|Sunstorm Sunstorm||Frontiers Records|
Joe Lynn Turner has forged a long and successful career playing classy blues driven hard rock. He has fronted Rainbow and Deep Purple and won worldwide acclaim.|
But the one album that kick started it all remains a fan favourite to this day. And that album wasn't a hard rock or a blues rock album. Joe's solo debut Rescue You was a glorious slice of pure melodic rock that showcased a side of JLT's voice we haven't heard a lot of over the years.
Beneath that gravelly authentic rock voice there is a smooth, soulful and totally commercial side to Joe that finally gets to shine again on Sunstorm.
Sunstorm is a project built around Joe and the decision to showcase his AOR voice in its best possible light – a return to the Rescue You album stylistically, yet with production values matching today's sonic demands.
Instead of putting pressure on Joe to write an album of new songs capturing an old vibe, the label worked through a song list of classic and unreleased AOR songs with Joe which both parties thought would best capture his melodic side and deliver fans a quality AOR release. Boy, did they get that right.
The songs chosen range from a few AOR classics, a few more obscure tracks and some unreleased songs from the desk of Jim Peterik (Survivor, Pride Of Lions, Kelly Keagy).
The songs selected are a very special set of songs.
But none of this would matter if those involved couldn't get the sound right. In steps Mr. Perfect - Dennis Ward. Dennis produces, adds backing vocals, bass plus additional guitars and keyboards. The man is a machine. Also featured are Uwe Reitenauer on lead guitars, Chris Schmidt on drums and Jochen Weyer on keyboards.
The powerhouse band adapt perfectly to the AOR material and add an extra dimension of power to Joe' delivery. The band also gives this release a slightly European feel, which is no problem at all for me, as frankly - the Europeans have kicked the USA's butt this year.
The album is utterly and totally melodic in that pure AOR sense and it retains an 80s soul, but the kick-ass band and tight production give it a quality that makes it contemporary enough to compete with the best releases of 2006.
And Joe Lynn Turner? Where does one start with the compliments? Basically he just sings his absolute bollocks off here and sounds like an angel driving a Leopard tank – demolishing these songs with the gusto of a 20 year old.
Track By Track:
Keep Tonight is a perfect opening track, an AOR guitar riff kicking off a track that is bathed in keyboards. True to the edict of the album, this is pure AOR with a 80s feel, but not an outdated 80s production. A catchy chorus and some ultra smooth vocals set the album up beautifully.
Fame And Fortune picks up the tempo a little more and continues the guitar/keyboard dual going. This is straight ahead melodic rock, performed perfectly.
Heart Over Mind is one of two classic tracks lifted from Van Stephenson's breakthrough AOR masterpiece Righteous Anger. This emotional and powerful ballad suits Joe to a tee and I have seldom heard him produce such a smooth, soulful and emotional lead vocal.
This Is My Heart picks up from the ballad brilliantly. This begins a powerful one-two punch of AOR gloriousness. This song remains subtle and mid-tempo through the pure AOR brilliance of the verse and bridge, until a more powerful rock chorus takes over.
Then there is the amazing Strength Over Time – a song full of heart and soul and most importantly – glorious AOR hooks! It just keeps building and building and Joe's vocals are so good that this song will be up there with the very best come the 2006 Awards.
The album needed a slight reprieve about now; otherwise emotional exhaustion might set in! Another You is the perfect foil. I don't even have to see the song credits to know this is a Jim Peterik tune. This is one of Jim's adult contemporary style numbers that doesn't have a feature chorus, but rather runs along a set melodic story path.
The best thing about this album is the song sequencing. When working with a selection of songs written by various outsiders, the biggest challenge is to place them into a sequence that sounds as if they were written for the one album. Dennis Ward does that perfectly here, so just when needed, a big rocker is delivered to get the album's momentum rolling again. That rocker is of course Van Stephenson's in your face anthem Fistful Of Heat.
Love's Gone Wrong pulls thing back one notch but keeps the album rocking. This is another perfect fit for the album and for Joe. A snappy guitar riff, melodic verse and bridge, then a punchy keyboard filled chorus. Quit simply – more glorious old school AOR!
Night Moves is a more straight forward melodic rocker with a heavier delivery and a tough rocking chorus.
Time to head back to some more glorious and classic AOR in the guise of Danger of Love. A mellow but very melodic verse kicks into a great AOR chorus with yet more astounding vocals from Joe.
Making Up For the Last Time is a mellower more sentimental mid-tempo ballad that fans of old school 80s AOR will love. The prefect love song for a summer movie soundtrack.
To close the album we get a song many will be familiar with. The Jim Peterik/David Carl ballad Arms Of Love. This is a nice sentimental way to close the album and again showcases a very fine and smooth vocal from Joe.
This album features a killer set of songs and some amazing performances. It is a real crowd pleaser for those that partake in this melodic music scene and even if you don't own a single JLT album – this might just make you aware of what a special vocalist he is. Sunstorm is my brand new favourite ever JLT release.
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