Reviews

This is the area where we review records. Our ratings are from 1-10, in which 10 are the highest. Even if these reviews are shorter than those in the “In spotlight”, it doesn’t mean we care less of them, or have heard them less than the longer reviews.

10: A Master Piece / a future classic
9: Superb, near perfect
8: Great
7: Very good
6: Good
5: Average
4: Below par
3: Poor
2: Very poor
1: Miserable

POL Pride Of Lions – Fearless
This review is about a month late, and that depends on only one thing… I simply had to let it grow, as it wasn’t that usual WOW-feeling when it comes to Pride Of Lions. Although most ingredients are there (world class musicians, Jim Peterik, Toby Hitchcock’s fantastic voice, the production), there’s still something missing here. The groups first 2 records are still way ahead of anything they have done after that, and I can only see that it comes to the songwriting, the songs are simply not there qualitywise. Peterik is a house-GOD for me, but not even he can come up with songs that knocks me nowadays.
With that said this record is by no means weak not even close, it’s just not what I hoped for, after all it’s a Pride Of Lions-record. We have a few superb songs here of course. The title track is a great uptempo song, The Tell is another highlight for me. Peterik is known to be the master of ballads, which he shows once again with the magnificent Everlasting Love.
Toby Hitchcock has one of the best voices in the business today, but I would prefer if he sings “all” songs, at least most of them, which he doesn’t. In all, this is a great record which You shall buy if You like the previous records or Survivor.
Rating: 7,5/10
Musicians:
Jim Peterik (vo, gu, key)
Toby Hitchcock (vo)
Mike Aquino (gu)
Ed Breckenfeld (dr)
Klem Hayes (ba)
Christian Cullen (key)

 


SAW Santa Ana Winds – s/t
First of all, it’s strange to write this review as singer David Saylor passed away just a day ago, R.I.P. AOR Blvd. Records new release is a great project with 3 different singers, David Saylor (Wild Rose, Push, solo), Brad Henshaw (Road Kings), and newbie Rebecca Owen. It’s a record with songs already done by other artists, like Sad Cafe, Stan Bush, Outside Edge, Janet Minto and more. It’s only a 8 song-record, but it’s 8 flawless songs which smells the 80’s keyboard-orientated (dut-dut-dut) style, just the way we all love. Having had this record for about a month now, and spinning it almost daily during that time, I picked out 3 favourite songs… Opener Don’t Stand In My Way (original by Charlie and vocals by Henshaw), Clocks (by Sad Cafe and vocals by Saylor) and the last song, If We Call It Love (written by Janet Minto, vocals by Saylor). But I could’ve picked almsot anyone from the other 5 songs, this is as great as it could be. Top 5-record of the year for me. Buy it straight away, or you miss something that yo will regret.
Rating: 8,5/10
Musicians:
David Saylor (vo, gu)
Brad Henshaw (vo)
Rebecca Owen (vo)
John Dewsbury (key)

 


GF Gardner & Fuller – Original Demos
Contante & Sonante relelase another mighty fine westcoast-record featuring one of the greatest voices of all time, the late Warren Wiebe. Previously they have released one with Tom Snow and one with Steve Dorff. This time it’s time for songwriters Cecily Gardner and Scott Fuller.
As always with the labels releases, it’s the finest westcoast You can imagine. Top songwriting and production and Gardner’s voice are great. Warren Wiebe sings on 4 songs, Gardner on the rest.
Songwise there are a some gems here. The first 2 songs, 17 Years and Slip Away, together with This Blue Tattoo are my 3 favourites, all of them featuring Wiebe. This is a must have if You are a westcoast-listener in general. If You are a singer and want inspiration, listen to the fantastic Warren Wiebe, there’s no one like him out there today.
Here’s a youtube-link with previews >>
Rating: 8/10
Musicians:
Warren Wiebe (vo)
Cecily Gardner (vo)
Scott Fuller (key, prog, ba)

 


shaggy Shaggy the rock band – Destination Nowhere
Shaggy released their debut 1975. By the time album no 2 was ready to get recorded the band broke up. 2008 initial talks about listen to those old recordings started and soon they re-record and rearranged the old songs.
Jan Destner, Fidde Rognås, Thomas Ryan brought in Ulrich Carlsson on vocals (ex M.Illio.N). By the end the album got finished Jan Destner passed away and the album is dedicated to the bass man.
Progressive Rock with influences in Deep Purple, Jethro Tull, Uriah Heep, Pink Floyd and even the more psycedelic parts from The Beatles could describe the sound best.
The production leaves no one dissapointed as its well balanced. Personal favorites are Poem a beautiful arrangement with lots of layers both instrumental and vocal. There’s no Communication got a great mix of progressivity and popiness along with a 70’s vibe. Last song I’d mention from a string of really good songs are Rainbows end, pt.2. With its indian drum rythm the story gets told in between the guitar and organ.
Although the death of Destner Shaggy are still active and I for one will catch them when I get the chance.
Rating: 7/10
Musicians:
Ulrich Carlsson(vo)
Fidde Rognas (gu)
Thomas Ryan (key)
Jan Destner (ba)
Magnus Rosell (dr)

 


Tom Hansen - A Taste Of California Tom Hansen – A Taste Of California
Norwegian composer Tom Hansen once had a dream, to work with Larry Williams. In 2013 this dream became reality and the 2 of them started working on what would be this record. Tom also got worldclass drummer John Robinson to play, JR has played with everyone and has never played on a bad record.
This is straight out really “slick” westcoast, if You’re not into this don’t bother reading further. I’m a big westcoast-fan but I have to be in a certain mood to enjoy it when it’s “too slick”, this is that sort of record. What we get here is 18 songs, a few of them are instrumentals, all of them are well written and produced. No smash hits but most of them are very good westcoast-songs, personal favourites are My Lady, A Dream Comes True and Stay With Me. When You have Larry Williams on board Your record will have a strong jazz-feeling, this is no different of course, most notable on A Dream Comes True.
Maybe there’s a song or two too much on here, but overall it’s a really enjoyable record. It’s always a treat to hear musicians like this, it’s hard to do it better.
Rating: 8/10
Musicians:
Tom Hansen (vo)
Peter Friestedt (gu)
John Robinson (dr)
Larry Williams
+ more

 


khymera-thegranddesign Khymera – The Grand Design
When Khymera make a comeback after a seven year hiatus, it’s an all new start from Dennis Ward who as usual handle the vocal and bass. But all other members are new and all songs has been written by the band with addition from Paul Longue of Eden’s Curse.
The band today consists of Edguy drumer Felix Bohnke, Michael Klein on guitar, pianist Jim Rybkost and AOR pro Eric Ragno on keyboards. The sound with the new line-up are a bit bigger and pompier than on for example A new promise, the only album I’ve heard from the band prior to this one, of course I’ve heard them all today and I can reveal that this one is my favorite.Dennis Ward sings better than on the previous two albums he has handled the lead vocals and the material also shows better quality than on previous releases at least in my opinion. Ward shows both depth and soul with his voice especially in the power ballads like Say What You Want or Streetlights. Land of Golden Dreams brings the thought to Whitesnake 1987 with the exception that the keyboard has a bigger place in the production while the guitars has less.
The Grand Design has not got any bad tracks and only on two occasions I loose somewhat focus with I Believe and actually the title track, rest of the songs got strong choruses and memorable singalong melodies and you should not miss the latest give from Khymera.
Rating: 8,5/10
Musicians:
Dennis Ward (vo, ba)
Michael Klein (gu)
Felix Bohnke(dr)
Eric Ragno (key)
Jim Rybkost (piano, add. key)

