|Norway Rising Up From The Ashes||MTM Music|
You have to wonder at what point will labels start listening to people complaining about production quality and actually do something about it.|
Sure, you can blame the artist, but many of these guys are doing this just for the love of it and have no budget. No one's getting rich of this scene, that's for sure.
So take Norway for example – they have a great set of classic AOR songs on offer, but no money. Getting a deal for this album was hard enough for the guys, but getting any money was to prove impossible. Sadly no label wanted to invest in a budget to record this album to a better standard, so what fans are left with is what the band could afford itself through its own record-it-when-you-can-afford-it process.
It's a vicious circle – the sales for releases of a pure 80s AOR nature just aren't there, so no one invests the big money any more. But perhaps those sales aren't there now because the quality just hasn't been consistent enough in recent years??
Back to the case in hand. Norway are a great New York area American AOR outfit that burst onto the scene with an instant cult-classic indie release Night Dreams back in the late 90s. Their label debut was titled Arrival - another example of pure American AOR - but since that release in 2000 it has been all quiet from the guys.
A slightly revised line-up started work on this album a couple of years ago and completed mid-last year.
Finally it is released and fans of the band can add to their collection another 9 tracks of pure AOR brilliance that are sure to stand alongside the rest of the band's output with pride.
But I have spoken about production quality in general as this album definitely suffers from a lack of it. I know the guys did their best and there is no keeping a strong set of songs down, but the fact remains that this is not as good as it should or could have been because the sound quality lets thing down.
Whether you can see past that is an individual thing – I'd certainly recommend taking a good listen to this if you are a fan of 80s AOR, as the songs are tremendous.
But the hollow and flat production quality takes the shine off to some point.
To the songs themselves, all 9 tracks are as loyal to old-school AOR as you'll find in this day and age.
The vocal performances and the harmonies are right where you'd expect them to be and the guitar playing and soloing from Jim Santos is something special indeed.
Highlights for me include the mid-tempo balladry of Anything At All, which is followed perfectly with more sentimental stuff in the form of Only One I Need.
American Girl is classic 80s AOR at its very Journey best. Or its very Hugo best! At times I thought vocalist Dave Baldwin was channeling the spirit of Hugo through the speakers.
Tell Me is pure AOR brilliance and the backing vocals only make it better. Production qualities can be somewhat forgotten and the songs enjoyed for what it is.
The only song I don't go for here is the 7 minute plus Haunted, which goes along a little too long for me, the song starts to repeat itself after just half that time.
The songs rule – the production doesn't. Fans of Norway won't need any convincing, but the rest of you out there might. Give it a listen and see if the songs can't win you over also.
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