Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Hugo's Voyage - Inception (Frontiers Music SRL)

For decades there has been a void. That void was created when Steve Perry negotiated his way out of Journey back in 1998. Perry made out like a bandit financially, but jilted fans were left at the rock and roll altar for the second time in a little more than 10 years' time. Journey was a band before Steve, and the conventional wisdom believed that the band could go on without him. 25 years and 3 lead singers later, the band continues, but has never recaptured the magic that was the Steve Perry era. The band has so far recorded 5 full length albums and contributed to the highly successful Armageddon Soundtrack. But Perry's absence from the band has left a gaping, sentimental hole. Each subsequent attempt to replace him has been an exercise in futility and pragmatism. Find someone who can hit the notes. Ironically, it's on again, off again drummer Deen Castronovo who might be the best imitation as a member of Neal Schon's offshoot band Journey Through Time. And as time marches on, it gets harder for current singer Arnel Pineda to maintain the legacy. Pineda now 56, has lost a lot of his doppelganger credentials. Early on he made fans forget about Steve Perry with enthusiasm and athleticism. But 15 years later it's wearing thin. And with the 74-year-old Perry constantly teasing the possibility of new music, some fans have become disenchanted with the whole Journey franchise. With that said, the band is still selling out large arenas despite not having the magic they once had. 

On the other hand, Hugo Valenti has been fooling audiences now for decades. His band Voyage is the top Journey tribute band in the world. And Hugo's vocal cords appear to be intact. At age 60, Valenti sounds more like the old Steve Perry than anyone else on the scene. Hugo employs every last one of Perry's vocal licks. The elongated notes moving from one key to another. The OH-EE-OH vocal exaggerations. It's patterned after Perry who borrowed it from Sam Cooke. It's something Pineda doesn't really do in the current Journey. 

Voyage was doing fine playing the old Journey classics to packed houses. But Hugo was inspired during the lockdowns. He began writing and the results are breathtaking. The melodies and production are classic Journey and even tap into solo Steve Perry material. Guitarist Robbie Hoffman is tasteful and complimentary to the legacy of Neal Schon. 

There are 12 songs on Inception, one of them an instrumental which is the title track to the album. There is also a Boston influence on this record as well. The first single, "Don't Wanna Live Without Your Love" is an instant classic. The keyboard intro alone is a showstopper. After a few songs, it feels like a Steve Perry album. Hugo's voice is so close it becomes part of your Perry consciousness. There are subtle differences, but nobody comes closer than Hugo. "I'll Be Around" has everything a fan of the early Perry years could want. An up-tempo instrumental flurry of layered guitars and melodic soloing at the end. It sounds like a lost track from Infinity. "Sound of a Broken Heart" feels like a leftover from Steve Perry's 1984 album Street Talk. Hugo understands that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. He does this again on the beautiful "In My Heart." The song is somewhat reminiscent of Journey's Still They Ride. Honestly there are so many reference points, that it's hard to cite them all. You will find your own. 

"Crazy What Love Can Do" has a groove much like that of Suzanne from Raised on Radio. The melodies are all nostalgic yet original. These are new music shoes with old soles on them. "September Love" is a pure power ballad with soaring lead vocals and harmonies. Drummer Dana Spellman adds a soulful backbeat to every last one of these songs. "The Voyage" is a tune named after the band (think Bad Company by Bad Company). It's a high flying, soulful mid-tempo rocker. Maybe even a tad progressive which might be a nod to Journey albums like Departure and Evolution. Legendary bassist Greg Smith handles the bottom end like a pro, cause well, he is one. His presence just adds more credibility to this project. Keyboardist Lance Miller has got his Jonathan Cain mojo kicking throughout. There are jazzy and classical references throughout. His work on the album's opening instrumental title track is brilliant. 

Inception is not bashful about its love for the 80's. A great example would be the lite rock favorite, "A Friend Like You" (featuring Ray Hermann from the band Chicago on saxophone). This is a radio programmers dream. The entire album. Hugo closes things out with the very personal and poignant "When Heaven Makes An Angel". Somewhat outside the Journey template, it makes for a nice ending to a perfect set of Steve Perry sounding music. It's all here. Even skeptics will embrace this as something that they've been missing all of these years. Better late than never. Inception is the best melodic rock album of 2023. It was badly needed at this point in rock music history. I'm thinking Steve Perry might even like it.

(album rating 10.0)

Friday, April 7, 2023

Revolution Saints - Eagle Flight (Album Review)

Revolution Saints are back with their long awaited 4th album called "Eagle Flight". In melodic rock circles this might be the most important release of 2023. Deen Castronovo returns as the relunctant, yet effective lead singer of a band that has undergone a complete overhaul. Guitarist Doug Aldrich has been replaced by the equally impressive Joel Hoekstra. And Jack Blades also left the band and has been replaced by Jeff Pilson. And with Hoekstra and Pilson on board, The Rev Saints are grittier and somewhat more dramatic and theatrical. Alessandro Del Vecchio returns as the producer, songwriter and visionary behind the franchise. 

