Has Everything is a familiar Mr. Big acoustic driven ballad. Still carrying that 70s feel though. Big soulful vocal by Eric Martin - another possible single here I'd expect. Some orchestral backing makes it fuller in sound.
The Monster In Me still has that bluesy 70s sound going through it. The mid-tempo, heavy rocker was another track that grew on me and it’s jerky, abrupt chorus is cool.
What If I Were New sees the band is sounding like The Rolling Stones. A different vibe for sure and perhaps one of the lesser quality tracks on the album. Interesting chorus. I wouldn't call it catchy, but it's original and the choppy Paul Gilbert guitar work is cool.
East/West features acoustic intro and first 30 seconds before band comes to life. Acoustic base, but electric also. A feel good song this and a traditional Mr. Big commercial pop/rocker.
The Light Of Day is a fast rocker with a big groove, big guitars and bass, fast moving vocal and chorus, with Eric in fine voice as ever.
Just Let Your Heart Decide - ballad time again. Deep sultry vocal from Eric and an extremely good chorus. Just like 'What If', the second big ballad on the album is the better one. No Mr. Big fan is going to dislike this one.
It's Always About That Girl - this is another mi-tempo 70s groover. Not as into this as earlier tracks and sees the band repeating themselves a little here.
As is the case with the slow/mid-tempo groove based track Cinderella Smile. Simple chorus, stop/start slow groove and a track that brings a slow tempo to the closing part of the album.
The Stories We Could Tell is unfortunately another slow-mid-tempo 70s groover.
Interesting track, but not the most instant or catchy tune out there and similar to a couple of others on the album. A good chorus, some nice bass fills from Billy and more classy playing from Paul. But three slowish 70s groove tracks in a row to close the album is too many.
I would have cut Cinderella Smile and It’s Always About That Girl.
 
For the European release there is the bonus track Addicted To That Rush (Live)Now, being the musical snob I am, I just can’t endorse live tracks tacked onto the end of studio albums. It just doesn’t sit right with me that an all-new studio album closes with an old live track.
Add to that the fact the quality of this live track is horrible. The instrumentation is clear enough, but the vocals sound as if they were piped in from the lavatory backstage. Very hollow and low in volume. It’s a real shame as the sheer energy of Pat Torpey and world class guitar soloing from Paul and Billy throughout is otherwise stunning.
The Japanese release adds the bonus track 30 Days In The Hole (Live). Again, the playing is nothing short of exquisite, but next to studio material it just doesn’t sound right or match the production values.
 
The Japanese Special Edition sees the band add a bonus disc of 10 re-recorded classics. The Japanese are becoming increasingly generous with their extra features to entice a shrinking market into buying and it worked for me!
The tracks covered include the fan favorites Addicted To That Rush, Colorado Bulldog, Daddy Brother Lover Little Boy, Green Tinted Sixties Mind and Take Cover.
There’s not a dramatic overhaul of these tracks in any way. More or less, they are just an updated sound, consistent with the production of the new material and the odd tweak here and there with vocals, backing vocals and guitar and bass riffs. Long time Mr. Big fans will hear the differences, casual fans won’t. But it’s well worth getting.
 
The Stories We Could Tell is a big, groovy, rocking album, but not the chorus heavy style of Mr. Big's most commercial tracks.
It is also not an instant album, but it has the same Mr. Big appeal as always for me and has been on high rotation now for many weeks. I’m still loving the tracks I love and still not warming to the last few.
The guys’ individual performances are as special as we always expect from these phenomenal musicians.
Be prepared for a different sound and a more retro groove based style.
 
Another great Mr. Big album, but it's going to have to appeal to people's individual tastes a little more than past albums.
Categories: 
 
Fri
31
Oct

220 VOLT - Walking In Starlight (Review)

information persons: 
section name: 
SCORE
content: 

 

75%
Produced By: 
22o Volt
Running Time: 
60
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Hard Rock
Score: 
75
Label: 
AOR Heaven
Artist: 
 
Sweden delivers yet another rock band in the form of 220 Volt. But these guys aren’t new – they’re back from the 80s, with their first proper studio album since 1997.
It doesn’t happen often, but this is one band that skipped past me in the heyday, so more or less, despite reported changes to their sound, I’m taking them on as a new listener.
Anders Engberg (ex-Therion ex-Lions Share), who joined this group on late 2012, is the new voice of the band, so with a fresh voice it really is a new start for the band.
Founding members Thomas Drevin and Mats Karlsson handle the guitars and drummer Peter Hermansson complete the line-up.
 
What I’m hearing is pretty typical Scandi-styled melodic hard rock. I’ve spun it several times and I’m liking the vocals, which sound a little like the great Matti Alfonzetti or Goran Edman, but otherwise I’m struggling with the songs somewhat.
 
Production is ok, it’s not a sharp or as crisp as it should be and compared to some other recent releases. The drum and cymbal sound in particular is weak.
Coupled with some songs that don’t quite do it for me and a sound I’ve heard before, I rate this as a decent release that fans of the band should enjoy, but I’m not seeing huge crossover potential.
This is a pretty hard rocking release though. There are times where the band takes it up a notch and that’s when I think they sound at their best – tracks like Alive, Through The Wastelands and System Overload.
Plus the more melodic Take A Good Look and Stranded.
 
Overall, not bad, but not a stand out for me in this always crowded market. I expect longtime fans will enjoy and newcomers to the European hard rock scene might also find something worthy here.
 
Categories: 
 
Fri
31
Oct

MISS BEHAVIOUR - Double Agent (Review)

information persons: 
section name: 
SCORE
content: 

 

88%
Produced By: 
Daniel Gese & Miss Behaviour
Running Time: 
49
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock
Score: 
88
Label: 
AOR Heaven
 
It’s great to hear an established band just getting it right and delivering what they are best at. Even better when the songs and the production continue to increase in quality as is the case with the new Miss Behaviour album.
Double Agent is the band’s 3rd album and sees them going from strength to strength. Of the three releases, this is probably their first that demands to be bought on the strength of the songs.
That’s a good thing…there’s still a couple of tunes here I’m not sold on, but on the flip side, there are a few songs that having heard, I now just can’t live without.
 