 


cloudscape-voice of reason Cloudscape – Voice Of Reason
Cloudscape is the band I’ve followed most closely the last 20 years, even before they were known as Cloudscape, and are also one of the bands I’ve seen live the most. This is their 5 studiorecord, the first in almost 4 years, and yet again it’s a raise in quality.
The opening song, A New Design, is pure quality from start to finish and sets the tone for the whole record. Title track, Voice Of Reason, are a masterfully crafted 11 minute song that has all a progressive track should have, majestic and epic, and never boring for song that long. The best song on the record are last song, In Silence We Scream. 9 minutes of joy and happiness, an acoustic ballad that turns progressive, brilliant. Beside the song All For Metal (which I don’t think fits Cloudscape at all), this is a real belter of a progressive record. The guitarplaying from Patrik Svärd and Stefan Rosqvist are superb, as always, drummer Fredrik Joakimsson use his tools brilliant, this guys grows everytime. Mike Andersson sings a good as he always has.
This is the best record from the guys, it beats out even the great debute album, pure quality here!
Rating: 9/10
Musicians:
Mike Andersson (vo, key)
Stefan Rosqvist (gu)
Patrik Svärd (gu)
Fredrik Joakimsson (dr, key)
Håkan Nyander (ba)

 


Champlin Williams Friestedt - CWF Champlin Williams Friestedt – CWF
Here we are talking about experienced musicians, at least 2/3 of the guys are more or less legends in the business. Bill Champlin (Chicago, Sons Of Champlin) and Joseph Williams (Toto) teams up yet again with swedish guitarist and producer Peter Friestedt and have created a really fine piece of work in the laid back Westcoast territory. This is the third record that Friestedt make with Williams (LA Project), and the first with Champlin involved, although all three played live together and released a DVD a few years ago. It sounds very much Chicago and Toto, no surprises there, the songs are very well crafted and the 2 singers are blended in very nicely.
Songwise there are a couple of superb songs, Aria (best song on the record for me) and Carry On in particular, the latter with amazing singing by Williams. Also the opening track Runaway and the ballad Still Around, sung by Champlin, are really worth mentioning. On the negative side, if there are any, are the cover of After The Love Is Gone (which I don’t find fits the record) and the “strange” Rivers Of Fear, 2 songs that could’ve been replaced by other songs in the same vein as the rest.
In all, this is a great record, well worth investing Your money on.
Rating: 8/10
Musicians:
Joseph Williams (vo)
Bill Champlin (vo, key)
Peter Friestedt (gu)
+guests
(Steve Porcaro, Randy Goodrum, Will and Tamara Champlin)

 


lynchmobrebel Lynch Mob – Rebel
When I heard Smoke and Mirrors back in 2009 I was quite pleased with the result as Oni Logan and George Lynch presented the band how it should sound in my opinion. Lots of melodic hooks and a bluesy feel to the result. Sun Red Sun was the second album together since the two reunited also presented some real nice moments. New album Rebel also got its moments but has taken the band in a harder/tougher direction that lacks the groove Lynch Mob should have if you ask me.
Not until the fith song Pine Tree Avenue the right kinda groove finds its way followed by Jelly Roll where good old George provides one of this albums most memorable solos. Lynch Mob has always had a variated sound but since the comeback with Oni Logan, Lynch Mob has a front man that makes a difference even, if the material ain’t their best. Logan has got a voice that has its own expression.
To me the mid section are the highlight Dirt Money and The Hollow Queen ends the best part of the album making tracks 5-8 the best section.
The ever changing rythm section this time are made by two top players in Jeff Pilson and Brian Tichy. Smoke and Mirrors are still their highlight since the comeback and also tha album that should be the reference point to Lynch Mob 2015.
Rating: 5,5/10
Musicians:
Oni Logan (vo)
George Lynch (gu)
Jeff Pilson (ba)
Brian Tichy (dr)

 


BEAUVOIRFREE amtrsh COVER lo Beauvior/Free – American Trash
Beaviour/Free are of course the creative duo behind Crown of Thorns even if Micki Free hasn’t been in the band since the debut it sounds like Crown of Thorns and that’s what Jean Beavuior brings to the duo of course. Mr. Beaviour a entrepreneur of high rank that constantly got something up his sleeve. This time a project together with his former band mate released on Frontiers Records. American Trash as the album is called delivers eleven tracks of recognizable sounding hard rock, with well distorted guitars.
Starting song Angels Cry sets the direction early on with firm riffs distinct melodic vocals from Beaviour. Title track American Trash holds a chorus that’s easy to singalong with. Never Give Up are perhaps my favorite, best described as a ballad with a chorus that’s easy to remember and a yeah yeah part that anyone can shout along with.
As I listed a couple of favorites there are also a few fillers that pass by unoticed in my book, but eight of eleven tracks I would as high class melodic rock. American Trash perhaps won’t be on my top ten list when 2015 has ended but then again it might just make it.
Rating: 7/10
Musicians:
Jean Beauvior (vo, ba, gu, keyb, dr)
Micki Free (gu)

 


House Of Lords - Indestructible House Of Lords – Indestructible
House Of Lords is one of the most hard working band in the business, this is their 7th record since they reformed back in 2004. Seven records in the space of eleven years also comes with high pressure to deliver songs of high quality, a thing that they have failed with in my ears. I pretty much lost interest after the great Come To My Kingdom in 2008, the 3 records after that didn’t do anything for me. This time it’s a bit different as I think that James Christian has found “the touch” in his songwriting again. His wife, Robin Beck, is heard much, especially in the choruses.
The new record is heavy, more hard rock than melodic rock, but that is not a bad thing. House Of Lords today are known to be a heavy band when they play live, so why not on record? There’s only one ballad here, the great We Will Always Be One, the rest is more heavy stuff. The opener Go To Hell and Die To Tell are a couple of other great songs on a record that takes House Of Lords back on track again, at least for me it does.
Rating: 7,5/10
Musicians:
James Christian (vo)
Jimi Bell (gu)
Chris McCarvill (ba)
BJ Zampa (dr)

 


Revolution Saints - s/t Revolution Saints – s/t
This super group, named Revolution Saints, has Deen Castronovo on vocals and drums, Jack Blades on bass and vocals on a couple of songs and guitarist Doug Aldrich. Not a bad lineup, it sure can’t be bad, which it isn’t of course. Alessandro Del Vecchio produced it and is involved in most of the songwriting. You know what you get when the italian guy is involved, great production as always.
The record is full with high class songs, from the opener Back On My Trail, to the last one, In The Name Of The Father. The latter is simply brilliant and one of the standout songs, together with Turn Back Time (the first single from the record) and You’re Not Alone (were Deen shares vocals with Journey’s Arnel Pineda). The guys also do a cover of Eclipse How To Mend A Broken Heart, brilliantly done, as expected.
This is a record You should own, a solid buy and worth every nickel.
Rating: 8/10
Musicians:
Deen Castronovo (vo, dr)
Jack Blades (ba, vo)
Doug Aldrich (gu)
+ guests

 


Nelson-PeaceOut Nelson – Peace Out
Peace Out pretty much starts off where Lightning Strikes Twice ended. The 2010 album presented a mix of the melodic rock the band played when they broke through in the early nineties but with an more up to date production. Straight ahead rockers like Ready, Willing, Able and Call Me from Lightning Strikes Twice, would give you a hint of how Peace Out sounds.
Nelson as always presents good melodies. First single Rockstar are a perfect example of how a Nelson song of today sounds like. The chorus presents easy singalong structure. The riffs that build the songs are actually riffs with attitude, most notably of that kind are Autograph. You and Me makes me think about Extreme as it’s a hard rocking song with a hidden funk feel, probably my favorite on the album .
I believe that Peace Out really are a step up from their last effort an album I also enjoyed. But if you’re up for the sound that Nelson presented in the begining of their career you might get dissapointed, but if you’re a bit open minded and ready for a harder Nelson this might be your thing.
Rating: 8/10
Musicians:
Gunnar Nelson – (vo, g)
Matthew Nelson – (vo, b)

 


Lynn-Allen_cover Lynn Allen – Streetlight
The vocal arrangements on Streetlight are really well done. Big sounding backing vocals where the vocal parts are the strenght. Lead singer Billy Pfeiffer sounds a bit nasal at times but his vibrato comes really natural to his voice and becomes a nice feature.
The rythm guitar are a bit annoying as its very unimaginative and monotonous and pretty much sounds the same the album through, but the solo guitar are almost perfect through the whole album, a great mix between melody and pace not too fast, just enough.
The downside has already been mentioned and a song like Friendzone Paradise actually becomes quite uninteresting when there really aren’t
anything special at all in the arrangement.
But most of the songs got good refrains and nice solos. I would say that my favorite songs are opening track Wheels Keep Turning, the title track Streetlight and best of all Today She’s on Fire where all positive features reach the culminating point.
Rating: 6,5/10
Musicians:
Billy Peiffer- (vo, g)
Barry Bestal – (b)
Paul DePaw – (g)
Kevin Sampson – (dr)