The first single "Eagle Flight" builds in dramatic fashion, with Del Vecchio adding his classically trained keyboards to a soaring Castronovo who breaks from his Steve Perry imitations to be his own singer. The new approach pays dividends from the first notes. The title track could easily have been a mainstay on rock radio stations 35 years ago. Joel Hoekstra really helps change this band for the better. His style is more to the point but retains that guitar hero feel. "Talking Like Strangers" is a solid rocker as is the the more laid back "Need Each Other". The latter starts as a mid-tempo power ballad that kicks into overdrive. Deen is in great voice on this entire record. His current stint with Journey is keeping his vocal chords in fine working order. Of course the drumming throughout is impeccable and grounded. 

"Kids Will Be Kids" is another concise standout track. Del Vecchio adds his powerful background vocals to Castronovo's high tenor. The blend is quite impressive especially with a good pair of headphones on. "I'll Cry For You Tonight" is an airy orchestral arrangment that nears ballad status but Hoekstra and Pilson keep you occupied with their instrumental back and forth. The bridge into the guitar solo is classic. "Crime of The Century" is more reminscient of older Rev Saints with it's guitar growl intro and a somewhat melancholy hook. Deen's drums are front and center. 

"Set Yourself Free" is a guitar showcase for Hoekstra who builds and cranks the amps while Deen and Alessandro almost duet with both voices intertwined at certain moments. "Sacred" is a driving FM radio ready rocker that has a nice sonic sheen to it. In general this album is near perfect for radio airplay. "Once More" opens with an orchestral piano with both Deen and Alessandro vocalizing. The refrain is moody and Joel H makes good on some great guitar fills. "Save it All" is an uptempo high energy closer.

The vocal arrangements are going to prove to be very important for listeners on this record. These are top notch musicians. These are super well written songs. There is no low point on the record where you would fast forward to the next song. Deen Castronovo has found a new voice. Jeff Pilson is now in yet another rock band and sounds perfect there. And Joel Hoekstra makes a meaningful impact throughout. The big surprise is how Alessandro Del Vecchio is the unsung 4th man. He adds really impressive vocals and different keyboard sounds. You probably won't find a better melodic rock album in 2023. There's just too much talent here and the music is stubbornly catchy and polished. The Revolution Saints have taken flight with their Mach II lineup and the sky's the limit as to how far this new band will go.

Album Rating 9.8

Monday, March 13, 2023

The Ransom Brothers - Resurgence (Album Review)

Austin Texas is a hot bed for music these days. And in this particular case, the music is a combination of rock, red dirt country, southern rock, blues and pop. The Ransom Brothers defy catagories. They use fiddles and harmonicas. They play loud guitars and Hammond B-3s. These are guys who love to rock out and they are hard to define. "Jesus Dancing" is a an uptempo pseudo-religious romp that immediately unites the rockers and the outlaws. "East Side" switches gears to a more heartland rock sound that combines gospel and soul. The piano is yet another well played instrument in a wide arsenal. Lead Singer Sean McHargue establishes a rebellious tone as he belts out various well written lyrical musings. The song evolves into a melodic jam band, everything and the kitchen sink moment. "Baby Doll" and it's cold vocal intro is followed by more soulful singing and the merger of country, pop and R&B. "Guillotine" is mid-tempo rock radio material. Vocally brisk with a blazing fiddle and a robust crescendo of stringed instruments that build as the song progresses. "Back To Today" is more on the red dirt country side of things but still retains that multi-instrument richness. The hook is big like 90's country with an alternative rock flavor. "Charlene" rocks that harmonica and nurses a Dylan sized hangover. This band isn't just throwing tunes together hoping they work. These guys are serious. But there is a simplicity and humility in every song. This is where jam band meets country and southern rock. The results are one-of-a-kind. I could jam to this over and over again. By the way, Charlene is too old for this guy. "The Pot and The Kettle" melds southern rock with pop and gets more kudos for uniqueness and accessibility. Guitar solo included. "One Night In Charlotte" is old school country music that tells an epic story. Extended fiddles and acoustic guitars mingle for a more than ordinary torch burner. "Shut Up" forges various guitar forms into a southern rock anthem who's lyrics will zap your brain long after the last chord zings. "Fighting For Air" is a melodic southern rock meets classic country hook. Each song is both familiar sounding but original in its presentation. "Decatur" is an incredible ballad that accelerates into a mid-tempo rocker with all of the country and southern rock sensibilities still in place. The story is more than enough to get the attention of someone who still cares about well written songs. The fiddles and lead guitar play off each other recalling a time when this kind of music was mainstream on rock stations in the late 70's. "Black Flags" rounds out this incredible set as a last stand for outlaws looking for shelter. Guitars blazing. Vocals soaring. Volume knob busted off. Super big mention to fiddler John Thomas and drummer Austin Wilson. And the lead guitars of Daniel Solis. This band has the chops in addition to the authentic, hard to pigeon-hole sound. A monster work. 12 dangerously good format busting songs...