The Swedish AOR/melodic rock outfit delivers a slightly quirky slice of 80s AOR mixed with some glam and melodic rock. It’s a pretty diverse selection of songs.
 
On With The Show is a strong melodic rock opening track. Makes a strong statement for the album ahead. But Double Agent is pure synth/AOR magic. A moody verse and a killer chorus…perfection!
Then you have some strong 80s melodic rock with Cold Response, Midnight Runner and a big anthemic ballad with Corporation Arms. Another of the band’s best tracks to date.
The band delivers their quirky side on the rocker Love Reflector before turning hard rock for the moody, heavy Edge Of The World.
Then it’s a 180 degree switch to another slice of AOR perfection with the brilliant Don't Let It End.
The melodic rocker The Cause Of Liberty runs nearly 8 minutes and takes a few listens to click, but it works.
I’m not feeling the love as much for Magical Feeling or Dancing With Danger, but the ballad Silver Rain is good value.
 
Once again I point out positive growth from an artist, meaning their best is hopefully still to come.
A few wonderful AOR tracks here and some quirky side-steps to prevent repetition and help continue their own style.
A quality record that should be examined by the majority of fans of the European AOR/melodic rock genre.
 
Categories: 
 
Fri
31
Oct

DEAD END HEROES - Road Kill (Review)

information persons: 
Produced By: 
Dead End Heroes
Running Time: 
57
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Hard Rock
Score: 
84
Label: 
AOR Heaven
 
Dead End Heroes features a couple of very busy guys – vocalist Carsten Lizard Schulz and bassist Paul Logue. Producer and guitarist Rolf Munkes is a busy lad too, so it's cool to see these guys on a project together.
The very impressive and loud rhythm section also features drummer Daniel Voegeli.
Holger Seeger adds some classic Hammond Organ for that old school hard rock sound.
Without trying to over simplify the songwriting involved here – this is a very straight ahead hard rocking album.
The performances are quite electric – there's clearly a lot of effort put into capturing the guys at their collective best here, best evidenced by the cage rattling hard rocker the band takes their name from.
 
This is a very consistent sounding album – it's one track after another of European blend hard hitting classic melodic metal/hard rock.
I'm not into the lead track Roadkill that much, but the heavy Blue Murder/organ drenched style Cry For The Moon is all class as is the bold epic 7 minute metaller Stormfront.
Hands Off The Wheel rocks along at a good pace and the song And The Loser Is, is as catchy as anything on the album.
The Fire's Worth The Loneliness is another stand out.
 
There's a certain sameness to some songs, but the big winners here are fans of in your face hard rock with guitars thrust firmly to the front of the mix.
I can hear some Eden's Curse in the rhythm and the harmony vocals, but also latter day Jaded Heart.
A quality release for fans of European hard rock. Maybe a touch too long at nearly an hour in length.
Categories: 
 
Fri
31
Oct

GRAND DESIGN - Thrill Of The Night (Review)

information persons: 
Produced By: 
Grand Design
Running Time: 
47
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Score: 
92
Label: 
AOR Heaven
Artist: 
 
Simply put, the Grand Design guys have taken everything good about their first two albums and made it better. The new lineup, which includes the energized licks of Janne Stark and the pounding drums of Magnus Ulfstedt has made the band ever more powerful and the production here is the band’s best yet.
Long time bassist Mats Vassfjord joins Ulfstedt in creating a monster rhythm section and Stark’s guitar really does propel these songs into a new league.
Frontman Pelle Saether sounds as strong as ever – as long as you have a penchant for his unique vocal style.
 
The guys still trade off that classic Def Leppard sound – a mix of Pyromania, High & Dry and Adrenalize, but what I like about Thrill Of The Night is that these songs stand out on their own merits, rather than directly copying Leppard songs as the last album tended to do.
 
The fast rolling and spirited opener U Got Me Good is as catchy as anything the band has recorded previously as is the fun groove of the anthemic Rawk N Roll Heart Attack.
The Rush Is Gone captures the mood of the darker Pyromania moments, while 10 Out Of 10 is a pounding rhythm tour-de-force.
When The Greatest Love Of All Kicks In is a quality sentimental ballad layered in harmonies and guitars, plus a tasty solo mid-track.
Rip Iddup is a silly title, but a fun, groove driven hard rocker not to be taken too seriously.
Get Up N Love Someone is a more free flowing anthemic rock and You're The Only One is Grand Design’s answer to Leppard’s ‘Animal’. A great mid-tempo melodic rocker.
Who's Gonna Rawk You Tonite is yet another quality chorus attached to another quality melodic rocker with a lot of layers to dig through.
Closing the album is the moody, hard rocking, fast moving Thrill Of The Nite.
 
I respect bands that get better with experience. There’s a few of them around and Grand Design have so far proved to be one. This is easily their best produced and performed record and the songs, while ever familiar, are starting to branch out into the band’s own personality.
Categories: 
 
Fri
19
Sep

WORK OF ART - Framework (Review)

information persons: 
section name: 
SCORE
content: 

 

99%
Produced By: 
Work Of Art
Running Time: 
46
Release Date: 
September 19
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
AOR / Melodic Rock
Score: 
99
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
 
Track after track after track of simply glorious classic AOR that is written and recorded so perfectly that the album sounds timeless. It could have been released as easily in 1987 as it is today.
 
Like many others following this scene, Work Of Art are part of the new era of classic melodic rock artists. They deliver the best of yesterday, wrapped up in the production and songwriting values of today.
Their first two albums were both wonderful, but I can’t help but feel that they have truly found their own unique groove here.
Yes, the band’s sound is familiar and comparisons to Toto and others can safely be made. But the guys continue to walk their own path.
Framework is, I think, their most accomplished work to date and their most unique.
This album sees the guys turn up the guitars a little and mix the keyboards a little less prominently – but don’t fear – there are several layers of keys in each and every track. That sound is still fundamental to the band’s texture.
 
