Palace took me a bit off guard when they (he, actually as the “band” is really Michael Palace doing 90 percent himself) released their debut album Master Of The Universe in 2016. Sure, I am a fan of both melodic Rock and AOR but since the album in question here hardly reinvented the wheel I was a bit surprised that I dug the album as much as I did. But Michael Palace is an artist with a huge love and passion for this kind of music and combined with his many talents as a multi-instrumentalist, producer and song writer, it really shouldn’t have surprised me at all. I didn’t know much about Michael back then but a quick google showed that his CV included great albums by First Signal and Kryptonite, a job at Frontiers as a song writer which included Toby Hitchcock, Adrenaline Rush, Miljenko Matejivic, Reach and Find Me. Now Palace is back with a new album – and a new haircut (well lack of, more…) and we hear talk about breaking out of the AOR box a bit musically.
“I have said it before in my later reviews concerning new AOR acts, nothing new has happened in a long time and it’s really rare that I get excited about new AOR albums nowadays.” That’s how I ended my last review. It was a review of an album called Love Equals War by a Swedish AOR foursome called Care Of Night. So here I am, back with another review of an album by another Swedish AOR act, State Of Salazar on Frontiers Records. Starting out in 2010, the band was formed by five students from the Malmö Academy Of Music – Marcus Nygren (vocals), Johan Thuresson (guitars), Johannes Hansson (bass), Kristian Brun (drums) and Stefan Mårtenson who is now replaced by Kevin Hosford (keyboards) and in 2012 they released their debut E.P. Lost My Way which was followed by the debut album All The Way in 2014 to lots of critical acclaim.
Here’s another AOR band that hails from Sweden and whadda you know, they’re NOT on Frontiers Records. Care Of Night contains four dudes – vocalist Calle Schörberg, guitarist and bassist Viktor Öström Berg, drummer Linus Svensson and keyboarder Kristofer von Wachenfeldt – that were formed back in 2009. They released their self-titled debut E.P. in 2013 after which they signed a deal with AOR Heaven – a label they’re still with – and released the critically acclaimed “Connected” in 2015. After a highly acclaimed performance at the Nottingham festival the same year, the band really had something to keep working by but things went silent after that. Now, with a new guitarist in Öström Berg, the band is current with a brand new album. But in this day and age, AOR bands pops up like mushrooms in the forest and it remains to be seen if Care Of Night has something that sets them apart from the rest.
Three years ago, a download link for reviewing purposes by a band called Sunflower Dead found its way into my mailbox. I wasn’t sure about their name but I checked it out, of course. The first thing I saw was the artwork for the album cover – the whole thing was stolen right from Kiss’ 1976 album Rock And Roll Over – if you shall steal then steal from the best. It was all done with humor and respect and for a huge Kiss fan myself I had to dive right into their music – maybe the sound would be influenced and borrowed from 70’s classic Kiss. It wasn’t. But that don’t mean that the album was bad, quite the contrary, I enjoyed the hell out of it. It’s Time To Get Weird was a heavy album but held a some very catchy and memorable melodies. At times they moved towards modern, American Metal and the production was a bit too compressed and thick which affected the dynamics. But despite that, the album was a damn good one.
Back in August, song writer/guitarist/singer Jean Beauvoir released the compilation album, humbly called Rock Masterpieces Vol. 1 and now in November, only three months later, the sequel is out. Why he didn’t decide on making it a double album, I don’t know – maybe a third volume will be out soon? With a such a treasure-chest of Melodic Rock, AOR and Pop pearls as Beauvoir’s only one compilation volume isn’t even remotely enough. Two is almost too little. On the other hand – and this is only a matter of taste – there were songs on the first volume that I wouldn’t have picked and – it would turn out – it’s the same case with this volume. Not that I can find any bad songs on either albums but as I read the tracklist here, I see that there are still songs I miss on an album like this. But you can’t please everyone and what I dig someone else might not and vice versa.