Album Rating 9.9

Thursday, January 26, 2023

First Night - Deep Connection (album review)

First Night is a band from Estonia. South of Sweden. West of Russia. Not a household place for melodic rock and tough to find on a map. But this power house band from Nordic land has mastered the art of melodic rock like few bands on the scene today. Rather then being overproduced or riddled with compression and mindless noises, FN thrives on simple, big ear candy production ideas. The result is a stunningly pure minimalist foray into the world of Def Leppard with strong hints of Toto and Survivor along with other 80's reference points. The material on this album is well written and instantly finds a place in your musical consciousness. 

"These Hearts" opens this extended set with an instant melodic punch and could easily be considered a hit song. The chorus is big, the production is lush, and those Mutt Lange references are all over the place. "Little Love" combines bright keyboard flourishes with a crystal clear acoustic guitar. It's a real power ballad that gets brighter and more meaningful with each listen. I kept going back to listen to this one over and over. "Beginning of The End" opens with a flashy keyboard riff coupled with upbeat guitar work. The pairing is present from start to finish. Rather then opt for the big wall of sound, instruments fall in and build as the songs progress. "Savage Heart" follows this formula perfectly and includes a great storyline. "It's Only Feeling" is a moody late night driving tune featuring a churning rhythm section and a blissfully sparse arrangement. 

Keyboard intros are so cool. And "Love Me" has one. But then it builds into a great mid-tempo runner filled with all of the earphone textures your ears can handle. The choruses are large and impactful as if the songs are actually really good, which they are. Songwriting and production. Not one or the other but both! "Don't Ever Say Goodbye" showcases the First Night vocal blend by employing an instant hook and a chorus that you will hear in your sleep. And lets not forget the perfect guitar solo at the end.  "Someone" is a made to order top 40 song from 1987. All of these melodies are original even if they cheerfully borrow from the  bands we grew up listening to. 

"Is Your Love Alive" sounds like Toto stole Def Leppard's musical aura and decided to make a song from it. The hook is relentlessly catchy and captures every great 80's stereotype. "Talk To Me" pilfers from Foreigner's "Waiting For A Girl Like You" mostly on atmospherics and tempo. All of this music is pleasantly derivative of other bands but still retains it's own identity.

"Suddenly" is slightly more pop oriented than most of the other songs, yet again it still retains the overall sound of this wonderful band. "Can't Forget" has a Journey Raised on Radio vibe with a punchy bassline and speaker filling keyboard flashes and those Def Leppard vocals. "In The Name of Love" starts with a long guitar intro that thoughtfully builds to the lyrics. When we get there we are totally ready for this epic song. 

By this point in the album, the band has added some real swagger to their musical footsteps. The hooks seem to get better. The choruses more memorable. I mean, wow! What an album! This is First Night's second album. Their first one was excellent. But the quality of material and musicianship here make "Deep Connection" an early contenter for melodic rock record of 2023. Just outstanding. Thirteen songs that will keep your ears happy and craving another listen. 

Album Rating 9.9

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Torben Enevoldsen - Transition (Album Review)

Gifted Ax-Man Torben Enevoldsen returns with another kick-ass instrumental guitar rock album. The content is mostly upbeat melodic jams with all kinds of twists and turns. With help from Pete Steincke on Bass and Dennis Hansen on drums. There are progressive and classical influences throughout this 10 track onslaught. There are no skip worthy tracks. 

The opener, "In Orbit" sets the tone for the rest of the material. Composing 10 unique and interesting melodies is not an easy task these days. Yet it all sounds fresh and engaging. "Backslide" is guitar fireworks as the same refrain is revisited multiple times in different ways. The chugging of the rhythm section is a perfect musical backdrop for the guitar expressions of a master painter. "Beyond The Sky" is jazz infused boogie that inclines to higher highs as it progresses. "Fool-Proof" is a lyrical jam that gets guitar nasty as it smears more paint on the canvas. "Out of The Ordinary" is a late night landscape of subdued soloing and fine wine atmospherics. 

"DNA" is the big Deep Purple meets Van Halen opus, riffing and improving to some musical memory of rock dinosaurs feasting on metal scraps from long ago. "DNA" feels like a radio song. "Home" is more subdued and even tranquil. The melody line begs for a lyric or an idea that the listener can grapple with. "Memories" combines a large hook with some persistent fills that all work in tandem. All the influences are there. Classical, jazz and metal. A swirling concoction of six string fury. 

