John Roth and Terry Brock are two names in rock that probably won’t sell that many records. I’m not sure how many of the average rockers who even know who they are, but I have a feeling only the most investiture fans have a clue. I know who they are, but then again, I’m a nerd when it comes music (rock). For you who don’t know who they are, John Roth is a guitar player – a underrtated one, I might add – that plays second guitar to Reb Beach in Winger and was also the guitarist in the last line-up in Giant and he also joined Starship in 2012. Terry Brock is an American singer – from Georgia, Atlanta to be precise – who has released eight albums with Scottish AOR rockers Strangeways since the debut in 1984 and who’s third album Walk In The Fire (1989) is an AOR masterpiece. He was also the lead singer and co-song writer on the extremely underrated Mike Slamer album Nowhere Land (2006). Brock was also the guy who replaced Dan Huff as the singer in Giant on their disappointing 2010 album Promise Land, an album that also included John Roth. It’s not a wild guess that said album was where Roth and Brock got in touch for the first time, but since this album is released by Frontiers Records, I suspect it was the record company in question that made the guys work together – Frontiers is a company known to pull stunts like that. I must admit that I found the combo very interesting as Brock is a great singer and I looked forward to hear what Roth could come up with when he’s his own boss, so to speak. Roth also handles both bass and keyboards and the drummer is called Scott Trammell who has a CV that features artists such as Roxy Blue, Rufus Thomas, Survivor, Isaac Hayes, John Entwistle and Jimi Jamison.
The album opens with the first single / video “Young Guns” and even though it’s easy to hear that it is top class musicians we’re dealing with here, I just can’t get a grip of the song. It’s impeccable but it’s just another standard melodic rock song, nothing special and it’s forgettable. The next track, “What’s It To Ya” follows in the wake of its predecessor. It’s a decent track with the typical melodic hard rock riffs and melodies that every other band in the genre had in 1992, just before the scene was about to die. To me, this song is like a Warrant light, not bad but not that great either. But something happens when the third song “Young Again” breaks loose. Finally, the big pop chorus of a band like Giant and the AOR undertones of Strangeways shows up. The chorus is catchy and resplendent and to me, this is exactly how I hoped this project would sound. “If That’s What It Takes” is a slow-paced AOR tune that moves into ballad territory. The melody comes with a congenial panache and the refrain is just is sticky and catches on right on the spot. It also gives Brock a great opportunity to shine – and so he does. They turn the guitars up a notch for “I Don’t Know Why” and to these ears, this sounds like a more guitar oriented Strangeways and it sure gets my hopes up for the rest of the album despite the tentative opening.
The grand power ballad “Distant Voices” is a total winner and it reminds me some of the Slamer album Nowhere Land which Brock sang on. There’s a prosperous atmosphere over the whole thing and the melody is just so damn affable – to me, this is a hit to be and one of this album’s finest moments. The single “We Are” follows and the first time I heard it, I thought it was mediocre at best and that opinion stays after a few listens. It’s not crap, but it never sticks and it just goes in one ear and out the other. “Fighter” takes the same path. It gives me the same feel as the two first tracks – melodic rock with a riff, melody and chorus done to death by million of other bands – it lacks identity and it is forgettable. “My City” takes the band back on track again. It’s a great AOR song which reminds me of First Signal, another Frontiers project that I’m conspicuously enamoured with. It also holds a slight Journey vibe especially in the glistening chorus. There’s an enormous Def Leppard influence in the mighty power ballad “Never Givin’ Up”, in fact, the beginning of the song sounds so alike Leps ballad “Love Bites” that they should get a song writing credit. Still, it’s a really good song and in 1989, this could have been a big hit. Closing track “Reason To Believe” is a very melodic, mid-paced rocker with a catchy but not very radio friendly chorus. It’s a typical album track and it feels somewhat misplaced as the last song. But I like it even though it might not be the album’s strongest effort.
For the most part, the songs on this record are really damn great but unfortunately, there are some fillers too many. Still, with a great singer like Brock, who also has a very personal voice, they fail to create a sound and an identity of their own. Musically, this could be just about any melodic rock band out there and the album lacks songs that really grabs a hold of you and sticks. Another problem is that it is the ballads and the pop songs that are the strongest on this record while the rockers are the uneven ones and a rock album without really good rockers kind of misses the goal. Brock is a brilliant singer and is always a joy to listen to, Roth has some big guitar playing skills and should be a bigger name than he is and the production is doesn’t leave much to be desired, so no complaints there. It is just the little things that makes this album only good when it has all the ingredients to be great.