|Avalon Avalon: The Richie Zito Project||Frontiers Records|
Avalon in the name bestowed upon the new Richie Zito project. But this is a little different than what might normally be expected of the famed producer.
Avalon sees Zito return to his musician ways, playing guitar, bass, synth and even a mandolin, all the while producing the affair and writing the material.
Check the production credits for Zito, you will always see that he is a very hands-on guy – helping with the co-writing and adding additional instrumentation to the albums he works on.|
Here he gets to do it all, except sing. That's where AOR fans get a real bonus. Richie calls in all his friends from past projects and it is these singers that make the album what it is.
Zito is one of my favourite producers of all time. His work and his style are perfect to my taste. I don't think there is a more technically superior producer in the business and all his albums sound a million bucks! All except for this project! Yes, the one thing that confuses me most about Avalon is the occasionally questionable production quality.
One would think that Zito would have the ability and every desire to ensure something with his own name on it was as sonically perfect as his more famous work.
I think it all comes down to budget. Richie is used to working with major labels and major dollars. It is sad and unfortunately reality that there simply isn't the interest for an album like this outside these circles normally covered by this site.
So it all comes down to smaller budgets and smaller resources. That sad, the production really isn't that bad. It's just a little rough in places and across the album it does vary a little.
What exaggerates the problem is that the main two culprits are the opening track and track 3. The better produced songs are further back in the album. Plus, coming off a month of listening to Mike Slamer, just about anything is going to sound rough!
Track By Track:
Blue Collar opens the album in fine pure AOR style with a very smooth Hugo vocal up front. The production quality sounds a little rough to me, but the song is entirely enjoyable and features a very memorable and instant chorus.
Is He Better Than Me just adds more quality music to the great time vocalist Joe Lynn Turner is having these past few years. This is a great 80s sounding classic melodic rocker that starts slow but builds to a very commercial and catchy chorus. JLT sounds great as usual and the track itself is a perfect match to his own Sunstorm record.
Eddie Money makes the first of two appearances on Nightmare, but as much as I love Eddie, this track is very rough around the edges and I think it misses the mark somewhat. To jump to later within the album, it is on I Put My Life In Your Hands that everyone redeems themselves. This is a classic Eddie Money song and sounds like it could have been lifted directly off the brilliant Can't Hold Back record.
Jumping back to the middle of the album, Oh Samantha is a very fine AOR ballad featuring a finely tuned Joseph Williams. Great for JW fans.
Avalon is a moody, but uptempo AOR rocker featuring the always fantastic Danny Vaughn. Quite simply, this track is a must for all Vaughn fans.
Eric Martin contributes two lead vocals to the tracks of Avalon and he does not disappoint. The mid-tempo melodic rock anthem Life Got In The Way is a little rough as far as the sound quality, but brilliant for its melodic qualities.
Eric also closes the album with the very smooth pop ballad I Don't Want To Want You. Once again…essential for Martin fans.
Blue Monday again features Hugo, but alongside him is Giorgio Moroder. It's mainly Hugo here and the song is another fine uptempo melodic rocker.
The retro ballad Forever I Will has a touch of the blues and features Richie Kotzen. It is a little out of character from the rest of the album – such is Kotzen's distinct style and delivery.
At the end of the album we fine two amazing pure AOR tracks with the great Philip Bardowell on vocals. The another ballad Can't Forget You and the more straight forward Good Things Take Time are both very catchy and very memorable example of great AOR that mirror the sound of Bardowell's own solo album of last year.
The fine vocal performances and the satisfying sequencing of the songs makes for a very easy to listen to album and all in all, this is another must have for fans of traditional AOR.
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