"Bounce Back" is a road rage rocker that finds an open lane and hits the cruise control at 80. "Enough Said" is a culmination of everything with pent up guitar frustration and more twisting, turning and melting of internal soundboard components. A great way to leave the listener wanting more! 

Thankfully Torben has another album called 5.1 that you can rock out to with equal joy and excitement. This is some of the finest instrumental guitar rock on planet earth today. 

Album Rating 9.8

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Khymera - Hold Your Ground (Album Review) Frontiers Music Srl

Khymera first began as a melodic rock vehicle for former Kansas vocalist Steve Walsh. The project band began in 2005 and has continued off and on up until this most recent offering. Dennis Ward took over on vocals after Walsh departed the scene. Each one of the albums have had at least a handful of high quality, radio ready melodic rockers. American radio programmers have no interest in this type of music anymore. It's up to the diehard fans to spread the word when a new album drops. 

"Hold Your Ground" is a very focused project that will take the listener back to the 80's rock radio format. Ward's lead vocals are smooth and powerful. The material is as good as any of the prior releases. The first song from this collection "Don't Wait For Love" is a classic with a poweful drum sound and a first listen long lasting big impression. Next is the first single "Firestarter". It glides in loaded with passion and melodrama. There is a side to this music that is somewhat progressive and unpredicable. Michael Klein's guitar work is more gritty than the band's other offerings. The layered vocals, atmospheric choruses and big drum sound are all great workout mechanisms for a good quality stereo system. Veteran keyboardist Eric Ragno is consistently adding the perfect frosting for the Khymera cake. Dennis Ward's bass playing coupled with drummer Michael Kolar give the rythmn section some added punch. 

"Here Me Calling" is part power ballad and part heavier rocker. The twists and turns within the melody make this track and equal to the first single. These are well written songs both lyrically and musically. Klein's guitar solos are eloquent and to the point. Ragno's keyboard intro to "Sail On Forever" adds a hint of prog to a very memorable building hook. Ward's vocals might be his best ever for a Khymera project. It would be nice if these guys took this show on the road! "Our Love Is Killing Me" is a beautiful power ballad with an organic piano sound underneath a soaring Ward who really channels both Steve Perry and Joe Elliot. It's like Def Journey with a hint of Alias or Guiffria. 

"Hear What I'm Saying" rocks out with stellar guitar work that weaves in and out of a passionate vocal. Dennis Ward's higher notes are on par with Paul Stanley in his prime. "Believe In What You Want" feels like an instant hit single, if that is even possible these days. Choppy little guitar hooks and a solid bass line and the ideal chorus about that universal billion downloading idea - believing! "On The Edge" features Ragno's pallette of keyboard sounds and a galloping guitar from Klein. These guys take the melodic rock art form to new heights. Everything is tight and moves along without anything too self indulgent. 

"Could Have Been Us" is another radio caliber song with a cold start followed by a slew of guitar moves. The melody and the story of city hall is a bit of a curve ball lyrically. The background vocals are on point. "Runaway" begins with Ward's naked vocal and Klein's riff work. It evolves into another very unique sounding track that is like punky progressive melodic rock. "Am I Dreaming" rounds out this very impressive collection of songs with the same high quality hook making and songwriting. All of these tunes are FM rock radio bangers and deserve to be heard.

I've listened to all of the Khymera albums and I own two of them and this one is the best out of the bunch. This feels like next level Khymera. This album is a must have for 2023. 

(Album Rating 9.7)

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Tommy DeCarlo - Dancing In The Moonlight (Album Review)


I'm not sure what more people want from Tommy DeCarlo. He has successfully hoisted the Boston legacy on his back and is proudly reproducing the music that captivated fans worldwide back in the late 1970's and into the 80's. On his second foray into the world of new melodic rock, Tommy hits another grand slam with an album chock full of potential radio favorites. The problem for him is, will anybody hear it? Will any American radio stations latch on to this well produced set of legacy extending songs? The answer is likely no. It's up to the music explorers that cull through various streaming platforms to share this with their musical comrades.

The album's title track "Dancing In The Moonlight" sounds like a leftover from Boston's 2nd album "Don't Look Back. Decarlo and his team at Frontiers have mastered that vintage Beantown sound, especially the Tom Sholz aspects. The guitars instantly bring you back to that glorious point of entry, when the world's best debut album was made. And this happens song after song. Unlike Tommy's debut album, this latest work is an unabashed throwback to the Rockman guitar sound and those unforgettable hooks. The guitar break on "Change Our Fate" has that pattented Boston pause before the next onslaught of sonic wonder. It's all good because the songwriting is on par with anything Sholz and the late Brad Delp could come up with. "Beyond Forever" is a ballad that echoes "A Man I'll Never Be" from the mothership's sophomore album. Alessandro Del Vecchio's production is smart and minimalist. There is no attempt to reinvent something that already works perfectly. Some will say this is too derivative. I say this music provides closure and a happy place for those who still want to go there. 

