If there’s anybody out there who don’t have a clue who this woman is, don’t be ashamed, because even though she has been a part of the Swedish music circuit for the last 20 something years, it’s not like she has made platinum albums and provided a national musical impact across the globe. Fact is, as a Swede myself, I have heard her name because she used to play the part of Ann Wilson in a Heart tribute band, Heart Attack, but that is basically it. Unfortunately, I never got to see that band myself, but whenever that band is mentioned, Martina’s fabulous voice is what people choose to talk about. Hopefully, they will play live again soon because the real Heart refuses to play their 80’s hits live and I guess Heart Attack are as close as it gets to that. But she started her career as a back-up singer to Swedish pop/rap three hit wonder Dr Alban and continued to do the same with Swedish hard rocker went eurotechno artist E-Type in the early 90’s and as a result her voice is on practically every Swedish pop record from that time, as a back-up singer. Her next project was to start The Poodles with her then boyfriend (yes, THAT Poodles), playing covers by 80’s / early 90’s bands like Bon Jovi, Europe, Twisted Sister and the such. After the cover band thing she participated in the talent show Fame Factory (like an Idol light before Idol), but her career really didn’t go anywhere from there and when our calendars said 2005, Martina had become a mother and she took a time-out from the music business to make motherhood her main priority. So, fast forward a few years and we find Martina being offered a deal for a solo record, the debut from this stunningly gorgeous, amazing singer. The fact that she made her solo debut in her mid forties feels somewhat weird. She should have recorded an album ages ago. It’s almost a waste of talent, but I guess it’s like they say, better late than never.
So how does this sound then? Well, Martina and her producer Robert Wellefors has made sure this album would allude to her fascination and love for melodic hard rock and AOR and together with a bunch of Sweden’s top studio musicians, this is exactly what they have done. The first single and video “On The Top” pre-dated the album and it gave us a hunch of what we were going to get. The song is the album’s opener and I really get why it was chosen as a single. It’s a good song and it reminds me somewhat of the stuff Swedish pop singer Jill Johnson does, only rockier and without many of the country influences. But the song is a bit undistinguished, to be honest. “Back Home”, on the other hand, is a great radio rock tune, that should be a single in the future. I can see this go down well on main stream radio. And when we’re on the subject main stream, we have “Who You Are”, a nice little thing with a fine groove, but it’s a little too much middle-of-the-road for my taste. “Heartland” is a real killer, though. It’s catchier than glue and has some kick-ass in your face guitars. Thanks for those! “Just Take My Heart” is a cover of the Mr Big ballad from their Lean Into It (1991) album and no matter how good that song might be and just how bloody marvelous Martina sings on it, she really doesn’t bring anything new to the table and the song sounds just like the Mr Big version with a female voice on it. It’s not bad by any means, but Martina really should have made it her own. Now, I really don’t see any reason to listen to this when you could listen to the original. “Seeds Of Love” steps outside of the box for a while. The song has a trippy feel and in my ears, this sounds like a more AOR-ish Blind Melon – very cool. “Seduce Your Mind” is a tune that would have been on heavy rotation in my home back in 1990. It’s an 80’s rocker with a catchy chorus the way Jack Ponti used to write them and I have to admit, I have a weak spot for this kind of song. “My Moment”, on the other hand, tries its best to put me to sleep. It’s a dull tune and nothing happens, kind of like watching your nails grow – skip button warning! The album ends with “Before I Die”, a good pop-rocker that really rocks you while you’re listening, but unfortunately turns out to be a bit forgettable, because when the album has ended, I have a hard time remembering its melody.
To sum it up, it’s really not a bad album, but even for an AOR album, there are a few pivotal things lacking. Martina is an amazing vocalist for sure and the performance by the musicians are faultless – they’re all top of the game so there’s nothing to complain about there. Also, most of the songs are really good. What really gets on my tits here is the production. It’s polished, bland, mainstream and there is nothing that sticks out or touches you, nothing that kicks you in the butt. Where’s the fire, passion, bite and action? I have no doubts that Martina loves the songs and has put her heart and soul into them, but the mawkish production doesn’t show that. The rock ‘n’ roll here is frugal and the sound scape is almost gawky. My candour on the subject might seem a bit harsh, but the songs on this album has really left me somewhat enamoured and I just know that this album would have been really great with a production more aplomb and ferocious and a lot less abstemious. It’s really great that Martina has gotten her debut out and her solo career started, but I really hope that next time her music will be embossed by heaviness and rawness within the AOR boundaries and not so subservient. There are some really good songs on this album and I want to like this so bad, but it’s not memorable enough, I’m afraid. I really hope that will change the next time around.
Jon Wilmenius (6/10)
1 On The Top
2 Back Home
3 Who You Are
6 Just Take My Heart (Mr Big)
7 Seeds Of Love (Mother Nature Song)
8 Seduce Your Mind
9 My Moment
10 Before I Die