 


Transmission CD Cover Dan Reed – Transmission
Dan Reed release his third solo album Transmission a laid back album with stories concerning human emotions. Dan Reed handling all guitars and keyboards on Transmission, the keyboards being the instrumental hero on the album with lots of different sounds as a color palette to complete the songs. Now of course Reed are foremost a singer so need less to say that the vocal arrangements are fantastic and the harmonies are really beautiful put down.
Dan Reeds solo albums are really something else than the ones he has made with his Network, the sound are often more mellow, but even so there are mostly elements that make the songs interesting. I do miss one or two uptempo songs yet as a whole the album has those keyboard effects i mentioned that make everything interesting.
Thirteen tracks are perhaps a few to many but looking at the songs as individual stories to me is the thing. There are however songs that are better and some that a bit weaker. Lets focus on the better ones. Opening Broken Soul and finishing She’s Not You are two of my favorites both of them beautiful vocal wise. My absolute favorite are On The Metro a really mellow song where vocals arrangement comes to its peak as do the keyboard effects. A bit more variation in terms of tempo would have earned the album a higher rating but its still a very good album
Rating: 7/10
Musicians:
Dan Reed (vo, gu, key)
Bengan Jonasson (ba)
Robert Ikiz (dr)

 


ISSA_Crossfire_COVER Issa – Crossfire
Issa’s fourth album, the third with originals . When I put on this album my first thought was Vega and my thoughts were spot on as the album has been produced by John Greatwood and James Martin of Vega.
Crossfire presents modern AOR with lots of keyboards in fact I’d say that the keyboards are the hero on the album and the guitar makes important solo appearances but the whole sound rests on that massive wall of keyboards. Issa’s voice is of course her trademark and her tone are really recognizable especially as she always gives all she’s got. Sometimes I think that she could hold back her singing a bit but on the other hand this is what has brought her the contract with Frontiers.
Crossfire got eleven songs that all stick the formula described above. We get a guest performance by Steve Overland on Raintown a good song but not the best on here I’d say. My favorite are actually the last song Only You that present a mean guitar solo, I’m not sure who plays the solo though as on always on an Issa album guests are many for instance: Daniel Palmqvist (XORIGIN), Alessandro Del Vecchio (HARDLINE), Steve Newman (NEWMAN), Robert Sall (WORK OF ART), Daniel Johansson (DEGREED). But the song itself are a powerful almost pomp rock song with beautiful backing vocals.
Other songs that should get a mention are New Horizon, Long Time Coming, Electric Lights and the title track, these songs to me stand slightly above the rest on an album that really doesn’t hold any bad songs.
Rating: 8/10
Musicians:
Issa (vo)
Tom Martin (gu, ba)
James Martin (key)
Michael Cruise (dr)

 


ratedxdebutcdcover Rated X – s/t
Frontiers Records put the project Rated X together with Joe Lynn Turner, Karl Cochran, Tony Franklin and Carmine Appice as members. During the recordings Karl Cochran suffered a stroke so Daniel Palmqvist and Nikolo Kotzev helped out complete the album. The collaboration put together will probably gain enough interest to get the band out on the road for a few weeks.  The album presents good songs although without any stand out songs in my opinion as these players all have been in bands that provide more of interest if you ask me. Personally I rather hear Joe Lynn Turner singing AOR/Melodic Rock than Classic Rock.
The sound reminds me a whole lot of the two latest King Kobra albums, straight forward classic rock with the difference that King Kobra sounds more as a genuine band effort. Now
Don’t get me wrong this ain’t a bad album, but I must say that I’d expected more out of such well respected names that Rated X holds.
Rating: 6/10
Musicians:
Joe Lynn Turner(vo)
Karl Cochran (gu)
Tony Fanklin (ba)
Carmine Appice (dr)
Additional Musicians:
Daniel Palmqvist and Nikolo Kotzev (gu)

 


In Faith - There's A Storm Coming In Faith – There’s A Storm Coming
From nowhere came this british band In Faith, fronted by Pete Godfrey, an unknown guy up til now, and with guitarist Tony Marshall and drummer Pete Newdeck, the latter two more known names. Godfrey is a great singer, how this guy has been unknown up til now is beyond me. He’s a hybrid of Steve Overland and Harry Hess, which are not too shabby references I believe. The band itself sounds like a mix of FM, early Ten, Harem Scarem and Newman. Harem Scarem I would say is the best to compare with. Uptempo rockers like opener Radio, Church Of Rock An’ Roll and All Or Nothing is blended with ballads like the superb Where I Wanna Be and Leave Me Now. Two songs stands out though, both are quite phenomenal, Does It Feel Like Love and the ballad If That’s What Love Means, a pleasure to hear. 2-3 fillers are in there, very few records haven’t, but in all this is a great record.
Very much looking forward to the next one, which I believe could be a belter, this one is a debute to be proud of.
Rating: 8,5/10
Musicians:
Pete Godfrey (vo)
Tony Marshall (gu, ba)
Pete Newdeck (dr)
+ guests

 


From The Fire - Evil Men Do From The Fire – Evil Men Do
From The Fire released a brilliant record, a so called “one-off-classic”, 22 years ago and then vanished. Then Firefest invited the band to play and the guys decided to make another record, as they’ve heard all the positives from fans in europe. They were great at Firefest, were J.D. Kelly outperformed most singers and showed that his voice is still there. Songwise this new record doesn’t hold the same standard throughout, as most records don’t. There are some fantastic songs, like the opener In Your Dreams, Leave Me Alone, Into Your Heart, the title track Evil Men Do and the great mellow Stagefright, but also a couple of fillers later on. I do believe that if the guys had some more time to put together a record, they also would have more songs like the ones I’ve mentioned.
This is a great record and I hope the guys continue to make music now, we need bands like this badly.
Rating: 8/10
Musicians:
J.D. Kelly (vo, key)
Tommy Lafferty (gu)
Nicky Moroch (ba)
Michael Sciotto (dr)

 


NIVA - Incremental Cover N I V A – Incremental IV
The third release since their comeback in 2011. A mix of highs and lows. The album, where the highs are really high and the lows are so low they leave me quite puzzled but that’s foremost when coming to the production as some of the solos sounds like cut and paste in terms of overdubs. The riffs are sometimes very similar played and I’m a bit unsure if I’m into the guitar sound Roger Ljungren use. The songs however are as melodic rock should sound I guess, lots of singalong refrains. Songs worth mentioning are opening track Don’t You Know, Better Just Forgotten and last song Coming Back to You the song that are my absolute favorite. Tony Niva has got a high pitched voice that to me would be a perfect Power Metal voice although it definately works on the songs written especially as some of the songs leans towards metal when speaking of guitar sound. N I V A presents a melodic rock record that’s good, no more no less.
Rating: 6/10
Musicians:
Tony Niva (vo)
Roger Ljunggren (gu)
Marcus Persson (key)
Jan Stål (ba)
Bengan Andersson (dr)

 


THREE LIONS cover width= Three Lions – s/t
After meeting Nigel Bailey at Firefest last year, were he told me about the coming record, this was a something that I waited for, and it didn’t let me down. Let’s be honest though, this is nothing new (which I don’t believe it was intended to be either), it’s a solid melodic rock release. Very little keyboards used, just plenty of guitars from Dare-guitarist Vinny Burns, good drumming from former Ten-member Greg Morgan and good vocals from Nigel Bailey.
A catchy opening with Trouble In Red Dress, the great ballad Winter Sun (which have a strong Seventh Key-feeling), the heavy Holy Water (listen to the riffs on this one), another fantastic ballad in Two Hearts Beat As One and Magdalene are a few tracks worth mentioning. Well, I have to mention Vinny’s superb instrumental piece, Sicilian Kiss, which ends the records.A very solid and good release from this new band from England. Some really great songs, a few fillers, but in whole a great buy for lovers of guitar-based melodic rock. As a fan of Vinny Burns, which I personally am, it’s always great to hear new records with him on it.
Rating: 8/10
Musicians:
Nigel Bailey (vo, ba)
Vinny Burns (gu, key)
Greg Morgan (dr)