The nostalgia continues on "Life Is Just A Game" where some extistential questions are addressed in that late 70's Boston style featuring an eerily accurate Sholzian guitar solo. "No Surrender" employs a shiny acoustic guitar line underneath DeCarlo's soaring tenor. This is Boston Next Generation. These songs never deviate from the formula which if you ask me is the perfect remedy for the dark fury that permeates mainstream radio culture. "The Game Is On" mentions wheels and engines and other reliable Boston metaphors. It's a tribute to everything we love about this music.  A swirling keyboard intro adorns "The Road Will Lead To You". As you listen you imagine this could have been that missing Boston album that should have been released between "Don't Look Back" and "Third Stage". DeCarlo has the advantage of being a fan with a deep understanding of how the originals came to be.  The guitar work of both David Julian and Martin Jepsen Andersen is both accurate and stunning. 

"In The Hands of Fate" might be the only song on this album that deviates slightly from pure nostalgia. It's a bit more progressive than the others but close enough to not be a sore thumb. "Find The Love" really has a Third Stage groove. Nicholas Papapicco finds his mojo on the cymbals and high hats and no doubt is a fan of that multi-platinum debut record. "Home To You" has an immediate big hook using both acoustic and electric guitars. The vibe is Boston and a dash of Foreigner and gets stronger as the chorus hits you like a home run at Fenway Park. "Spread Your Wings And Fly" starts slow and builds with a chorus of voices in the classic Boston power ballad format. This would be a candidate for my make believe radio station where only the best music is offered. "You and Me" is last call for dancing in Hyannis. Another gold nugget of songwriting goodness. Tommy is reaching for heaven and he's hoping this music doesn't fade away. 

This project is everything a Boston fan could want and more. A remarkable start to finish effort that puts it on par with any of the Boston albums. Nobody in the rock media will tell you this. Nobody in the rock media will even review this or cover it's release. Classic rock stations won't find the testicular fortitude to feature any of these songs next to the classic works that inspired them. The question is: If a Boston song falls in the forest is there anyone there to hear it? For those who seek, they will find the music we all grew up with.

Album Rating 10.0


Saturday, November 12, 2022

Streetlore - Streetlore (Album Review) Art of Melody Music Italy

Here in the United States we have no idea how much of our old music is being replicated in other countries nowadays. The music of the 70s, 80s and early 90s. There are bands from Europe that love that sound that we ditched back in 1992. Grunge made melody and harmony and big choruses cheesy and a thing to be ridiculed. 

Streetlore assembles the best musicians in Italy to create an epic melodic rock masterpiece. The definitive lineup includes Terry Brock, Jesus Espin, Sue Willets, Dion Bayman, Davide Barbieri, Eric Concas, Stefano Lionetti,  Mario Percudani, Josh Zighetti,  David Geraldino, Satin and Marcello Spera. It's a who's who of melodic Italian rock. It packs a lot of punch yet doesn't sound too much like any one artist from the past. There are influences for sure. 

A great example would be the song "Crossroad" with its exceptional vocals and chorus. The layered background vocals and the classical guitar work set this on it's own path. "Storm" is somewhat like Journey or Night Ranger in tone with some strong keyboard parts and high tenor vocals. The song gets better with each spin. "Friends In Time" sounds like a rock radio hit single. The vocals are clean and the music flows with a punchy guitars and smooth keyboard parts. It's a great rocker with pop tendencies. One of the album's best songs.

"Aeglos" is a big majestic power ballad with orchestral touches and superb drumming. And the guitar solo is absolutely stunning. "Only Wounds Remain" has a great mid-tempo groove that has some pleasant chord progressions. The vocals really kick in with multiple voices blending beautifully. "Shelter From The Rain" features a female vocalist. She reminds me a bit of Grace Slick in Starship. The song is brimming with emotion and combines some traditional American flavor with old school 80's melodic rock tendencies. And classical instrumentation prior to another stellar guitar solo. So far this album is pulling out all the stops. Excellent special guests and great songwriting. 

"Weaker Than Before" is another steady, straight forward rocker with catchy hooks and vocals coming at you from all sides. There are many hit singles to choose from. People just need to hear this. "Shadows and Lies" is another female vocal part in the spirit of Bonnie Tyler. The music is delicate and then powerful as the tune goes full speed. There are classical tendencies big time here and throughout this project. "Gone" is a rocker that ends the album and does so with guitars and drums blazing. Another monster hook and chorus. 