The album is also a more uptempo and fast moving affair. It rocks along at a positively cracking pace at times, but all the while still remaining 100% AOR.
Drummer Hermin Furin is the backbone of a stronger sound here, with Robert Sall delivering his best guitar work to date and dare I say it, the most fluent keyboards also.
Vocalist Lars Safsund is in immaculate voice. His tone and style is what I describe as the perfect AOR voice.
 
The opening track is quite simply AOR gold. Time To Let Go is joyous, catchy as hell, uplifting and a lessen to all in songwriting 101.
How Will I Know continues the fast pace and delivers more glorious hooks and melodies. AOR perfection.
The harder hitting and darker Shout Till You Wake Up is where the band shows their growth as a unit. The song features a nice progressive, moody style that suits them so well. Another killer chorus and keyboards everywhere adds to the delight.
And the mid-late song passage of Toto-esque prog/pop is pure brilliance.  
Can't Let Go sees the band delivering another glorious AOR anthem, much akin to the sound of the debut, but with more guitars. Impossibly catchy and fast moving.
 
Next up are two harder hitting guitar tracks, both sending out messages to a couple of people I’m glad I’m not! How Do You Sleep At Night is yet another fast flowing, highly addictive AOR anthem with an angry heart. I don’t know how these guys do it. Awesome.
Over The Line calls out someone for their lies and bullshit, yet in a supremely catchy, anthemic, classic AOR way. How could you ask for more? The song’s chorus is just so instant.
 
The Machine sees the guys crank the guitars up one notch further – this is almost a W.E.T style rocker to start, but the big keyboard presence makes it classic Work Of Art. Yet another catchy chorus and fast moving AOR gem.
Hold On To Love is the first point of the album where things seemingly take a breather. Good thing too! This is a happy go lucky breezy Westcoast style song showing the band’s lighter side.
Time for a big sentimental ballad? The opening passage says yes, but then bang! We’re away with another high tempo melodic rocker. And unbelievably, Natalie is yet another killer tune with another big anthemic chorus.
The Turning Point continues the frantic pace, even after the Toto-esque intro.
My Waking Dream closes the album on a lighter note. This is a dreamy, moody ballad with a lot of vocal layering and a definite change of pace from the rest of the album. It’s a perfect closer.
 
The best part of this album is the ability of the guys to create so many wonderful tracks, yet keep things different throughout the album.
There is not much change to the sound you know and love, yet this album feels more diverse than ever. It’s certainly the band’s most instant record of their career so far.
I found the first two albums required more concentrated listening to delve into the layers beneath the surface. These songs seem so amazingly instant, yet those unravelling layers are still there to ensure continued interest after many many hours of playtime.
 
I’ve been thrashing this album for weeks and my enjoyment has not diminished one little bit.
It’s glorious!
It’s essential.
Categories: 
 
Mon
15
Sep

ADRENALINE RUSH - Adrenaline Rush (Review)

information persons: 
section name: 
SCORE
content: 

 

89%
Produced By: 
Erik Martensson
Running Time: 
42
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Score: 
89
Label: 
Frontiers
 
Despite the appearance on the CD of as 5 piece band, the recorded side of Swedish rockers Adrenaline Rush is down to the partnership of vocalist Tave Wanning and master songwriter/producer/multi-instrumentalist Erik Martensson, who provided all instruments, all but 2 of the songs and all mix and production duties here.
So essentially this is a new Martensson project with a female vocalist this time, giving it a new fresh dynamic over past albums with Toby Hitchcock, WET and of course Eclipse.
As with everything that Erik Martensson touches, this sounds a million bucks, with a big powerful production and clear mix.
 
Musically it’s a little different for Erik, the material sounds like a mix of recent Eclipse and old school Motley Crue styled LA hard rock. In fact both Girls Gone Wild and Hit You Like A Rock both sound like they were lifted straight off Motley’s Dr. Feelgood album. Girls Gone Wild borrows heavily from Kickstart My Heart!
 
It’s a big groovy melodic hard rock record with some fast moving stadium anthems like Want It All, Change and Playin’ To Win.
There are a couple of melodic rock anthems like Too Young To Die, No No No and Black N Blue.
When We’re Gone is the darker, moodier mid-album circuit breaker.
 
There are some really attractive elements in this album. The sound is huge, the mix is crystal clear and there are a few monster songs.
I don’t think it is quite as memorable as past Martensson projects, but that is maybe down to the style of singer Tave Wanning. Erik has received a couple of perfect 100s and a few very high 90s in the last few years, so he’s still my favourite producer of recent years.
Well worth checking out for fans of Erik’s material and fans of female fronted ass kicking melodic rock.
Categories: 
 
Tue
26
Aug

STATE OF SALAZAR - All The Way (Review)

information persons: 
section name: 
TRACK LISTING
section name: 
SCORE
content: 

 

92%
Produced By: 
State Of Salazar
Running Time: 
47
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock
Score: 
92
Label: 
Frontiers Records
 
The Swedes do it again! What a great little melodic rock n pomp album this is. Filled to the brim with Swedish melodic goodness and bubbling over with uplifting harmonies and catchy choruses.
The band has an interesting sound. It’s hard to be original in this day and age, but these guys have their own swagger, that’s for sure.
What I’m hearing here is a mix of Swedish pop/rock and melodic rock with Styx influenced pomposity mixed in.
Vocalist Marcus Nygren is a real find. He wrote all the lyrics and music here and his vocals are the driving force behind the album.
 