 


COTN EP width= Care Of The Night – s/t (Ep)
Here’s another exciting new band from Sweden to keep a lookout for, at least if you love classic scandi-AOR done with class (and let’s face it, who doesn’t). Every since I was played the fantastic Cassandra a while back these guys has been on my radar, and I’m happy to say this debut 4-track EP doesn’t dissapoint. Even if these guys doesn’t necessarily have an unique sound, there’s a freshness about these songs that is hard to ignore. Really, the whole EP is an excellent excerise in solid AOR songwriting accompanied by stellar musicianship and a brilliant production courtesy of Erik & Anders Wigelius (of Wigelius fame). The Kenny Leckremo-esque vocals of Calle Schönberg is another strong point, making some of these tracks sound so much like late 00’s H.E.A.T it’s almost ridiculous. (and coming from a huge fan of that band, that is of course to be taken as a compliment).
To be honest, I can’t really fault these guys in any area, as this is solid stuff through and through and a must hear for any fan of the genre. The good news is, the band have signed a deal with AOR Heaven and is currently working on their first full-length album due out later in 2014. Something you’ll be hearing more about on these very pages, I’m sure.
Rating: 8,5/10Musicians:
Calle Schönberg (vo)
Jonathan Carlemar (gu)
Jonas Rosengren (ba)
Linus Svensson (dr)
Kristofer von Wachenfeldt (key)

 


FS Cover width= Free Spirit – All The Shades Of Darkened Light
This came as a big surprise, and almost totally out of nowhere. Minimum promotion about a new record and I believe that very few webzines know anything at all about this. Sad, cause this one is really great and deserves playing-time.
Free Spirit’s debute record were released in 2009 and were a great piece of record in the little harder AOR-school. This is more stripped down and not as heavy as the debute. The debute didn’t have any particular references music-wise, this one has. You hear a lot Def Leppard (Hysteria-era), Michael Morales and some Stage Dolls (early days) here.
Nights Of Paradise and Living Tattoo are two really good opening songs, but it’s the third song, Hysteria that shows that the boys means business, a song right from the Mutt Lange-school. Jumping a couple of lesser good tracks, we arrive at the magnificient Turn On The Night, a masterful emotional ballad of the highest standard, brilliant. Burning Love and Carry On are the next two songs, both are really great sing-along-songs and a pleasure to listen to. The last really good song are Fever, which I believe would be a live favourite, an up-tempo song with a nice chorus. The last two songs, Silence and Storyline are good but doesn’t reach the quality as many of the other songs.
All The Shades Of Darkened Light has 6-7 songs of great quality and only a couple of fillers. A really pleasant surprise, I for sure didn’t expect this, great record guys!
Rating: 8,5/10Musicians:
Sami Alho (vo)
Vesa Yli-Mäenpää (gu)
Marko Haapamäki (gu)
Sami Hämäläinen (ba)
Pasi Koivumäki (dr)
Timo Alho (key)

 


ez-livin-cover-web EZ Livin – Firestorm
Bonfire guitarist Hans Ziller has put together his former band EZ Livin once again but this time around pulled together a experienced band whom together has recorded a bunch of songs (eight to be exact) in the manner of classic rock/classic metal. Their name has been nicked from the Uriah Heep song Easy Livin, a song they also cover, rather than good. Sure they try to create something own of the song but it just gets silly.
The record starts of far more interesting with a bluesy guitar intro of the song That’s How He Rocks but the song itself falls into mediocre effort that would have qualified on one of the many NWOBHM bands that never made it back in the days. Second song Loaded Gun however are, in my opinion, a quite nice song that are more in the melodic rock vein with a singalong chorus.
The lyrics are quite ridiculous but also witness of the thoughts of bringing the sound back to the early days of heavy metal. The production are the best thing about the record as it has got a rich sound, all produced by Alessandro Del Vecchio. David Reece has got a typical metal voice and does overall a good job. Though I critisice the album a bit I must say that the last three songs The Damage Is Done, Too Late and Into The Night aren’t that bad songs and I actually find myself hum along at times. But overall I do expect more out of such and experienced band.
Rating: 5/10Musicians:
Hans Ziller (gu),
David Reece (vo),
Harry Reischmann(dr),
Chris Lyne(gu),
Ronnie Parks(ba),
Paul Morris(key)

 


Champlin Williams Friestedt Champlin Williams Friestedt – All Star Band
There are quite few dvd’s out there of high quality Westcoast music, and high quality westcoast music is what this is all about. Bill Champlin and Joseph Williams are known worldwide for their work with Toto and Chicago. Swedish guitarist Peter Friestedt moved to L.A many years ago and has gained a reputation in the business over there. Backed up by more or less known westcoast musicians, as well as Bill’s beautiful wife Tamara, makes this a pleasure to both see and listen to.The songs are taken from, of course, Chicago and Toto, but also from the solorecords of Champlin, Williams and Williams / Friestedt, not forgetting 2 songs from the masterful Airplay For The Planet by Jay Graydon. We have some uptempo songs like Goin’ Home, Where To Touch You and This Fall and a couple of fantastic ballads in When You Look In My Eyes and After The Love Is Gone. They have even included a song originally sung by George Benson, now tell me how many of us have a dvd with a song from him, or even a record by him? Turn Your Love Around is, however, written by Champlin (with Graydon and Lukather), so it’s perhaps no big surprise it’s included here. My 2 favourites on the dvd is the 2 last songs, This Fall and Satisfaction, I think the guys does those 2 brilliant.
It’s hard to say that I miss that song or this song, the guys have been involved in so many records through the years that they could’ve chosen anything. But I still miss Runaway from Champlin’s brilliant record with the same name and maybe a song or two from Toto’s Fahrenheit-record. Actually they did play Stop Loving You but didn’t include it on the dvd, it’s up on Youtube.
If you’re looking for some high quality westcoast music, this is very much that.
Rating: 7/10Musicians:
Bill Champlin (vo, pi, gu)
Joseph Williams (vo)
Peter Friestedt (gu)
Herman Matthews (dr)
Stefan Gunnarsson (key, vo)
Per Mathiesen (ba)
Tamara Champlin (vo)

PLACE VENDOME ARTWORK Place Vendome – Thunder In The Distance (Frontiers, October 30th)
When the Place Vendome released their debut album, it was Frontiers boss Serafino Perugino who initiated the project so when Michael Kiske heard songs that Dennis Ward had written, he realized that this was exactly what he wanted to do. The songs were good and the album was recorded. Four years later came the sequel Streets of Fire, an album that was almost as good even though it perhaps sounded a little harder.
2013 and its time for the third album from Place Vendome (Thunder In The Distance, again produced and mixed by Dennis Ward). This time with the help of Frontiers Records song writer elite with names like Alessandro Del Vecchio, Sören Kronqvist and Magnus Karlsson to name a few. If the second album sounded harder than the first, we have now reached yet another dimension towards an even harder sound, perhaps a natural development but this is all to my disappointment. I can even hear some metal in the arrangements, perhaps also because Kiske seems to use his metal vibrato a bit too much.The songs on the album makes me a bit puzzled as they are all good and I can’t pick out any bad songs, then again I can’t pick out any stand out songs either. In fact I play the album and hum along, but as the album ends there’s not a single song I remember. So comparing to the predecessors, this effort aren’t quite up to the standard of the previous two. Place Vendome has now got a solid base of three albums to take on tour but they should put focus on the first two albums.
Rating: 6/10Musicians:
Michael Kiske – Lead Vocals
Uwe Reitenauer – Guitars
Dennis Ward – Bass
Gunther Werno – Keyboards
Dirk Bruinenberg – Drums