All very satisfying and thoroughly professional melodic rock songs. In the end the Italians are laser focused on melodic rock like America was in the 1980s. Their passion for the genre really comes to life on Streetlore. It's a winner from beginning to end with no filler songs. Just well executed melodic bliss.

Album Rating 9.6

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Decoy - Without Warning (Album Review) via Perris Records

Decoy is a Swedish-Danish collaboration between two melodic rock veterans. Guitarist Torben Enevoldsen, who helped make Jerome Mazza a household name on the first Pinnacle Point album. And singer Peter Sundell from the band C.O.P. and formerly of Grand Illusion. This new collection of songs also features Pete Steincke on bass and Acacia Avenue's Dennis Hansen on drums. The music on this album really falls into the 80's progressive metal category. There are bits and pieces of bands like TNT and Judas Priest. Sundell's vocal range is fairly impressive. Enevoldsen's guitar work is a cross between Joe Satriani and Tony Hernando. Torben is both melodic and fast which makes this music speed along like a freight train. The album features 11 above average offerings. Decoy is not a pop band, they are a progressive band more than anything else.

"Broken Pride" is a muscular leadoff track with some radio tuning sound effects at the outset. The vocals are double tracked and really fill the speakers. It's a big and somewhat repetitive formula. But for fans of the genre, this is a well produced rock album that will require multiple listens to really get the brunt of it. Dennis Hansen is a force on drums. His work has to keep pace with this material, which doesn't slow down. "In And Out Of Love" and "Fire's Gone" lean a bit to the AOR-hard rock sound but still feel somewhat mystical and progressive. Decoy might be more like TNT than anything else but the guitar work elevates it to something less predictable. 

Other standout tracks include "Never Easy", which slows things down slightly, "Reach Out", with it's smoldering guitar licks and the all out blitz of "Without Warning". I also liked the chord progressions in "We Live, We Learn". This record is a very respectable under-the-radar entry into the world of melodic rock. The musicians and their love for this genre is the driving force behind "Without Warning". 

Album Rating 9.1

Monday, November 7, 2022

Satin - Appetition (Album Review)

Satin is a Scandanavian vocalist who has been on the melodic rock scene since 2014. Here in the states it's almost impossible to get information about some of these up and coming artists from this region of the world. And Satin hasn't released an album in 5 years. But for those who crave singable melodic rock with gigantic hooks and fluent guitar solos, this might be the best album of 2022. What sets this collection apart is the level of quality songwriting and minimalist arrangements. Thus the listener can hear the lush background vocals and the layers of keyboards and guitars. 

Right out of the gate "Going Your Way" grabs your attention with a vocal intro followed by a melody that is upbeat and captivating. "Angels Come, Angels Go" is a classic semi-power ballad with real piano coupled with an echoey vocal effect and complimentary electric guitar fills. This music is like candy compared to some of the darker minor key flavored melodic rock of today's scene. "Waiting For Another Man" has a nice flow to it with interesting chord changes that never borrow from something you've heard before. The guitar solo on this one is particularly impressive.

"Everybody Needs To Be Loved" opens with an enormous hook and never lets up. Satin subscribes to the school of memorable intros, guitar solos and cold fade outs. This would have fit nicely on a rock or top-40 station in 1989. Again, the guitar solo is totally effective. Satin's vocals are friendly and accessible throughout. He doesn't seem to be angry or hold a grudge against the world. This is music for music's sake. "A Dream Coming True" marks off the power ballad box with clean, rich instrumentation. The bass and drums are right up front. And the chorus soars big. The acoustic guitar parts are a bit overzealous which adds to the bigness of the melody. This is Bon Jovi but better! Satin fuses a lite AOR sound with a more robust orchestral influence. It must have taken 5 years to flesh out all these ideas and create these memorable songs.

"Looking At You" is a sugary 80's rocker. The drums establish a great beat and tempo and Satin lays down an almost funky vocal lick. It's part west coast rock with a bit more gusto. Think Toto when they rock out a bit. The guitars and keyboards compete for your headphone attention. The sugar rush is totally welcome. The a cappella ending is classic. "Pearly Gates" establishes another massive hook which has you bobbing and rocking. In fact there is a bop quotient if that is a thing, that runs through the more uptempo songs on Appetition. As I listen to this album I think back to that legendary pop rock band Diesel who had a similar album called "Watts In A Tank". It was song after song of super creative music. And this record has a similar feeling to it. 

"Jenny (I'm Bringing You Down)" starts as a sparse ballad that employs more orchestral effects before transitioning to an upbeat rocker. Satin's vocals adapt nicely to the mood swing. It's a curve ball that ends up being another home run. There's even some Brian May-ish guitar work on the solo. As good as all the songs have been thus far, as a former radio guy, I'd pick "Still Waiting" with it's stellar keyboard flourishes and it's solid rhythm guitar work. It just chugs along like a song trying to push other songs out of the way. The guitar solo outros like guitar solos used to do back in the day. "Fight Again" begins like a  hair metal glam rock track. It then gravitates between pop and metal and again like every song on this record makes a powerful melodic statement. 

