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DARE
BELIEF

Legend Records
Produced by: Darren Wharton

Released: August 27 / Website
GENRE: AOR
OVERALL: 90%

  1. Silent Thunder
  2. Dreams On Fire
  3. White Horses (Lion Heart)
  4. Belief
  5. Run Wild Run Free
  6. We Were Friends
  7. Falling
  8. Where Will You Run To
  9. Take Me Away
  10. Promised Land
  11. Phoenix

A new Dare album is always quite an event and this one is no exception. Here it is - self produced by Darren Wharton after rebuilding his own home studio and recording the album over the period of 2 years.
This has been a tough CD to review. The main reason is that this is a different sound for Dare, also including somewhat different feel and approach and my job is to convey that accurately to the potential fans out there, so you get the right idea of what this album sounds like.
In Darren's own words this is a brave record. I agree. It takes some guts and conviction to do something a little different and hope that it effects the listener in the same way it did the writer.
What Dare have done is try to move the sound of the band to reach a new audience, while leaving enough of the band's classic sound to keep old fans happy.
I think he has mostly succeeded in that quest, as his voice and textures of this album aren't far from what we love about the band's classic AOR sound.
But I still expect the verdict on this release to be somewhat mixed.
Personally, I still find a lot to love about this record and will lap up anything Darren releases with pleasure. But those looking for a harder edge or a whole record of examples of the typical Dare sound may not be as impressed.
As I said, this is a somewhat different Dare record than previous albums.
This, says lead vocalist Darren Wharton, is the album he has wanted to make for years. This album is more stripped back and has an increased Celtic influence to the songs - they are more haunting, softer and more reflective.
It's also considerably more atmospheric, placing it in the same sort of league as Pink Floyd and their experimentation with rich textures and layers of synthesizers and keyboards. The line up for this album comprises of Darren Wharton (vocals and keyboards), Richard Dews (Acoustic and lead guitar), Andrew Moore (Electric Guitar) and Julian Gardner (Drums).
Adding to the diversity in sound is Steve Ricard on Lead guitar and bass, Sue Quin on vocals, Tricia Hutton on violin and Tommy Martin on Whistle and Pipe.
On Belief, there is a noticeable absence of any over the top guitar work. This album's melodies come from the vocals, keyboards and the additional musical influences.
This album isn't about those issues of guitars, big choruses and rousing anthems as much, but can't help but miss them on just a couple of occasions.
I would like to add that in it's favour, this album features the best and most emotionally passionate Darren Wharton vocals to date. Something about the stripped back production allows the raw emotion of his voice to be better portrayed and I like that aspect a lot.
The album opens on a familiar note - just as we like it - with a building intro that bursts into the moody multi-layered anthem Silent Thunder.
This is the rockiest song of the album and the song with the most familiar sound to the last and first Dare album. The layered harmonies and bridge to chorus structure will please long time fans no end.
Dreams On Fire is another gem of a track, in a much simpler, stripped back track in a soft Celtic pop ballad style. Celtic influences, such as the whistle and pipe mix throughout the track that has a soft foundation, with the strong lead vocal providing most of the melodic hooks of the song.
White Horses (Lion Heart) is another soft atmospheric ballad.
Again including regional influences, the likeable song is simple and flows easily from start to finish. Against the tradition of previous Dare releases, the song doesn't have any huge hooks and is generally fairly laid back.
The title track Belief starts as an almost acoustic track and builds, with some female backing vocals and a structure that doesn't offer a defined chorus. A powerful song, but personally I prefer some other tracks on the album to this one.
The soft, haunting intro to Run Wild Run Free suggests that something special will follow. It does....the passion in Darren's vocals is special. The guitar features more prominently here and although the chorus comes and goes fairly quickly, the harmonies and strength of the melodies make it and instant Dare classic.
This track features a great raw vocal.
We Were Friends heads straight back into a soft Celtic mode, with a long traditional introduction that would easily sound at home on a Mark Knofler record. The song itself is again very laid back, very softly spoken.
The song runs through a few stages and after a soft start, builds to a big finish - featuring female backing vocals.
Falling is another highlight. In fact, the multi-layered vocal harmonies make this track one of the album's standout tracks. It's a little more upbeat and certainly more layered. The track features a much stronger and more melodic vocal, plus several hooks and harmony layers for AOR fans to get excited about. Darren's vocal harmonies and melodies are out standing. He is one of only a few vocalists that can have such a strong impact on a song. That's probably why songs that don't feature such vocal acrobatics sound like they are missing something.
Where Will You Run To sounds similar to anything that could have been lifted from the Calm Before The Storm album. The song features more guitars and even a few solo's. A good more uptempo moody rock track that will be a favourite amongst old fans. It comes at a time where a couple of more uptempo tracks were needed in the album.
Take Me Away features a soft acoustic and electric guitar intro, closely followed by a soft Darren Wharton vocal. This is another track that flows quietly from start to finish in a quiet reflective manor, without any major hooks or a defined chorus. Another track that I find very likable, if not instantly.
The track finishes rather quickly on a very quiet note, which is exactly how Promised Land begins. There isn't a lot of difference between the songs - they are very familiar in style. Promised Land is a pace up in tempo and has a chorus that is a little more elaborate. Phoenix is a cool, reflective and slightly haunting track with soft acoustic guitars and a really smooth vocal track. It suits this album, although it has strains of classic Dare. A cool way to finish off an album.
BOTTOM LINE: Despite being a more diverse style than it's predecessors, this album is welcome in my CD collection.
As emotionally stirring as some of the tracks are on Belief, some listeners still may not get it. I hope they do.
The style of the album is so definite that I believe Darren's goal at the outset of this record - to make a softer, more reflective record - has been realized. The thing I am not sure of is whether the fans will be united behind the cause.
This record is definitely a mood music album. There are many moods for this album, but play it during a time of quiet reflection and relaxation and will definitely hit the spot.
PRODUCTION: 90% SONGS: 87% VIBE: 87%ATTITUDE: 95%
ESSENTIAL FOR: Al loyal and long time Dare and Darren Wharton fans, fans of Celtic pop rock.
DISCOGRAPHY:Out Of The Silence . Blood From Stone . Calm Before The Storm . Belief



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