COLDSPELL-FROZENPARADISE Coldspell – Frozen Paradise(Escape Music, September 20th)
The third release from Coldspell contains their best work so far. The sound are still melodic hard rock with a clear substance from the seventies, perhaps even more this time than before. What stands out a bit extra this time are the great vocal melodies sunged by Niclas Swedentorp. Another thing that I’m really fond of are the intro on Alive and Dark Reflections played by Michael Larsson where he uses minimal distortion too later burst out in his full sound. That kind of song introduction, similarly used by Great White and Whitesnake (well in those cases often accoustic played), are right up my sleeve.Perra Johansson and Anders Lindmark puts the firm rhythm section and the sound gets completed with Matti Eklunds keyboards, one can really hear that the band come from clarity to clarity with strong songs all through the album. The only concern I’ve got for the future are how Coldspell ever will top this album.
I can’t really pick only one favorite on this album. But one thing is for sure, don’t miss out on this album.
Rating: 9/10Musicians:
Niklas Swedentorp – Lead Vocals
Michael Larsson – Guitars and Backing Vocals
Anders “Kebbe” Lindmark – Bass
Perra Johanson – Drums
Matti Eklund – Keyboards and vocals

Fergie Frederiksen - Any Given Moment Fergie Frederiksen – Any Given Moment (Frontiers, out now)
Fergie Frederiksen, a personal favourite singer of mine, and a legend in the melodic rock business, releases his 3rd solorecord under his own name, his fifth if you count Frederiksen / Philips and Frederiksen / Denander. Fergie has also sung on 2 of the best AOR-records ever written, Toto’s Isolation and Le Roux’s So Fired Up, and many other records such as Mecca and Trillion.
On this one he has help with the songwriting from keyboard wizard Alex Del Vecchio and Sören Kronqvist, to name some. A lot of swedes are helping out playing too, such as Herman Furin (Work Of Art), Robert Säll (Work Of Art, W.E.T) and Peter Friestedt. Bruce Gaitsch are also playing guitars, he never plays on anything that isn’t of high quality.The single that Frontiers picked, Last Battle Of My War, is actually the best song on here, it’s a fantastic piece of work were Fergie sings as good as ever and the playing are superb. Other highlights are the great ballad When The Battle Is Over (written by Sören Kronqvist, Thomas Vikström, Fergie himself and Camilla Andersson), Times Will Change (again written by Kronqvist), Let Go and I’ll Be The One. I have to mention that there’s a new fantastic version of the Toto classic Angel Don’t Cry, a heavier remake with Fergie singing his heart out.The record might not reach the standard of Equilibrium from 1999, or Frederiksen / Philips from 1995, but it’s a really strong release which most certain will be on many toplists when the year is over.
Fergie has battled illness for many years. His son has put up a page to help his father, who now is seriously ill from cancer, you find it here. Do as many other has done, help the great man by either send money or buy his record, I’m sure he appreciate it very much.
Rating: 8,5/10Musicians:
Fergie Frederiksen (vo)
Alessandro Del Vecchio (key)
Nik Mazzucconi (ba)
Herman Furin (dr)
Bruce Gaitsch (gu)
Robert Sall (gu)
Peter Friestedt (gu)
Sven Larsson (gu)
+ more

find_me_coverRating: 8,5/10Musicians:
Robbie LeBlanc (vo)
Daniel Flores (dr, key)
Daniel Palmqvist (gu)
Johnny Trobro (ba)
Find Me (Find Me – Wings Of Love, August 28th 2013)
When Frontiers Records boss called Daniel Flores to get a AOR record with a classic sound there really was no need to ask for more as Daniel knew just who to bring along. Robbie LeBlanc and Daniel Flores are Find Me with the help of Daniel Palmqvist and Johnny Trobro.Most of the songs are smashing AOR songs with a modern production. Both guitars and keyboards has been given much space making all of us AOR lovers pleased.
Robbie LeBlanc’s significant voice can’t help me from time to time to think of his own project Blanc Faces. But there’s also influences of Hardline and the best bits of Crash The System, Vega and Issa in the sound. Non of this is surprising as writers from all of the mentioned bands are involved in Find Me. Besides LeBlancs great voice, Daniel Palmqvist (Xorigin) has put down some great guitars where my favorite solo by him appears already in the first song Road To Nowhere.The only song that feels a bit misplaced are Another World which to me feels a bit out of the frame. Can’t really explain why it doesn’t get me going, but perhaps its the lack of a strong chorus compared to many of the other songs.
My favorites on the album are Dancing To A Broken Heart which is the closest song to sound as a Blanc Faces tune. Other songs that need to be mentioned are On The Outside and Unbreakable as they both gets me going. I’d also like to mention the ballad Eternally which becomes a perfect break between all big choruses.

MANDOO SBL Cover Mandoo – Sweet Bitter Love (Independent, distribution by CDBaby, out now)
Mandoo, a french dou, endorses the West Coast sound brilliant as they keep true to the sound of Steely Dan, Chicago and Michael McDonald to mention a few. Mando consists of two persons Esther Ben Daoud on keyboards and backing vocals and Pierre Vanier on bass and vocals. The guys has got a background in Jazz, soul-funk and pop bands but with Mandoo they started their own project having released en EP before this full lenght album.
The debut has got nine slick and laid back songs were the best one, in my opinion, are Roselyne a funky tune with some great horns that really gets me sing along. Roselyne are the one song that stand out from the others in terms of having a different sound if you’d listen to a song like opening Summer Breezin’ you get that great west coast sound that every fan of the California sound just love.
The only thing about the album are the vocals were it at times get apparent that the duo are French with the classical accent a French person has got. Most apparent this becomes with Then You Came Along. But besides this fact Mandoo has really nailed the sound of late 70’s west coast.
Rating: 8,5/10Musicians:
Pierre Vanier (vo, ba)
Esther Ben Daoud (key)
Jean-Pierre Cuny (dr)
Jean-Christophe Decourrière (gu)
Mathias Wallerand (tenor sax)
Regis Pons (trumpet)
Johan Blanc (trombone)
Fanny Lévêque (violins)

Breakout cover Kevin Lee and The Kings – Breakout (Sigus Records, out now)
Kevin Lee has been around since 1992 releasing albums with bands that always included his own name. So Kevin Lee and the Kings an American band in the mix of modern rock and melodic rock presenting songs that are pretty standard with a couple of nice guitar solos spicing up.
Lee sometimes reminds of Kee Marchello voice wise and I for one thinks that Marchello should get himself a professional singer that focuses on just that while Kevin Lee gets away with it a bit better as his voice presents a bit more variation.So what about the songs? Well there are some songs that stand out where the chorus actually stick with me. Can’t Believe Your Gone are such a song. Lee tells the verse somewhere in between speaking and singing pretty fitting for the song and when he get to the chorus its easy to remember. The title track are a song with some attitude a bit punky with guitars quite chunky as the press release says. Too Little Too Late are another song with a catchy chorus, also the only song I had heard before deciding to review this album.
I would sum up the album with a wish for a better production especially on the drums. Also Kevin Lee and the Kings should be more selective on what songs to release as it don’t get interesting enough. Having opened for bands like Cheap Trick, Pearl Jam And Lou Gramm shows right were the band are in their career and if they don’t get more songs like Can’t Believe Your Gone they will stay as an opening act.
Rating: 4,5/10Musicians:
Kevin Lee (vo, gu)
Brent Seatter (gu)
Todd Jones (ba)
Eric Strommer (dr)

 

Alien - 25th Anniversary Edition Alien – 25th Anniversary Edition (EMI, out now)
This is by no means a new record from swedish AOR heroes Alien. This is a remastered reissue with both the Scandinavian and the USA edition of the bands debute record. The difference between the editions are quite a few actually. The scandinavian edition on here has 14 songs, of which 2 are bonus outtakes from sessions. The USA edition has 10 songs, of which 2 of the last 3 don’t feature on the scandinavian edition, and it misses 4 songs which are featured on the scandinavian version. Also the song order is different. The most important thing though is that Alien lost singer Jim Jidhed right after the release in scandinavia, he were replaced by Pete Sandberg, Sandberg sings on the 2 songs on the USA edition which isn’t on the scandinavian edition. The mixing is also different.This is a classic, a milestone in swedish melodic rock, I can’t describe it in any other way. There are so many songs here that are so good, yet it’s one of the lesser known songs that for me are the best here, the superb Dying By The Golden Rule. Of course, songs such as Brave New Love, Tears Don’t Put Out The Fire and Go Easy are fantastic too, all those penned by Pamela Barlow and Janet Minto. The strongest song written by the band itself (with help from Barlow and Minto) are Jamie Remember. I haven’t yet mentioned the classic Only One Woman, a song written by the Gibb Brothers.This is a record You SHOULD own, hands down. You get Sweden’s best melodic singer (Jim Jidhed) ever and songs of the highest order.
Rating: 9,5/10Musicians:
Jim Jidhed (vo)
Pete Sandberg (vo)
Tony Borg (gu)
Ken Sandin (ba)
Toby Tarrach (dr)
Jimmy Wandroph (ke)