Few albums deliver at this level. The melodies are just better. In fact these are 10 perfect songs. No album has gotten a 10 this year until now. Satin has created a melodic rock masterpiece for the ages.

Album Rating 10.0

Thursday, October 20, 2022

GRAND - GRAND (Album Review)

GRAND is a new band from Stockholm Sweden. There is so much great music coming from Sweden these days. Mattias Olofsson handles lead vocals and is a pure tenor that can hit any high note he wants to. Jacob Svensson handles both lead and bass guitar as well as keyboards and backing vocals. Anton Martinez Matz plays drums and some bass as well. The sound of this band is pure 80's at the decade's most decadent period. Big syrapy keyboards and flamboyant choruses and instantly catchy hooks. It's a cross between Cutting Crew and Toto. These guys have a hardcore pop side to their music. It's actually really refreshing. It doesn't take more than few listens to be fully vested in this terrific upstart band.

"Caroline" is one of the best songs of 2022. It's lilting intro is followed by a slow but steady climb to a mountain of melody that creates an earworm that won't go away. Svensson's guitar fills and leads are tasteful, classy and loaded with texture. Olofsson soars on vocals to places that are typically reserved for classically trained singers. In a better time where great art was once respected, this song would be all over radio. It's too good to ignore. "Stone Cold" is the perfect 1988 top 40 radio tune with smart chord changes and lyrics that tell the story of non-responsive love. The song has a sweet ending on the chorus. These guys are just different. There's more evidence of their uniqueness on "Make It Grand" with it's Bon Jovi-lite sing-a-long hook while still maintaining the Grand scheme of things. 

"The Price We Pay" is a smooth west coast track that delicately ebbs and flows but with all the sticking power of anything else on this album. "Johnny On The Spot" kicks the rock up a few notches while retaining all of the glossy 80's goodness that makes this such a standout collection. High notes abound as Mattias is on the spot! "Those Were The Days" is a superb mid-tempo song that rides along the Pacific Coast Highway with bands like Toto and Sonic Station. The chorus rings out yet again. This band has no shortage of excellent songwriting moments. And all of the guitar breaks are ear candy. 

"Once In A Blue Moon" is an airy, gliding pop song with lush keyboards and guitar work that rides shotgun with the melody. You could fall in love with any of these songs. "Too Late" alternates between smooth and choppy late night hooks. A bit like Mike and The Mechanics or Mr. Mister. "After We Said Goodbye" begins with an 80's syn-drum. It will make you smile, because there is no mistaking this sound for any other decade. The song itself is a bit meloncholy but then transitions to a more triumphant melody. "Ready When You Are" is a stripped down rocker with more guitars and less keyboards. It's more early 80's than the other tracks but is still very effective in it's approach. It almost sounds Pat Benatar-ish. "Anything For You" is a beautiful ballad in the tradition of Alias or REO Speedwagon. It's a big and satisfying way to wrap up this 11 song album. 

This is such a well written and arranged bunch of songs that you'll be hitting repeat play over and over. The vocal parts are lush and clean. The production is smooth and precise. There aren't records being made like this one anymore. GRAND hits a grand slam with their debut. This is just awesome music that echoes a time when life was better and the world made sense.

Album Rating 9.9

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Killer Kings - Burn For Love (Album Review)

Killer Kings is a new band featuring guitarist Tristan Avakian, who has over the years been in the orbit of the great Brian May. Vocalist Gregory Lynn Hall is a seasoned AOR rock veteran who was pounding the pavement in Los Angeles back in the 1980s. The name Killer Kings might be a nod to Queen's Killer Queen. Many of the guitar solos will take you back to that classic Brian May style. Hall adds a David Coverdale element to the band. And stylistically it comes off as part Journey, part Whitesnake with a touch of Foreigner and Queen.

An absolute juggernaut of melodic rock greatness. This thing hits like a ton of bricks from the very first rockin' note. If you want the genre to continue, you put this on the radio. Songs one and two are both made for radio singles that instantly solve a 30 year old dilemma. "Burn For Love" with it's Vandenburg acoustic intro and it's sweeping proggy-melodic imprint is a joy for rock fans looking for some meat and a sweet side dish. Gregory Lynn Hall's smoky and seasoned vocal is the perfit fit for these well written melodies. Tristan's guitars will not only fill out those speakers, they will twist, turn and solo with reckless joy. The sound is big and impressionable. 

