|Survivor Reach||Frontiers Records|
There will be certain euphoria from a large section of the Survivor fan base that this album has finally seen the light of day.|
I'm sure that euphoria will see some amazing adjectives bandied about to describe the album's brilliance. Once the fanfare has resided, a more realistic evaluation of the album might be possible. Having lived with this album for several weeks now, I think I can offer a balanced review.
It really should be no surprise that Reach has a different vibe than the bands past work and their last studio album Too Hot To Sleep. After all, that album came some 18 years ago and I think since then the band has grown and matured into a new found comfort that is reflected on this album.
Survivor fans have grown up too and I think there will definitely be some that find this album a perfect fit for them in this day and age.
I also think that there will be another section of fans that think the band has lost their rock edge and find this album a little too mellow overall. Personally I think this is a mood record. If the record fits the mood of the listener at the time, then it has a great deal to offer.
For the most part, I don't think Reach has the same vibe as past Survivor records. This is something new. I think it requires a slight change of outlook by the listener to get the most out of it. If you are looking to rock, then perhaps this is not the right record for the moment.
Reach finds Survivor in a mellower mood and a lot more reflective. It is a different mood than past records and sees the band trying a couple of new tricks, such as allowing guitarist Frankie Sullivan a chance at lead vocals and featuring acoustic guitars more prominently than I can ever recall.
I think the material featured on the record is largely pretty good and will keep Survivor fans happy, but I do think there are a couple of key areas that if changed, could have made an even better record.
A couple of things don't go Survivor's way here. The songs themselves are mostly impressive and stand up in their own right. But put them together in the scheme of an album and the similarities in mid-tempo pacing becomes obvious and I also don't think the track sequencing is quite right.
Also going against the guys here is the fact they have one of the strongest back catalogue's in melodic rock history. I say that as a huge compliment, but at the same time, how many artists could really satisfy the demand and expectation for a new album after an 18 year wait, given the strength of past records?
A near impossible task for just about any band, but the guys put in their best effort.
Track By Track:
Reach sets the album up for a flying start - a mid-tempo melodic rocker with a classic Survivor verse which sees the great Jimi Jamison controlling the song's melody with his voice. The chorus is instantly memorable, but I could imagine it flying just a little higher had there been more backing vocals. A nice balance of keyboards and acoustic and electric guitars drives the song.
Fire Makes Steel sees Frankie switch to a harder edge guitar sound and a darker overall mood. This is one of the more famous Survivor cuts from the early 90s sessions.
It has aged pretty well and fits in fine here, offering a flurry of guitars and another strong chorus.
Nevertheless changes the tempo yet again – this time back to the same vibe as the opening track, but rather with Frankie Sullivan on lead vocal.
Frankie's voice isn't as strong as Jimi's and is perhaps an octave higher. The song itself is very pleasant. Easy on the ears, strong chorus and a nice melodic hook. I'm not sure however, that its position within the album is quite right and I would have dropped it down a couple of places.
Jimi returns for what is the first of two very strong ballads. Seconds Away isn't a typical Survivor power ballad and nor is the track that follows One More Chance.
Both are sultry and moody ballads with strong sentimental lyrics and emotional vocals.
Jimi's voice alters a little here – I think he has concentrated on capturing the emotional aspect of the song rather than perfecting a usually smooth vocal. While rough around the edges, One More Chance certainly gets my attention as a very fine ballad.
For the first few listens I classed the next track Gimmie The Word as another slow track. And while the album could have definitely benefited from a more uptemo number in this slot, the track itself isn't a ballad. Rather, it is a subtle rocker with a strong lead guitar presence, but a restrained tempo and a dark and moody vibe. Keyboards are right back in the mix and Jimi's voice is again raspier and less polished than we have come to expect from him.
The Rhythm Of Your Heart is probably my biggest disappointment of the album. It's a fine ballad in itself, but what we really needed at this point was a big rocker and let's be honest – how many people out there already have this track in demo form?
Coming from Jimi's own solo album sessions in 1999, the track is ok, but if it wasn't considered for Jimi's Empires album – why now?
At this point I am really hanging for a rocker, but it doesn't come in an expected form. Rather I Don't represents how Survivor has changed in 2006.
This track could have been a hard rocker with an anthem chorus, but instead it is driven by a flurry of acoustic guitars – which do sound impressive – along with a more restrained and moody vocal. The chorus and tempo rise, but not as far as they might have done on the past. It's as if the band keep a lid on things going too over the top. They should have let things go some more.
Half Of My Heart is yet another ballad. This time it's a mid-tempo pop ballad and again signifies a mellower new approach from the band. A fine ballad with some soulful guitar playing, I do think some of the impact is lost due to the amount of ballads featured.
Talkin' 'Bout Love is the surprise of the album for me. This track typifies everything I love about Survivor – a nice uptempo pace, a melodic verse, bridge then a monster chorus with some big harmony vocals.
The twist here is that it's Frankie Sullivan on lead vocals. This blows his earlier track away and really is a much needed boost of adrenalin for the record. A couple more tracks like this and the opening track would have made a world of difference for those missing the old days.
Don't Give Up keeps the tempo moving, which is a definite plus. Jimi's back in control and delivers a good vocal. The chorus may not be as instant as the last song or the title track, but it does offer a taste of classic style Survivor.
Home closes out the album and yes, it's another very slow song. Home is a sentimental track without a big chorus, rather Jimi Jamison's vocal and Frankie Sullivan's lead guitar to guide the track through its paces. To be honest, I think I'll end the album with Don't Give Up on most listens.
The production style is different, the hard rock edge is not there and the music isn't as polished as in the past. I know some fans will miss these elements. Personally, I could live with all of this a little easier if I could have had two extra uptempo tracks in place of 2 ballads.
But for something a little more reflective, Reach certainly offers some soulful melodic rock.
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