 

john elefante - on my way John Elefante – On My Way To The Sun (Kingheir Music, out now)
I stumble upon John Elefantes kickstarter project by accident, or should I say through mutual Facebook friends. Kickstarter for those who aren’t familiar with it an organization who help finance different projects.
John Elefante – On My Way To The Sun sounds John Elefante or Mastedon – 3 if you like, but that’s of course the same thing. Elefante are a real class act singer with vocal arrangements that are impeccable. The songs might not be as strong but there are of course a couple of gems here. Second song on the album Where Have the Old Days Gone has got a powerful riff that makes me wanna turn the volume to eleven. The title track are a mid tempo song that shows the strength with Elefantes songs where the verse slides over very neat into the chorus.
The Awakening and Confess are two songs that clearly concerns Elefantes belief in a higher power. The songs are really good and so are the vocals but the lyrics don’t give me nothing. Opening track This Is How The Story Goes are a song for all the progressive rock lovers 11:07 long and that’s at least 5 minutes to long.Back to my favorites Half The Way Home are another a song that really shows the best of Elefante both musically and vocally.This Time makes me think of The Beatles and Eleanor Rigby without being a copy.
Having declared a couple of favorites and and couple of complaints this album are a must buy for all Elefante fans and also recommended for all melodic rock fans who wants to gets some class act arrangements.
Rating: 8/10Musicians:
John Elefante – Lead Vocals, Guitars & Keyboards
Dave Cleveland – Guitars
Rich Williams – Guitars
Matthew Pearson – Bass
JR McNelly – Bass
Dan Needham – Drums
Sam Nicoletta – Keyboards
Erick Darkin – Percussion
Chris Carmichael – Strings
David Ragsdale – Violin

 

The Poodles - Tour De Force The Poodles – Tour De Force (Frontiers, out now)
The Poodles started out back in 2006 and have been very productive since then, this is in fact their 5th record in 7 years, not counting the live record No Quarter. This is in my opinion their best record so far, not just songwise but also the production is superior to their other releases. What we get here are 13 songs in the same vein as before, why change a winning concept? The last song though, En För Alla Alla För En (great song), is in Swedish and is the official theme song for Swedens World Championship winng team in ice hockey. There are many catchy songs here, in the typical “fun rocking” Poddles-style. The opener Misery Loves Company set the standards and Shut Up! follows. Happily Ever After is definitely one of the best songs the band have ever recorded, at least the chorus is. 40 Days And 40 Nights are also a very strong song, so are the great ballad Leaving The Past To Pass. The Poodles has always been an underrated band, and I bet that a lot of it has to do with the kind of cheezy name. Don’t judge a band by the name!
Rating: 8/10Musicians:
Jacob Samuel (vo)
Henrik Bergqvist (gu)
Pontus Egberg (ba)
Christian Lundqvist (dr)

 

Snowfall_coverSnowfall – Cold Silence (Escape Music, April 19th 2013)
Out of the ashes of Winterparade comes Snowfall where the Norwegians has recruited one of my recent favorite singers Lee Small. The album contain 11 tracks all in the melodic/classic rock genre. Opening Don’t Drive Me Home Tonight are perhaps the most catchy song on the album still a bit progressive as are the first three songs. Heavens Not Up Here are a great power ballad, another of my favorites. All in all a stable album with a couple of songs that stand out. Rating: 7/10

WET rise up COVERW.E.T – Rise Up (Frontiers Records, out now)
W.E.T‘s follow up album Rise Up are a real treat, with several more direct songs speking in terms of beeing catchy. Jeff Scott Soto, Erik Mårtensson and Robert Säll are all the cream of the crop within melodic rock today. Production are really full and follows the path of the debut. Nine out of twelve tracks could be mentioned as favorite tracks in my opinion but these three I choose put forward. Learn To Live Again, Bad Boy and Broken Wings
Rating: 8,5/10

Lionville – II (Avenue Of Allies, out now)
Italian based Lionville roars again, with a terrific new release. Last year they released their debute, a superb record that too, and now they follow it up. Once again Lars Säfsund sings and once again he does it brilliantly. Stefano Lionetti and Alessandro Del Vecchio has written some truly fantastic songs here, with Higher as my favourite, this has Bill and Tamara Champlin and guests! All We Need and The Only Way Is Up are other favourites.
Rating: 8,5/10

Jimi Jamison – Never Too Late (Frontiers, out now)
Since Jimi Jamison reactivated his solocareer a few years back he has been very active with concerts and records. On this one Erik Mårtensson wrote the songs and, along with more swedes, plays. This is one of the best records this year with too many highlights to mention. But songs like Everybody’s Got A Broken Heart, Never Too Late and the ballad Heaven Call Your Name are my 3 picks from a superb record that fully deserves a top 10 place this year.
Rating: 9/10

Dalton – The Best Of Dalton (Universal, out now)
In the late 80’s there were Europe, Treat and… Dalton, holding Sweden’s flag high in the business. Dalton disappeared but now, almost 25 years later, they reunite. This record are a collection of their best songs from the 2 records they released in the 80’s, here we have the “classic” Caroline, as well as other great songs like Love Injection and Like An Angel. You will also find 2 bonus tracks here, not included on the original records. Buy it!
Rating: 7,5/10

Toxic Rose – The Calling(City Of Lights Records, December 7th 2012)
A mix of Sleaze and heavy metal would be the describtion on Toxic Rose debut EP First track A Song For The Weak is the song I believe most in, it has got real hit potential. The two final songs are the hardest but not on the behalf of melodies. Black Bile with raw vocals and catchy refrain, Fears Linger On are a perfect end of this debut with a familiar sounding riff and rought cut vocals. A great start of a promising career, an EP both for metal heads and melodic fans. Rating: 7/10

Neal Schon – The Calling(Frontiers Records, Out Now)
Neal Schon has been given the chance to show his skills on an all instrumental CD. He shows his versatility, mixin his past and present with Jazz, Oriental, Metal all in a melodic blend. No one can debate Schons greatness whether his skills nor writing ability. It is simply all about how much you enjoy guitar masturbation.
Rating: 7/10

Magnum – On The 13th Day (Frontiers Records, Out Now)
Tony Clarkin keeps on writing quality rock. As most of their albums since the comeback there are a couple of really good tracks and a few fillers. No one who appreciate their last albums should get dissapointed. Blood Red Laughter, On The 13th Day and Shadow Town are all songs worth to mention.
Rating: 6,5/10

Wigelius – Reinventions (Frontiers Records, out now)
Wigelius debut are impeccable produced by Daniel Flores. The songs however aren’t of the same quality. We’ve gotten half way through the album until something interesting appears. Anders Wigelius, who was discovered on Swedish TV show True Talent, got a nice voice and potential that’s not fulfilled here. Songs to recommend: Too Young To Fall in Love, Love Can’t Be That Much and I Reach Out.
Rating: 6/10

Departure – Hitch A Ride (Escape Music, out now)
Departure released record number four earlier this year. The record contains eleven tracks with some catchy chorouses reminding me of Last Autumn’s Dream but with a more 70’s sound. The main problem with this record is just the choice of sound. The same songs with a more 80’s approach would probably have rated the album higher but instead leaves an odd feeling. Nowhere To Go and the bluesy Soldier Of Fortune are the two best here.
Rating: 6/10