Imagine some anthemic Mitch Malloy mixed with Toby Hitchcock and the smooth AOR of last year’s Find Me project. Add some 70s Styx pomp and some 80s Toto precision Westcoast and you might get close to State Of Salazar.
Whatever the sound, the songs are brilliant and draw you back in each time. Without repeating themselves, there’s one hit song after another.
 
I Believe In You is a happy go lucky pop rocker with a sweet vocal; Field Of Dreams sounds like the straight ahead melodic rock of Blanc Faces/Find Me; All The Way sounds like classic 70s Styx with an AOR chorus; while the ballad Love Of My Life could have come from any classic 80s rock soundtrack.
 
Elsewhere the melodic goodness of Eat Your Heart Out is pomp perfection; the immense Catastrophe is anything but, with the band showing depth with additional layers of strings; and Always is simply pop rock happiness.
Adrian is the band at their anthemic, layered pompous best and the ballad End Of Time is a relaxed way to close out a pretty energetic record.
 
A real find and destined to be one of the best debut albums of 2014. Packed with catchy hooks, glorious melodies and choruses at every turn.
If you enjoy anything out of Sweden and the lighter side of melodic rock, then these guys are an absolute must get.
Classy world-class production just tops off an all-round great record.
 
Categories: 
 
Tue
26
Aug

X-DRIVE - Get Your Rock On (Review)

information persons: 
section name: 
SCORE
content: 

 

85%
Produced By: 
Andy John & Jeremy Brunner
Running Time: 
45
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Score: 
85
Label: 
Frontiers Records
Artist: 
 
Newcomer X-Drive is the brainchild of guitarist Jeremy Brunner who put this band together with star vocalist Keith St. John (Burning Rain, Montrose). Together the pair wrote all the album’s songs and Jeremy co-produced with the legendary producer Andy Johns, who sadly passed away not long after completing this album.
Mixed by Wyn Davis and joined by James Lomenzo on bass, there has been a lot of money, time and effort put into this and it shows.
Keith St. John sounds a million bucks on this album – I prefer his vocals here over Burning Rain and his solo work. He’s just completely in the groove and speaks to my tastes perfectly.
 
There’s nothing overly complicated in the music itself, we’ve heard this kind of record before, but it is classic American hard rock done very very well. With so much great music coming out of Scandinavia, the Americans have been a little left behind. So it’s great to get a well written, well produced album in this vein.
 
Brunner’s riffs drive the album, delivering two solid hard rockers with Love’s A Bitch and Get Your Rock On to kick off the album.
But it’s the groove infused Steppin On The Rock that really gets my attention. The moody ballad Baby Bye Bye continues to grow the stature of this record, with the catchy California driving it over the top.
Lay Me Down is a moody, darker rocker that fits in beautifully. A great vocal here from Keith.
Fly Beyond The Angels is a very nice sentimental ballad and the mid-tempo groove of Just Can’t Stay is also solid.
Love Breaks The Fool is a enjoyable mid-tempo melodic rocker to finish.
 
The only thing that I could suggest might have made this even better is a couple of more uptempo tunes. The guys already sound in the right groove, so it would have been cool to see them really let go. The majority of the album is best described as mid-tempo, but there’s still enough variety here to please most folks and as stated earlier, the production, the performances and the songs are all of high quality.
Definitely worth checking out!
Categories: 
 
Tue
26
Aug

MIKE TRAMP - Museum (Review)

information persons: 
section name: 
TRACK LISTING
content: 
 
01 Trust In Yourself
02 New World Coming
03 Down South
04 Better
05 Freedom
06 Commitment
07 And You Were Gone
08 Slave
09 Mother
10 Time For Me To Go
section name: 
SCORE
content: 

 

87%
Produced By: 
Soren Andersen & Mike Tramp
Running Time: 
44
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Rock
Score: 
87
Label: 
Target
Artist: 
 
Not a truer line has been written when Mike Tramp’s bio described his album’s a musical diary of his life. Mike certainly wears his heart on his sleeve and pours that heart into his songs.
It’s something I respect the singer/songwriter for immensely, even when I’m occasionally not totally in tune with his musical output.
 
Mike has recorded some of my favourite singer/songwriter material. His Recovering the Wasted Years album remains an all-time classic for me.
Last year’s Cobblestone Street I thought was a little hit and miss, but the new album Museum is a much stronger affair.
 
Museum continues the stripped back, acoustic driven sound that Mike’s solo career has been based upon, perhaps a little more energetic than Cobblestone Street.
But at the heart of the album are some more truly inspiring songs.
 
None better than Trust In Yourself. Mike’s raspy vocal and haunting style are an immediate positive and the message is strong.
The layered acoustics of New World Coming draw you in, before the bluesy earth tones of Down South offer something new for Tramp fans.
The sparse piano ballad Better is another highlight for me, both in the lyrical quirk and the style of the song.
 
Freedom is a more uptempo and musically layered song while the again haunting Commitment returns to the sparse and raw emotional side.
The trio of songs that follow offer more insights into Mike’s life and continue the quality of earlier tracks.
Time For Me To Go is another great song and closes a very consistent and enjoyable record.
 
This is another one for long time Tramp devotees. Those that get Mike know what’s coming and based on the songwriting here, should rate this very highly.
Those that prefer the heavier White Lion or Freaks Of Nature sound might still find this a little stripped back for their tastes, but I urge those to take a good listen as skipping this album will miss some classy new songs.
 
Categories: 
 
Tue
26
Aug

DARK HORSE - Let It Ride (Review)

information persons: 
section name: 
TRACK LISTING
content: 
 
01) You Were The One I Waited For
02) Better Days
03) I Wouldn't Have Missed It For The World
04) Goodbye
05) In The Country
06) Heaven Tonight
07) Strong
08) Nowhere Fast
09) What She Meant To Me
10) Let It Ride
section name: 
RATING
content: 

 

86%
Produced By: 
Paul Laine, Steve Lezetc; Mixed: Bruno Ravel
Running Time: 
42
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Country/Pop/Rock
Score: 
87
Label: 
Indie
Artist: 
 
Dark Horse is the new vehicle for Canadian vocalist Paul Laine and his band. I’ve followed Paul since day 1 – his debut solo album Stick It In Your Ear, then moving to his brilliant time with Danger Danger and his modern rock project Shugaazer. All essential listening in my mind, he can do no wrong!
 