"I Will Be Stronger" puts the guitar hook right in your face. This is rock radio material if the rock radio era still existed. "Higher" harkens back to the great band Guiffria with a lot of Whitesnake's most accessible top 40 moments. It soars and rocks and feels like an instant radio favorite. The chorus contains enough feeling for one entire album. "In A Different World" mixes in a lot of that Queen guitar sound while the keyboards end up segueing into a wonderful bold lyrical word-guitar cacophony. It's such a forceful song. "Another Night, Another Fight" is a 6 minute opus combining elements of late 70's progressive rock with 80's melodic rock. Like all this material, there is a grandness to it. These are all playable album cuts that you could play on an 80's FM rock station. "Phoenix" is a "killer" battle between guitars, keyboards and vocals. And each instrument comes though without the heavy handed modern production that often plagues newer releases. 

"Two Ships" is a a power ballad that Alias and Mr. Big would have written if they were a couple back in the 80's. The guitars really kick in during the chorus making this more glam than west coast rock. "Losing Me" jumps out of the gate with elements of pop and hard rock and is super convincing in both areas. 

The quality of songwriting is really something to behold on this record. "Do Or Die" is a hard rocking MSG sounding track with vocals, drums and guitars blazing. "The Plains of Yesterday" is another keyboard drenched rocker with more powerhouse vocals and a groovy bass line. "Ain't No End in Sight" is almost a power ballad. It rocks out, but those keyboard parts bring everything back to the glory days of melodic rock.  

In summary, what an amazing album. The powerful singing. The incredible songwriting. Let's not forget Alessandro Del Vecchio who did the production on this one. He really brought out all of those textures from so many influences. This collection will engage you from start to finish and proves that this kind of music can still be creative and relevant. The Killer Kings are Killer.

Album Rating 9.9

Friday, September 16, 2022

Chez Kane - Powerzone (Album Review)

British bombshell Chez Kane returns to the world of melodic rock with her second album, Powerzone. Her self titled debut album was considered to be the best melodic record of 2020 by many commentators and reviewers. This blog and my YouTube channel celebrated that album as a return to form for a genre that, over the years, has nearly faded into obscurity. This new collection of songs avoids the sophomore slump that often happens when expections are set so high.

Returning to the mix is Crazy Lixx mastermind, Danny Rexon. Danny has this uncanny ability to meld the classic hair metal sound of the 80's with classic rock influences from prior decades. It is unapologetic in it's throwback nature. That's what sets this apart from other projects where a more modern approach is taken. 

The album's opening track, the instantly grand "I Just Want You" is almost Jim Steinman in it's big production and whopping chorus. Kane's lead vocals are classy and gritty and of course will take you back to the days of Vixen or Lita Ford. "(The Things We Do) When We're Young And In Love" pulls a bit of mojo from 60's girl groups and melds it with an 80's top 40 vibe. Danny Rexon plays every instrument and is clearly a jack of all trades. It's actually quite remarkable how cohesive and well put together these songs are. It's surprising that Rexon hasn't been asked to replicate this sound for other artists.

"Rock You Up" is a big beat Def Leppard banger with the perfect 80's lyrical footprint.  "Love Gone Wild" is another straight forward runner with Chez singing some precise high notes, a bit like a young Pat Benatar.  And who doesn't love a well placed saxophone (played by Jesse Molloy)? This adds an Eddie Money dimension to things and is a welcome addition to the instrumentation. "Children of Tomorrow Gone" is an epic mix of big synth, driving guitars (plus a killer guitar solo) and another huge, memorable chorus. Chez's confidence can be felt in the way she delivers the goods, track after track. 

"Powerzone" is a breathless rocker with a pounding beat and a swirling guitar solo that goes off on some really nice tangents. "I'm Ready (For Your Love)" is a sassy track that has a bluesy thing going on. Maybe like Alannah Myles on steroids but with all of the Aqua Net that makes this album stand out. "Nationwide" is the poised to be a hit single. It talks about how Chez is not yet an international superstar, but how she thinks she's doing alright. And quite clearly she is. It's another big hook with a clarion call to watch out, she's going nationwide. The message is perfect. The song is perfect. You go Chez! "Streets of Gold" has a working class vibe like Bad Company's "Shooting Star" or maybe "Livin' On A Prayer" by Bon Jovi. It's basically an old school storyteller ballad. It's awesome. "Guilty of Love"ends the album as an 8 minute opus with an extended guitar break at the end and with all the rock radio mojo of 1988. And it competes for best song on the record, thus maybe saving the best for last. 

Rexon and Kane have delivered a melodic rock masterpiece. There are no songs that let you down. There is nothing that would make you skip to the next song. This fills a void that needs filling. The music industry is so stale and predictable. But this record gives me hope that Chez Kane and Danny Rexon can revive a musical style that could even impact radio here in the United States. If the Frontiers label wanted to make waves, they would call radio stations right now, and get this thing on the air. For the rest of us gold miners, here it is. The best example of melodic rock for 2022.

Album Rating 9.9