Jeremey Frederick – Every Little Thing (Independent, out now)
Jeremey Frederick (Hunsicker) is perhaps best known for being the singer in Journey tribute-band Frontiers, he also co-wrote the opening song on Journey’s Revelations, during a period when he was considered as singer for the band. This is however his own record, with a couple of impressive guests, and it’s a strong one. Hoping For You, the title-track and opener Can’t You See He’s Gone are my 3 picks from a fine record.
Rating: 7,5/10

Richard Marx – Inside My Head (Frontiers Records, out now)
The name Richard Marx stands for pure songwriting quality, one of my alltime favourite songwriters. This double-cd only have a few new songs though, cd2 is a collection of his hits in new versions and many of the songs on cd1 were released a couple of years ago. Nevertheless it’s always great to hear new songs from this man. Inside My Head is a grower but songs as Part Of Me, All Over Me and Through My Veins was nailed at first spin.
Rating: 7,5/10

Hardline – Danger Zone (Frontiers Records, out now)
Hardline’s 4th record with yet again a new lineup is the best since the classic debute. The one remaining original member Johnny Gioeli is joined this time by keyboardmaestro Alex Del Vecchio and guitarist Torsten Koehne. The songwriting are better, so are the production, a fresh start to a once great band. Fever Dreams, 10000 Reasons (what a song) and Stay are my 3 picks from the record, which only have a couple of flaws songwise.
Rating: 8/10

Romeo’s Daughter – Rapture (RD Records out now)
Romeo’s Daughter finally releases their long awaited comeback. Rapture sounds fresh from the band with some modern rock touch and also a laid back sound that reminds of Irish band The Corrs. Old fans has got no need to be worried as they get their piece of the pie. Some songs reminds of their self titled debut. Absolute favorite in my ears are Lightning and straight forward AOR-rocker Talking Love. To me this is a real grower.
Rating: 7,5/10

Jack Blades – Rock N Roll Ride (Frontiers Records out march 23rd)
I like Jack Blades, let’s face it, he has written some truly fantastic songs through the years in Night Ranger. His solorecords are however always much different from Night Ranger, which in the end is good. The songs here are good, but not so much melodic rock as I expected. Born For This (first singel and video), the beautiful ballad Hardest Word To Say and opener Back In The Game are my 3 picks from this very good solorecord.
Rating: 7/10

Jeff Scott Soto – Damage Control (Frontiers Records out march 23rd)
Jeff Scott Soto don’t need an introduction, one of the most productive people in the melodic rock the last 5 years, easily. This is a strong typical JSS production with strong hooks and varied songs, nevertheless there are something missing that makes it get a higher rating from me, the songs might be a little to thin to reach all the way. Give A Little More, Die A Little and Tears That I Cry are my 3 favourites. As always with JSS, it’s a safe buy.
Rating: 7,5/10

Frozen Rain – Ahead Of Time (Avenue Of Allies out now)
The first record from Frozen Rain was a very varied piece of work, some excellent songs but also some that seemed unfinished and the production wasn’t the best. Gone now are all singers, now it’s just Carsten Schulz and the style is harder, very suitable I must say. Bandleader Kurt Veerecke has taken some time to write many great songs, most notably the ballad Too Late and much rockier The Last Dance Ain’t Over and Not At Home.
Rating: 7,5/10

MTB – Future Past (Frontiers Records out Now)
Michael Thompson Band released a classic debute in 1988, 24 years later it’s time for the second. Thompson is one of my alltime favourite guitarist, then it was Moon Calhoun who did the singing, now it’s Larry King. The result is a “heavier” record, at the same time not close to the debute in songwriting either. There are a couple of superb songs here, most notably When You Love Someone and Beautiful Mystery. Very good but could’ve been better.
Rating: 7,5/10

Sonic Station – s/t (Frontiers Records out Now)
Sonic Station are a new project from a guy called Alexander Kronbrink, with help from, among others, singers Magnus Bäcklund and Marika Willstedt. The record are very much in the Westcoast-style, very much at times. It starts great with a couple of songs, but the best song is Running Through The Night, sung by Willstedt, who has an amazing voice. The quality fades throughtout the record and in the end lack songs to get a higher rating.
Rating: 6,5/10

Beggars And Thieves – We Are The Brokenhearted (Frontiers Records out December 2nd)
Beggars And Theives presents their fifth album in a melancholy way, at least music wise. I think this is a grower, where melodic rock get mixed with the sound of todays arena band. Bands like U2 and Coldplay are not that far away still they’ve kept the melodic rock as their base. My favorites are We Come Undone, Beautiful Losers and We Are The Brokenhearted.
Rating: 7/10

The Magnificent – s/t (Frontiers Records out now)
Michael Eriksen on vocals of Circus Maximus and Leverage guitarist Torsti Spoof has got together and formed The Magnificent. Melodic hard rock that sounds in the area of Göran Edman’s Yngwie years. The album are filled with good riffs and big harmonies. The album contains some memorable tracks and some not that memorable an album worth buying allthough there’s a few fillers.
Rating: 7,5/10

Grand Illusion – Prince Of Paupers (AOR Heaven, out October 29th 2011)
Unfortunately we didn’t receive a promo at all of this, therefor I do just a short one now that I’ve ordered the record and gone through it a few times. The sixth record from our friends in Grand Illusion is another great one. Once again they’ve gotten help from outside writers and musicians, once again with great result. My favourites here includes St. Theresa’s Love, the bombastic ballad So Faraway and the superb Better Believe It. Go grab it!
Rating: 8/10

Kimball / Jamison – s/t (Frontiers Records out October 14th 2011)
Long time friends Jimi Jamison (Survivor, Cobra) and Bobby Kimball (Toto) teams up for the first time on a record. With songs from Erik Mårtensson, Jim Peterik, Randy Goodrum and John Waite, it’s hard to do anything wrong. It’s a well produced (by Mat Sinner) record with many great songs such as Worth Fighting For, Can’t Wait For Love and the superb Kicking And Screaming. A couple of weaker tracks is present but in all well worth to buy.
Rating: 7,5/10

House Of Lords – Big Money (Frontiers Records out September 27th 2011)
This is the 4th record from HOL since they reformed in the mid 2000’s. This is a stronger record than Cartesian Dream but not quite as strong as the first 2 with the new lineup. James Christian has once again teamed up with Mark Baker and Tommy Denander to help with songwriting, and the result is great as expected. The standout tracks here are One Man Down, the ballad The Next Time I Hold You and the closing song Blood. Quality as always.
Rating: 8/10

Night Ranger – Somewhere In California (Frontiers Records out June 2011)
Hole In The Sun was a good record but nowhere near the first 4-5 classics in the 80’s. This though is a step in the right direction, it’s clearly the best they’ve done since 1988. The personel is changed, out is Alan Fitzgerald and Jeff Watson, but it doesn’t change anything musicwise. Growin’ Up In California, Bye Bye Baby (Not Tonight) and the superb ballad Time Of Our Lives are the highlights of a mighty fine record from Night Ranger.
Rating: 8/10

Jorn – Live In Black (Frontiers Records out August 27th 2011)
I am a huge fan of live albums and this livealbum is actually really good, with exception for the two guitar solos. What I find funny about the disc is that it is recorded at the Sweden Rock Festival 2010, a show I attended. Best on the album is the old song “Tungur Knivur” (Worldchanger 2001). It was the song that was the first I heard of Jorn. Also “Spirit Black” (2009) and “Stormcrow” (2006) are good, sounds a lot better live than on album.
Rating: 6/10

Airrace – Back To The Start ( Frontiers Records out now)
First Airrace album is considered a classic. Comeback album Back From The Start should be seen as an equal, perhaps the material was a bit better back on the first one but today they got a production that might stand the test of time a bit better. I’ve missed Keith Murrells voice with a high class rock band and hopefully he will be back with Airrace once and for all.
Rating: 8/10

Gavelin – Mean Machine (OpenFly Records, out June 1st)
Together with all established musicians singer Jan Johansen (Ignition and solo) releases a classic rock album with really high quality. Hammond Organ, Harmonica and catchy riffs Gavelin takes us back in time with an up to date production. Influences can be heard in AC/DC, Nazareth, Deep Purple amongst others, there’s even some blues and counry included here.
Rating: 7/10