I have an imaginary file that I call “Reunited bands that kick their past’s butt”. There’s a few acts in there – Europe, Winger and Stryper to mention a few – but it’s far from being full. Many bands that reunites are really good but few manages to better their glory days. Here’s another such band – the Electric Boys. I have been a big Electric Boys fan ever since I saw singer/lead guitarist Conny Bloom and bass player Andy Christell perform “All Lips And Hips” playback as a duo in 1988 (guitarist Franco Santunione and drummer Niclas Sigevall joined up shortly after) on a Swedish music show and I loved every album back in the day. Electric Boys split up in the mid 90’s clearly affected by the Grunge movement after their 1994 album Freewheelin’ bombed. Except for Bloom, who released a solo album and one album with a new outfit – Titanic Truth, it was deadly quiet from the rest of the band until Conny and Andy showed up in Hanoi Rocks in 2004.
Finally! Finally what, you might ask. Well, the follow-up to Dan Reed Network’s great come back album Fight Another Day from 2016, of course. I have always been a huge fan of Dan Reed Network, ever since their 1988 debut album and since their break-up in 1993, I have crossed my fingers for a reunion, something that for some 20 years seemed unlikely to ever happen. I mean, even Dan Reed himself was off the radar for many years so when the reunion finally happened in 2013, I was happy like a kid on Christmas – and even more so when they announced that they would release a brand new record a couple of years later. I know that Fight Another Day got some mixed reviews from both fans and critics but I love that record. That’s why I went from happy and enthusiastic to somewhat disappointed when I saw the track-list for their new record. Eight songs – four new ones and four re-recordings of old classics. Not what I had hoped for. That said, I’m still very curios on the new stuff – and how the old stuff would sound in their new suits.
So I was just getting ready to write this review when all of a sudden I started think about why Ten never got to rise up to the big league. They started out in 1995 – that’s 23 years ago – released their debut album in 1996 and have since then released 13 more albums, including the new one. Add to that list one live album, six compilation albums and five E.P.’s plus a lot of touring in between. Why isn’t Ten a big band now? Bad luck? Bad management? No record company promotion? Too much bad press? I dunno but maybe it’s the fact that they’re just not good enough? I know, this sound harsh and I’m not writing this because I hate Ten – I don’t – I write this because I seriously wonder. 23 years is a long time and if you deliver the goods then something should have happened right?
Ratt have always been a dysfunctional band but in the last year they have been a mess. When the three original members Stephen Pearcy (vocals), Warren De Martini (guitars) and Bobby Blotzer (drums) finally managed to talk original bass player Juan Croucier to return in 2012 it only took one year until Blotzer was out and earlier this year both De Martini and guitarist (latest) Carlos Cavazo jumped the ship leaving Pearcy and Croucier as the only original members. Pearcy himself left the band and rejoined many, many times throughout the years but is touring under the Ratt moniker still. Also, new video clips showed a drooling, clearly intoxicated Pearcy on stage that had trouble even standing up. There’s never a dull moment in the Ratt camp… So while new music from Ratt isn’t anything I’m holding my breath for – which is sad because the last Ratt album Infestation (2010) was a damn good one – Stephen Pearcy is way more creative by himself in that department.
When I state that Jake E Lee disappeared after Badlands called it quits in the mid 90’s I usually stand corrected by some and rightfully so. Lee never disappeared as such because he released solo albums, started a new band with former WWIII singer Mandy Lion, called Wicked Alliance – a project that never went anywhere and he contributed to other artists albums such as Enuff Z’Nuff’s Dissonance (2009) and Beggars & Thieves We Are The Brokenhearted (2011), but the thing is, Lee held such a low profile it felt like he had disappeared. And I missed him. To me, Lee was always my favorite Ozzy guitar player and that remains to this day. I also love Badlands. So when I heard that he had formed a new band called the Red Dragon Cartel back in 2013, that was splendid news for me – and man, how I hoped that they would be as awesome as Badlands or the Ozzy records he helped writing, Bark At The Moon (1983) and The Ultimate Sin (1985).