I heard demos for this album a year or so ago and knew that despite the “country” badge on the cover, it was still 100% Paul Laine music and for that reason I love this also.
Paul just has a wonderful knack of writing memorable songs with great hooks and choruses that draw you in.
And his voice of course is one of the most likable in any form of music he’s singing.
Some won’t be able to get past the twang or steel guitars or occasional use of banjo and mandolins, but strip those instruments back and you have a pure melodic rock record underneath.
 
The breezy uptempo southern rocker You Were The One I Waited For sets up the album with its classy sound and production and Paul’s natural lead vocal.
The feel good Better Days is pure ear candy and features some outstanding vocals.
I Wouldn’t Have Missed It For The World, Heaven Tonight, Nowhere Fast and the anthemic In The Country are all easy transplants from Paul’s catchy rock songwriting world.
The sultry ballad Goodbye could easily have come from Shugaazer and is a killer song in any format. It’s joined by the big power ballad Strong which should be a hit single given any justice.
 
Would I be as much into this album if someone else was singing? Probably not, as it is Paul’s style, voice and delivery that draws me in.
Its country driven, but the heart of the album’s songs remain melodic rock. If you can sit back and enjoy it for what it is - you’ll find another high quality Paul Laine record.
If you like a little bit of new-country rock n roll, then this album is likely to be on high rotation for many months to come.
 
Categories: 
 
Tue
26
Aug

ASIA - High Voltage Live (Review)

information persons: 
section name: 
RATING
content: 

 

40%
Produced By: 
Asia
Running Time: 
63
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
AOR / Melodic Rock
Score: 
40
Label: 
Frontiers Records
Artist: 
 
The world does not need another live Asia album. Not even the most hardened Asia lovers need another live album. But, if we must….as least make it one that’s half listenable.
 
This is not the best live recording, which at times sounds like an audience recorded bootleg. The vocals are hollow and the bass thumps along above the guitars and drums. A dreadful mix.
The band sadly sounds its age here. John Wetton’s once silky smooth vocals are pretty raspy in places.
 
The band has some incredible songs – several from the debut album here and mixed with a few from recent years, but this is not an advert for the band at its best.
The accompanying DVD adds a little more value, but this is not the most visually active band around. Drummer Carl Palmer is the most animated on stage throughout the show. Guitarist Steve Howe continues to give Stones drummer Charlie Watts a run for his money in the ‘awkward skinny old white dudes in rock’ race.
 
I can’t be sure, but I think the guys are having fun on stage…I think I saw a smile during Heat Of The Moment.
 
Avoid unless you desperately need to make up your CD quota for the month or you are a card carrying member of the Asia-Forever fan club.
 
Categories: 
Tags: 
 
Tue
26
Aug

GUARDIAN - Almost Home (Review)

information persons: 
section name: 
SCORE
content: 

 

85%
Produced By: 
Guardian
Running Time: 
42
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Modern Melodic Rock
Score: 
85
Artist: 
 
Welcome back Guardian after an absence of way too long. The brand new studio album was recorded last year after a successful crowd funding campaign, released a month or two ago to pledgers and is now available to the general public via digital download or limited edition CD.
The band has varied their style and sound over the course of their history and Coming Home sees them continue that trend, wrapping several styles up in this release, yet still managing to have a cohesive sounding record.
 
The band has definitely stepped up its modernization, with some very contemporary sounding tracks here.
Modern melodic rockers Boom She Said and The Real Me opening the album with a bang.
Little Things is a quirky orchestral acoustic driven track with a passionate vocal and Wonderful is almost retro/alternative until the very cool melodic chorus breaks through.
California Rain is about as eclectic as the album gets, touching on a Tuscan accordion meets modern acoustic theme. I did say it was a diverse album!
 
King of Fools is uptempo modern melodic rock with a driving beat and a good chorus.
Paranoia Kills is as heavy as I’ve heard from the band – this track really rocks and leads perfectly into the most melodic and traditionally anthemic track on the album, Price We Pay.
Free is another laid back tune that has a hard edge and an appealing moody chorus.
Almost Home is an appealing acoustic track with a Beatle-esque feel. Some beautiful guitar work on here as well as an emotional lead vocal. It’s a classy way to close the album.
 
Diverse maybe, but quality? Yes. Fans of the band will know what to expect and are going to lap up this new offering. Those that have come to know Jamie more recently via Adriangale will find a different beast here with Guardian, but the musical depth and intelligent songwriting within the new album should appeal to many.
Categories: 
 
Fri
08
Aug

7TH HEAVEN - Spectrum (Review)

information persons: 
section name: 
TRACK LISTING
content: 
01. Stoplight
02. It's You
03. Dance In The Rain
04. In The City
05. Living In Danger
06. Once In A Lifetime
07. We Live Life Young
08. Magic
09. Are We Up
10. When You Say My Name
11. Walk Another Mile
12. Join The Party
13. I'm Your Addict
14. Livin Life
15. Holding My Breath For You
16. Last Chance
17. Illusion
18. Until The Day I Die
19. Heads Or Tails
20. Jump Start 
section name: 
SCORE
content: 

 

93%
Produced By: 
Richie Hofherr
Running Time: 
80
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
USA
Musical Style: 
Pop/Melodic Rock/AOR
Score: 
93
Label: 
NTD Records
Artist: 
Chicago’s legendary 7th heaven return with yet another new studio album, this one featuring no less than 20 new cuts!
 
Back fronting the band for this album is the great Keith Semple, whose likable melodic tone is a perfect match for the happy go lucky anthemic pop/rock that guitarist and main writer Richie Hofherr seems to effortlessly churn out with spectacular regularity.
Maintaining the formula of past albums, there seems to be a couple of extra ingredients here to make this arguably the band’s best release yet.
 
