Jeff Brown

JEFF BROWN – 23 Years

Jeff Brown - 23 YearsEverybody’s going: “Finally a review of the new solo record from the extremely well-known artist Jeff Brown”! I don’t mean to make fun of Jeff’s solo album or his career or being an asshole at all, but sometimes I wonder what a record company is thinking when they sign up an artist that no one except the biggest music – well, AOR – nerds knows about. It’s not like Jeff is going to have a couple of huge hits that is all over radio and sell millions of records here. Yes, I know, that’s not what this album is all about and yes, I too believe that it’s great that someone will go out of their way to make sure a record like this is released – the world actually need more record company people who thinks exactly like this, I’m just curious of how an A&R guy will sell this record, how will they make a rock audience buy Jeff Brown’s album. Me, I did know who Jeff Brown was when I got the link to review this record. The first time I heard his name was when I found a cheap copy of one of his first bands, Wildfire’s records Summer Lightning (1984) after hearing a song of theirs, “The Key”, on a rock show on the radio. However, that song was the only good song on that record but I remembered his name for some reason. In the early 90’s he ended up as both bass player and lead vocalist in Andy Scott’s new version of The Sweet, something both his ex-Wildfire buddies Paul Mario Day (lead vocals. Day was also Iron Maiden’s singer for a short while in the mid 70’s) and Bruce Bisland (drums) also did at one point. Statetrooper are another band Brown was involved with (also featuring Bisland and ex MSG singer Gary Barden). Today, Brown has just released a really great album, Too Many Gods, with a new project with the corny name Cats In Space (reviewed here). The band that have joined Brown for the recording of this album is Niko Arvanitis (Warlock) and Peter Szigeti (Warlock, U.D.O.) on guitars,  Jürgen Reinert on drums and Gary Moberly (Sweet) on keyboards. Knowing Brown’s past and how his new band sounds, I had a distinct feeling about which direction the music would take on his debut solo album – I would be extremely surprised if this album was anything but a melodic rock / AOR album.

Opener “Crazy World” tells me that my suspicions were right, it’s a catchy pop rocker that reminds me of how Nelson sounds today – somewhere between AOR and melodic rock. A damn fine song as well. The title track that follows is a ballad. Lyrically, I get the feeling that it’s autobiographical. It has the sound of an 80’s power ballad, very catchy and very good. “Casino Royale” is a great, upbeat melodic rocker that has a lot of 90’s (Andy Scott’s) Sweet in it. “Contagious” is a blistering pop-metal killer with a, well, contagious (pun intended, of course) chorus. This would have been a hit 1986. Too bad it’s not 1986 anymore, then. It should be a hit in 2015 as well. “Fallen Angels” is an ok track, but the title is cliché that has been used to death. It’s an AOR rocker with some symphonic undertones. It’s a bit forgettable, though. But “Once In Every Lifetime” picks things up again and we’re back to the good stuff again. The song is catchier than glue and very 80’s – it actually sounds like a mix between Sweet and Bon Jovi. Halfway through the record, I must say that I’m impressed. What I thought would be an ok record with the odd melody that stuck, has turned into a record that keeps me interested in what to come. But the following power ballad “When The Love Is Gone” is a let-down. It’s really standard and even though it’s not crap, it really doesn’t go anywhere either. This could have been a Wet Wet Wet song – or something in that vein. But “Calling Me, Calling You” takes us back up again. It’s catchy as Hell and has a main riff that reminiscent of Megadeth’s “Symphony Of Destruction” – really cool. “Stay With Me” might have some pretty cliché lyrics and since the whole song is so totally 80’s, it kind of works. Besides, the tune is so catchy, I don’t care. it also contains a horn section and a really cool Hammond Organ which makes the song sound vital and fresh – good job. “Slipping Away” is a power ballad that puts us right in a time machine back to 1985 and back then this song would probably had been all over MTV. The closing track, another ballad, is called “Life Goes On” and happens to be a real killer. I think of Nelson again, but this time it’s their 1990 album After The Rain that comes to mind and since that album is killer, you know that this song is one as well. The backing vocals has the high pitch that Andy Scott used to provide us with when in Sweet. But there is a hidden track at the end of “Life Goes On”. First the usual silence for a while and then another song comes along, I have no clue of what it’s called, but I would guess on “Watching You” or something like this. It’s not that a great song so it’s no biggie that we don’t get it as a “real” song, it’s standard AOR and pretty predictable.

As a whole, if you’re a fan of AOR and melodic rock, you know what you’re getting here – no big surprises, nothing new under the sun at all. But that’s trivial when the songs are good enough and the songs here are good enough. The fact is, this record is a lot better than I had expected it to be. Jeff Brown is a really good singer with a personal voice and the rest of the band are really tight and all the performances from the musicians are totally faultless – it’s a bunch of really talented guys that is backing Brown up here. The production is good but it sometimes feels a bit tinny and low, but it’s nothing that really bothers me. So, if you – just like me – don’t have a problem with music that hasn’t re-invented the wheel, if the only important thing is the quality of the songs and the musicians and if you are into AOR and melodic rock, I’d recommend you to check this one out. And remember, it gets better with each listen.

7/10

Tracklist:

1. Crazy World
2. 23 Years
3. Casino Royale
4. Contagious
5. Fallen Angels
6. Once In Every Lifetime
7. When The Love Is Gone
8. Calling Me, Calling You
9. Stay With Me
10. Slipping Away
11. Life Goes On