Ordinary Just Won't Do
Grand Illusion are back for album number 5, their 3rd under the Grand Illusion moniker. The guys have built a strong following amongst melodic rock fans, especially those partial to the old school of pompous songwriting along the lines of Styx and classic era Magnum. The boys always seem able to find an extra layer or two to add to any situation, not to mention the over the top vocals and layered harmonies. Blissful stuff!|
Their last album View From The Top was about as fine an example of modern pomp that you will find and I remain highly fond of it.
Ordinary Just Won't Do signals a slight change. This is a heavier record - a more deliberate attempt to toughen up their image and in line with that sentiment, has a somewhat different sound.
This is a far more guitar driven album and the vocals are also more direct and, at times, raw.
The band's over the top songwriting style shines through naturally, as does their trademark layered harmony vocals, which are always a joy to listen to.
However I think the band don't sound as natural on some of these songs. They are trying to be heavier than they have to be. View From The Top was a far more natural album and the mix of lush keyboards and guitars was better balanced. This album is still fabulous – the songs are still great and I remain a major fan. But I don't feel as big a connection to this as I did the last one. It's better produced and more consistent than The Book Of How To Make It, but as stated, not quite the progression needed from View From The Top.
Track By Track:
Devil's Advocate is a fitting opener which sets the tone for the album as a whole. It's taken a few listens to fully appreciate – like much othe album – but the track is an gem for pomp / hard rock lovers. Strong backing vocals and a great chorus are matched by a moody verse. The screaming vocals of Peter Sundell took some getting used to on this track – he's really singing at an amazing volume.
The Best Is Yet To Come is a little more relaxed, but comes with even more harmony vocals and even more layers of lush AOR.
Gone For Good sees the pace slowed down for the initial verse. From there the rest of the band kicks in and the pace picks up. I like this track; it's a little different – which basically describes Grand Illusion as a whole! The intensity builds and as we approach the last chorus vocalist Sundell appears to be close to losing his lung – he is really pumping out those vocals!
Heaven Or Hell is the album's first ballad. It's a glorious song with layers of vocals and melodies which like the last track intensifies as the track progresses.
New Beginning follows the ballad nicely – it's a pop/rock track with an easy going feel, which works in nicely with the ballad.
1982 features some tasty 80's synth as an intro before a very poppy beat kicks in and gets faster and faster. The chorus is frantic, filled with more harmonies, but never is the track overly heavy.
Love Lies Buried kicks off with an acoustic guitar solo before rocking out like crazy. This is the stuff Metallica are made of! Ok, not quite, but this is the heaviest track in GI's career to date. It rocks along nicely with a healthy drenching of organ as additional musical accompaniment. Not the best chorus of the album, but the styling guitar work and the sheer energy of the track make it a winner – even if it might be a bit too heavy in comparison to the band's traditional style.
Back To Yesterday is one of my favourites of the album. A dark and moody track, with a thicker sound and very simple, but memorable chorus. This is what the band do best!
Pull You Down continues the trend of the last track and is another highlight. This to me is the band being their natural self – pompous, over the top vocals, layers of harmonies, hooks everywhere and a real classic pomp rock vibe.
And This Is Why continues the high quality second half of the album. This is a dark and moody ballad with touches of Neal Schon guitar work over a Styx-like orchestral style pomp ballad.
When You Were Mine is another great tune. This mid-tempo pop/rocker has a big 80's vibe thanks to the keyboard sound and another very good chorus – not to mention some more over the top vocals.
On Time is a great finish to the album – a simple, very melodic feel good AOR track, with a great chorus and some fine guitar work.
The guys should not second guess themselves and their talents and should just let things flow more naturally. One of the great pomp rock band of this genre and the best parts of this album further proves that.
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