First – the production quality is the best since the band’s classic Silver release. Extra thump in the drum department has gone a long way.
Second – the songs are simply unquestionably brilliant and totally infectious.
Each 7th heaven album manages to deliver several catchy pop/rock anthems to add to their already impressive list, but on Spectrum it’s simply song after song of instant hook gratification and sing-along perfection.
 
There’s a heartfelt emotion to this band’s music and that continues unabated here.
Just try and not sing along and tap your feet to the glorious fast moving anthems Stoplight, It’s You, in The City, Livin’ Life, Last Chance, Heads or Tails and a much improved re-recording of the last album’s best track We Live Life Young.
The band’s moodier side is amply explored on Dance In The Rain, Once In A Lifetime, Are We Up, Walk Another Mile, I’m Your Addict and Until The Day I Die.
Heartfelt ballads aren’t ignored either, with When You Say My Name and Holding My Breath For You both worthy of chart success.
 
Of course, with 20 tracks on offer there’s bound to be a few “misses”, but those will depend on tastes. For me the reggae of Join The Party and the rap infused duo of Living In Danger (despite another catchy chorus) and Jump Start represent the three tracks I reach for the skip button. But 3 skips out of 20 tracks is a ratio any major artist would be proud to boast.
 
7th heaven remain a Midwest phenomenon, but their worldwide cult following is only going to grow on the back of this superbly written and produced album of brilliantly catchy and likable melodic pop/rock gems.
Recommended for all readers to check out. Simply awesome.
Categories: 
 
Fri
08
Aug

ACACIA AVENUE - Cold (Review)

information persons: 
section name: 
SCORE
content: 

 

83%
Produced By: 
Torben Enevoldsen
Running Time: 
48
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock
Score: 
83
Label: 
AOR Heaven
Artist: 
 
This is a solid melodic rock release indeed. The idea for Acacia Avenue began back in 2008, the brain child of guitarist Torben Enevoldsen (Fate, Fatal Force, Section A).
This is his second album and again sees Torben delivering some melodic rock tunes instead of his normally more metal-themed music. To handle vocals, Torben has gathered a number of guest vocalists to fill frontman duties.
 
These kinds of albums can appear very disjointed, but the quality of the production here is such that it all flows pretty seamlessly.
Torben takes care of all the bass, keyboards and guitars, as well as singing background vocals on a few songs. New drummer, Dennis Hansen (Fatal Force) appears on drums. Good man for hiring an actual drummer, not a machine!
 
Song wise there are many highlights.
Time (feat. Steve Newman) is a first rate hard rocker, with Newman again getting heavier and sounding very comfortable doing it.
Love Will Survive (feat. Rob Moratti) is typically Moratti styled AOR with a very high vocal (of course) and a great chorus.
It's Over (feat. Albin Ljungqvist) is a wonderful little keyboard driven AOR number with a high pitch vocal and a highly memorable chorus.
Out Of The Business (feat. Mikael Roup) is another very catchy track that sounds more like Uriah Heep/Y&T. A little out of place here in the scheme of things, but catchy!
Signs Of Love (feat. Rob Moratti) is a melodic rock style track but doesn’t match the quality of his earlier track.
 
Cold (feat. Torben Lysholm) is about the same – ok, but not a highlight.
Angelina (feat. Steve Newman) is moody, but guitar driven and another great Steve Newman vocal.
You And I (feat. Mikael Roup) and Calling Out (feat. Nicklas Sonne) are skippers I’m afraid. They lack the hooks of previous songs.
How Many Nights (feat. Torben Lysholm) is better, but again is part of a group of songs that don’t match the quality of the first half of the record.
Freedom From Doubt (feat. Peter Sundell) features a strong bluesy vocal from Sundell and finishes the album with a different kind of song than anywhere else on the record.
 
A great first half of the album and an ok second half that requires a bit more attention to draw out the melodies. A solid record overall, which will stand comfortably alongside the debut. The best tracks are really special and worth the price of admission.
Very good production/mix quality lifts the results.
Categories: 
 
Fri
08
Aug

SEVEN HARD YEARS - No Place In Heaven (Review)

information persons: 
section name: 
TRACK LISTING
content: 
1. Angels Fly
2. Hold Me Now
3. Live Without You
4. You Lie
5. No More Yesterdays
6. Never Meant To Hurt You
7. Call Me Tonight
8. No Place In Heaven
9. Say What You Gotta Say
10. Say Those Lies
11. Show Some Emotion
12. You Are The One
section name: 
SCORE
content: 

 

70%
Produced By: 
7HY
Running Time: 
43
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Score: 
70
Label: 
Lynchburg Records
New melodic rock project Seven Hard Years is the brain child of former Shy drummer Alan Kelly, who recruited former band mate Roy Davis (Shy Bassist) to help him, along with US based singer Shawn Pelata (Line Of Fire), Dave Martin (Former Guitarist for-Marshall Law), Martin Walls (After Hours) and Elliot Kelly (Ocean City).
 
Their debut album has been out for a little while now and while it features some impressive hard rocking moments and some eloquent softer, more reflective pieces, the production quality and overall mix leave a bit to be desired.
It’s quite hollow sounding overall, with almost no bottom end and a lack of drum presence in the mix. The bass lines are very audible, but hold no power in the mix. It’s a strange paradox.
 
That’s a shame, as the guys have recorded some strong material here. Vocalist Shawn Pelata gives it his all, given the welcome chance to expand upon his range.
Taking a look at the songs, Hold Me Now is an impressive melodic rock song; Live Without You Now is a powerful rock ballad; You Lie is a terrific aggressive Dokken-esque rocker and Never Meant To Hurt you is a strong ballad with some impressive high notes nailed by Pelata.
No Place In Heaven is a very Shy familiar style melodic rock song that impresses again.
 