Brian Robertson – Diamonds and Dirt (Steamhammer, out now)
Robertson got himself an all-star Swedish band with the magnificent Leif Sundin at the mic. All songs are songs Robertson had shelved, except for the covered numbers, and they have finally been immortalized to the public. Robertson even plays the guitar as back in the good old days. One of my favorite songs are Do It Til We Drop, a song that got great vocals and killing guitar playing.
Rating: 6,5/10

Nazareth – Big Dogz (Ear Music, out now)
Nazareth declare themselves one of the hardest woórking bands in the business perhaps an accurate description and the reason is of course that after their first 10 years as recording artist they haven’t been able to release as good records anymore. In fact the albums everytime seem to be at an average level at most and this time’s no exception. A more mellow songs as When Jesus Comes To Save The World Again being the best song.
Rating: 5/10

Flamedown – s/t (selfinanced-ep)
This self financed EP by Argentinian Flamedown show a promising start as their full lenght album are ready to being released. 4 Tracks in the vein of AOR and West Coast, all songs are very laid back and quite low tempo. The songs itself sounds competent and if the full length album get some more attention at the production and a better mix in tempo this might be really good.
Rating: 5,5/10

Miss Behaviour – Last Woman Standing (Avenue Of Allies, out now)
I got the first Miss Behaviour-record back in 2005. Then it didn’t catch me at all, there were something missing. With the new record they got that something and brought in a new singer and much better songwriting. This is AOR by numbers and keyboardist Henrik Sproge are behind most of the songs on this keyboard-driven record. The title track, 1988, Cynthia and 11th Hour are the standouts here. This is a superb record, top-10 of the year?
Rating: 8,5/10

Robin Beck – The Great Escape (Her Majestys Music Room, out now)
The lovely Robin Beck still has IT, the looks are there the music are there and, most important, her voice are still there. On The Great Escape she has teamed up with husband James Christian and swedish guitar-wiz Tommy Denander. The result is great, her best record since Trouble Or Nothing. The One, Inside Me and That All Depends (duett with Joe Lynn Turner) are the winners here songwise. Female-fronted AOR at it’s best.
Rating: 8/10

Evergrey – Glorious Collision (Stemhammer, out now)
Evergrey’s new album and the line-up where three out of five members have been replaced, bidding on the same direction as the 2008 Torn where vocalist Tom S. Englund is the shining star. The music varies from quiet parts through hard rock to what they made themselves known for, the progressive metal. A solid album for anyone who wants to have something a bit harder.
Rating: 7,5/10

TEN – Stormwarning (Frontiers Records, out 18th February 2011)
Frontman Gary Hughes releases a new album with TEN, the ninth from the band. Personally I feel everything is mixed together with nothing that stands out. Vocals are competent but with the music won’t stand out, a few shredding fills and solos from the guitar but the sound of this album lies on constantly “streaming” keyboards making it somewhat flat. An average effort from the band.
Rating: 5/10

John Waite – Rough and Tumble (Frontiers Records, out 21st January 2011)
AOR gigant John Waite gives us riff strong classic and melodic rock singing really good, perhaps not as high pitched as he use to. Waite controls his voice really well and here he provides us with some fine tunes as well. The live release last year wasn’t anything that raised anyones eyebrows but this…well take a listen and you won’t get dissapointed.
Rating: 7,5/10

Rawburt – Muskedunder (Ubetoo.com out 2010)
Slightly heavier than usually reviewed here. Somewhere in between Hard rock and Metal ex wingman of Human Race, Robert Hansson, gives you a harder version of the mentioned band. Great vocals by Björn Jansson (ex. Tears of Anger). The delight of the record are a tight sound with heavy dark riffs and great vocal arrangements. 7 track album avaliable as download and rumour has it there’s a follow up being recorded.
Rating: 7/10

Allen/Lande – The Showdown (Frontiers Records, out 5th November 2010)
3rd record down the road Allen/Lande keeps the recipe intact, the mix between melodic hard rock and metal stays. Both Russell Allen and Jörn Lande has put their best into every record this one is no exception. You won’t be dissapointed if you like the predecessors. Perhaps guitarrist Magnus Karlsson should bring Allen/Lande on the road.
Rating: 7/10

Line Of Fire – Momentum (Tribunal Records, out august 10th 2010)
Line Of Fire’s second release is a really good one. Nikki Damage and Shawn Pelata delivers great AOR in “classic style” and Pelata sings as good as the better known singers out there. The opener It Takes Time and In The Stone are superb songs, Obsession and Give Me All are not far way. The only bad thing about this is the Dokken-cover Breaking The Chains, good but no point in doing his. The production is also very good.
Rating: 7/10

PJ Rautiainen – Secret Isle (Independent, out may 6th 2010)
The singer of House Of Mirrors, PJ Rautiainen goes solo and does it very well. This is a record with many different styles, westcoast, pop and AOR blended, and it works out very nice. Hey Brother, This Burden and particulary Falling For You are all great songs. Sadly there’s a couple of songs ruin the record, Burning and I Shout are actually “bad”. But in all it’s a very good record which is nice listening to on a calm sunny day on the beach
Rating: 6,5/10

Prime Suspects – s/t (Frontiers, FR CD 487, out December 3rd 2010)
The year’s biggest warning should go to Prime Suspects debut. With members from Khymera and Dreamtide, we should be able to ask for more, but their first album sounds incredible lame. The music is at best OK, but the texts, in which messages are ok, expressed almost in an embarrassing way. Nah buy any other album at any time.
Rating: 3,5/10

Strangeways – Perfect World (Frontiers, FR CD 483, out october 15th 2010)
This record is one of the most anticipated ever for me, the second and third release from the band are masterpieces of their own and 2 of my favourite records ever. Therefor I got a bit disappointed with this one, it’s a good record but not even close to the ones mentioned. Terry Brock sings as a God as usual but the songwriting isn’t there at all and there’s way too much ballads. The title track and Time are superb, the rest is not, and production below par.
Rating: 6/10

Salute – Heart Of The Machine (Escape, ESM215, out september 24th 2010)
Salute is back with their second release, and this one is stronger than the debute. Mikael Erlandsson sings as good as ever and the production is great from Martin Kronlund, who also plays guitars with Imre Daun on the drums. Tracks like Higher and the superb ballad Feed Your Hunger is standout tracks on a very good record. Escape has now released a couple of record with very high quality, after a downperiod.
Rating: 7/10

Ronnie Wood – I feel like playing (Eagle, EAGCD -428,out Septemper 27th 2010)
In between playing with The Rolling Stones Ronnie Wood decided to release a new solo album. The album contains several genres such as reggae, blues and pure rockers all in a quite pleasant mix, a few songs even gives us a Stones vibe. Slash, Kris Kristoffersson and Bobby Womack are guest artists that can be heard on the album.
Rating: 6,5/10

Two Fires – Burning Bright (Frontiers, FR CD 474, out september 24th 2010)
Two Fires third record is a raise in quality compared to their second one. But for me it don’t reach up to the high standard of the first record, songwise it lacks a bit, although there are some really good songs here. Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid and the opener Is It Any Wonder are superb, the titlesong Burning Bright are also very good. Kevin Chalfant is one of the best singers around, which he proves yet again.
Rating: 7/10

Phenomena – Blind Faith (Escape, ESM 216, out september 24th 2010)
Phenomena released two fantastic records in the 80’s and a very good third record in the 90’s, this was followed up by a rather weak effort in 2006. This is better than Psycho Fantasy but nowhere near the first 3, and in my opinion it’s the songwriting that does it. There are some really great singers here (Terry Brock and Chris Ousey among others) that deserved a bit more, even if it’s a good record overall.
Rating: 6/10

Peter Frampton – Thank you Mr. Churchill (Eagle, EAGCD 423, out July 7th 2010)
Peter Framptons first release in ages and the first 6 songs are spelled C-R-A-P. However the guitar sound really sounds good the record through. The second part of the album contains some really good laid back songs. I recommend to buy this as download to avoid the first part of the album.
Rating: 5/10