There are some complex moments here where there’s a lot of music to digest, but the mix makes this hard to achieve. The guys can build on this release as they have some chemistry here and the songwriting warrants some praise.
If they can nail the production and mix better next time around, 7HY will be here to stay.
Categories: 
 
Fri
08
Aug

GREGORY LYNN HALL - Heaven To Earth (Review)

information persons: 
section name: 
TRACK LISTING
section name: 
SCORE
content: 

 

65%
Produced By: 
Gregory Lynn Hall
Running Time: 
53
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock
Score: 
65
Label: 
AOR Heaven
I must admit to being very perplexed. I’ve always made production quality a theme of my reviews over the years. My determination of how good any album is reflects as much on how it sounds cranked to the max as well as the quality of performances and songwriting.
It’s those 3 ingredients that must come together to make a great album.
And on most reviews written for this album that I have seen, the context talks positively of two of those aspects, but complete ignores the elephant in the room – that is, the production here just doesn’t cut it in 2014.
 
This is a very thin sounding record, so much so that it makes the album impossible to crank to any great volume without having to adjust the equalizer in a desperate attempt to pump in some bottom end.
It’s a very sharp sound otherwise, with the rhythm section playing a very poor second to guitars and vocals. If this scene is to survive, then those reviewing material must reflect on this issue if there’s any hope of it improving.
 
I’m a big fan of Gregory Lynn Hall’s vocals. His work with 101 South has been previously praised and he’s a terrific guy to deal with.
On Heaven To Earth, GLH cranks his rock-o-meter into the red for a fired up hard rocking affair over the more laid back AOR strains of 101 South.
And it suits him. The raspy vocals and passionate delivery drive these at times fast and furious rockers in a way not heard before from the American singer.
 
The opening 4 tracks all rock (quality songs too) and it’s not until the ballad I Thought I Saw Heaven at track 5 until things let up.
From here there’s 3 ballads in 4 tracks, with Fly On the big 80s ballad of the collection. I can see old-school fans of that sound lapping this song up.
Cry No More signals the ramp up in tempo once again, but the mix here sounds atrocious and I just can’t play it.
Cryin’ is another ballad to finish the album.
 
A solid album in terms of songs, even if the better ones are stacked into the first half of the record. Things mellow out a little more on the second half.
I like the vocals a lot and I hope Gregory can come back with his next solo album sounding sonically better than on Heaven To Earth, as that aspect does let the whole project down.
Categories: 
 
Fri
08
Aug

RICHARD MARX - Beautiful Goodbye (Review)

information persons: 
section name: 
TRACK LISTING
content: 
1."Whatever We Started"
2."Suddenly"
3."Inside"
4."Beautiful Goodbye"
5."Forgot To Remember"
6."Turn Off The Night"
7."Have A Little Faith"
8."Like The World Is Ending"
9."To My Senses”
10."Getaway"
11."Eyes On Me" 
section name: 
SCORE
content: 

 

55%
Produced By: 
Richard Marx
Running Time: 
47
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Pop
Score: 
55
Artist: 
Richard Marx has hardly put a foot wrong throughout his long career. A career longer than any modern day singer/songwriter is ever likely to have I might add.
Even as he matured and moved out of the spotlight, his records have continued to impress. The most recent of which, Emotional Remains and Sundown, were brilliant. Few people capture real emotion like Marx does.
The compilation Inside My Head showcased the best of those records with a second disc of re-recorded hits. More brilliance.
 
So with those high standards set, you will understand why I’m so disappointed in Richard’s new studio release. His first all-new set of songs since 2008 was preceded by the lead single Whatever We Started – itself an instantly catchy sultry ballad of the highest quality.
But the song signaled a shift in style to programmed beats and synth driven music. And when it was discovered that the ballad was also the album’s opening track, it wasn’t a good sign for the overall tempo of a record. You don’t open an uptempo album with a ballad right?
 
And those fears were confirmed on my first run through of Beautiful Goodbye. What we have here is 11 tracks that are all very soft, very slow and largely driven by synth programming.
Marx shows his age as he croons through one ballad after another as the tempo barely makes it out of first gear throughout.
There are some fine songs of course, but most of the best songs are lost in the lack of tempo through the album.
 
Inside, Beautiful Goodbye, Turn Off The Night and the tear jerker Turn Off The Night are all fine songs, but overall are simply lost in a sea of similar ballads.
The heavily programmed Forgot To Remember is one instance of a song making it into second gear (co-written with sometime gigging/writing partner Matt Scannell of VerticalHorizon).
The country twang of the big ballad Like The World Is Ending is the most painful to listen to – the falsetto is earsplitting and Eyes On Me is so unbelievably slow that listening to this while driving is strongly discouraged.
 
Sorry Richard, 6 years for an album of ballads and slow tempo synth pop? Count me as really disappointed. While some of the elder statesmen of rock have only improved with age (Rick Springfield for example), Richard has missed a big opportunity here to continue the excellent work laid out on past albums. I will return to those post haste.
Categories: 
 
Fri
08
Aug

NIVA – Incremental IV (Review)

information persons: 
section name: 
SCORE
content: 

 

85%
Produced By: 
Tony Niva
Running Time: 
39
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
AOR / Melodic Rock
Score: 
85
Label: 
AOR Heaven
Artist: 
Tony Niva follows up his very good 2013 release Magnitude with the oddly titled Incremental IV record.
 
Following exactly where the last album left off, Incremental IV is more of the same – high energy, melodic rock-n-pomp, with high pitch vocals and plenty of those fluffy Scandinavian harmonies.
This is a very good sounding record with a great clear mix. Makes things so much easier to enjoy with the rhythm section pounding away with vocals gliding over the top.
I do think that Niva’s vocals are of the style that will appeal to some, but not to all; they are a bit over the top when going for notes on the higher end of the scale.
 
Best tracks here include the opening anthem Don’t You Know; the fast moving AOR of Crush; the slightly darker Better Just Forgotten and the AOR anthems The Reason Why and Play The Game.
The ballad Travel Back In Time is a good change of pace and is accompanied in like by the mid-tempo All By Myself.
 
Fans of Grand Illusion and Final Frontier should definitely add Niva to their list to check out – the bands have a lot in common aside from the vocal style.
A very good sounding record that will appeal to all fans of Niva and most pomp/Scandi AOR fans.
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Mon
21
Jul

LOVERBOY - Unfinished Business (Review)

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BOTTOM LINE
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I’ve heard suggestions of more to come, but I think if you can’t string 10 fantastic archive tracks together the first time around, the chances are that the next batch aren’t going to be any more impressive to warrant another volume.
 
I hope next time the band delivers an all-new studio album of fresh material. After all, there’s plenty of life left in this band, they defy their age on stage and on record.
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SCORE
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80%
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TRACK LISTING
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Fire Me Up
Countin' The Nights
Ain't Such A Bad Thing
Come Undone
Slave
What Makes You So Special
War Bride
Doin' It the Hard
You Play The Star
Crack of the Whip
Produced By: 
Loverboy
Running Time: 
44
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock
Score: 
80
Label: 
Loverboy Music
Artist: 
Loverboy have decided to turn back time and raid the vaults for their latest studio release. Describing this release as ‘old unfinished tracks dusted off and completed in 2014’, the band has in essence, compiled an album of off-cuts from their classic 80s releases.
I can’t blame them for choosing this route – it’s certainly a more economical solution than getting a new album written, recorded and released and it also covers the ‘fans only want to hear the classic sound’ base.
The only thing is – after the fecking marvelous Just Getting Started masterpiece and two of the three new tracks from Rock N Roll Revival being killer; this does seem as a backwards step.
But, if it’s classic Loverboy the fans want, then feast upon this 10 track release.
 
There’s everything a fan could want here – aside from a killer production. The songs bask in the band’s glorious sound of the 80s, but the production quality is really pretty bad in places.
The song quality and the production quality vary throughout as the songs are taken from various recording sessions and time frames, meaning that you’ll get snippets of the debut, Keep It Up, Get Lucky and even Lovin’ Every Minute Of It among these songs.
There’s some good stuff on offer here – Fire Me Up is a typically stomping Loverboy rocker, while the song Countin’ The Nights must consider itself unlucky not to have found its way onto an album back in the day.
Ain’t Such A Bad Thing has a good chorus, but a truly dodgy sound, including hiss and crackles from the original recordings. This certainly isn’t a case of the band re-recording old material 100% fresh such as other rock bands have done in recent years.
 
The only ballad on offer is the crooning Come Undone, which I think is pretty obvious why it hasn’t surfaced before now.
The pounding double time rocker Slave is as heavy as this band get, sounding more like cut from Paul Dean’s solo album Hard Core than a Loverboy track.
What Makes You So Special is driving rock song bathed in keyboards and sounding like really early 80s Loverboy.
The moody War Bride features a good vocal from Mike, but the song fades without any real impact.
Doin’ It The Hard Way is a classic Loverboy bar room bogie number. Clear enough why it wasn’t featured on any album, but it’s a bit of fun.
You Play The Star could have been lifted from the band’s debut album such is its sound and style. Interesting track to hear for someone like myself that’s been a fan since day 1.
Crack Of The Whip is on ok closer, but nothing too special.
 
As a compilation it works. As an all-new studio album it doesn’t. But there’s some cool tracks on here that show the behind the scenes workings of the band over their long history.
The band has rarely disappointed and die-hards will find some gems here without doubt.
 
On reflection, I think these songs showcase a grittier side of the band that the powers that be perhaps chose to abandon in the past as the songs weren’t commercial enough in their appeal.
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Mon
21
Jul

NIGHT BY NIGHT - Night By Night (Review)

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BOTTOM LINE
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39 minutes long and not one second of wasted space. It’s all killer no filler for the Night By Night debut.
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SCORE
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94%
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TRACK LISTING
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Time To Escape
Holding Onto Holding On
Can't Walk Away
Everywhere Tonight
Siren
A Thousand Lies
It's Not faith
The Moment
If Only
Never Die Again
Produced By: 
Romesh Dodangoda & NxN
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Score: 
94
Label: 
Sun Hill Productions
British melodic rockers Night By Night have been hailed as the future of this aging genre and I’m here to back that claim and push it one step further – its vitally important to the longevity of the melodic music scene that we continue to welcome, nurture and promote awesome new talent like this or we may as well all give it up right now.
Night By Night prove that you can still write catchy, energetic and fresh melodic rock in 2014 and in doing so give some old rockers a kick in the pants as to what is expected that fans want today.
Not everyone wants nostalgia 24/7. But don’t think these guys are an all-new sound, they just take the old sensibilities and make it their own.
 
This is the best of old-school hooks and harmonies, driving guitars and anthemic catchy choruses, delivered with a fresh spunky attitude and a contemporary production sound.
And if you feel let down by the latest Tesla album, then this should fire a rocket up you! Vocalist Henry Rundell has an uncanny sound not far removed from Jeff Keith in his heyday.
Guiatrists Ben Christo and Tom Daniel guides the band through some cracking riffs and solos.
 
The production on here is simply fabulous – balanced mix and a crunchy sound. The album has been a long time coming and is well worth the wait.
If Time To Escape, Holding Onto Holding On and Can’t Walk Away don’t blow you away, the more melodic Everywhere Tonight will insert itself into your brain for days at a time.
If darker and heavier is what you want, Siren delivers, a hybrid of Tesla, Def Leppard and melodic Dokken.
Then there’s the glorious AOR of A Thousand Lies – perfect melodic rock here folks.
The Moment is another fast moving gem and the band saves one of their most urgent tracks for last – Never Die Again is a pounding guitar driven masterpiece.
 
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