UNRULY CHILD – Can’t Go Home

0006031478_200Unruly Child are a band whose destiny should have treated them lots better than it did. Back in 1992, when lead singer Marcie Free was still named Mark (ex- King Kobra, Signal) had teamed up with former Stone Fury guitarist Bruce Gowdy, drummer Jay Schellen (ex- Hurricane, Stone Fury), keyboarder Guy Allison (ex- Doobie Brothers, Air Supply) and bassist Larry Antonio and released their Beau Hill (Ratt, Winger, Warrant, Twisted Sister, Europe) produced debut album, they should have become mega stars. The album was full of brilliantly written rockers, all somewhere between melodic hard rock and AOR and the musicians in the band were all nothing short of awesome. The fact that Free has always been an amazing vocalist isn’t exactly news. But the fact is, the band was at least one year too late when they released the record. 1991 was the last year that this kind of music was commercially viable and in 1992, grunge had been taking over more and more and Unruly Child’s album sunk like a rock in the water and the band fell apart. Gowdy, Allison and Schellen tried to start the band over in 1998 with the underwhelming album Waiting For The Sun, now with Schellen’s old buddy from his Hurricane days, Kelly Hansen (now in Foreigner) at the mike and bass player Ricky Phillips (The Babys, Bad English), but not much happened with that one either. An album full of demos of unreleased material and stuff from the debut called The Basement Demos was released in 2002 but it wasn’t a real band effort at all. A last attempt to keep the band alive was done in 2003 when Gowdy and Allison brought in singer Philip Bardowell for the record UCIII, but nothing came out of that either – and that was that for Unruly Child.

Fast forward to 2010 – Mark Free – who had had a sex change by then and was now called Marcie – had once again teamed up with the original Unruly Child line-up, signed a contract with Frontiers Records and had recorded a new album – and apparently the members had decided to give the band a go for real this time. The album they released was called Worlds Collide and was that year’s big exclamation mark when it comes to AOR and melodic rock. The album was a real killer, almost as awesome as the debut and the band was firing on all cylinders. Who would have thought? But after the release things got awfully quiet in the unruly camp once again and I’m not sure if the band toured the album or if they even played any gigs at all. Well, in 2014 they released a mini-album called Down The Rabbit Hole with the subtitle “Side One” which would insinuate that there would be a “side two” in the future, but that haven’t happened – at least not yet. But what we got is a brand new album by the AOR quintet and even though Down The Rabbit Hole was just ok, Worlds Collide is still the reason for some very high expectations.

Opener “The Only One” is an uptempo but soft, big AOR tune that is almost taciturn in sound. It’s a bit too mellow for an opener, but it’s a great song with an incredibly catchy chorus that would have shipped this record platinum in a just world. “Four Eleven” is slower, but also darker and more heavy on the guitars – more melodic rock than AOR. It also alludes to the sound of early King Kobra with a wink to the first Unruly Child album – a brilliant track. “Driving Into The Future” is a straight ahead AOR / pop song with a strong melody and an even stronger chorus and I’m sure it will please every Unruly Child fan out there – AOR at its best! “Get On Top” rolls with an ace groove and the Def Leppard vibe and the hard rock arrangement makes this a winner.  “See If She Floats” is more light-weight in sound and it walks into ballad territory, but its melody is quite memorable. It’s a good song although not as strong as the previous four. “She Can’t Go Home” on the other hand is a huge power ballad that could have been an outtake from both the debut and Worlds Collide. Big in sound and a chorus that hits pay-dirt makes the track a real jewel.

“Point Of View” is an upbeat, very poppy AOR rocker that brings “On The Rise” from the debut to mind, without being close to self-theft. The main melody strikes hard and makes you sing along the first time you hear it and the brilliant refrain sticks right off the bat – stunning. “Ice Cold Sunshine” is big AOR but rocks harder and is heavier on the guitars. The huge backing vocals in the chorus makes this pearl über-catchy and I’d love to see this one as a future single. The big vocals remains for “When Love Is Here”, a faster paced AOR rocker with its roots in the early 80’s. The keyboards are built on pomp (I can imagine a guy like Gregg Guiffria cranking the keys here) and are as fat as Jabba The Hut. Guy Allison is right on target and so is the song itself! “Sunlit Sky” is AOR 80’s style but I also hear quite the nod back to 70’s pomp rock with a rich Hammond like sound. I wouldn’t call it proggy, but it’s as proggy as a band like this will ever be. The contrast within the song is superb and the song is a killer! Closer “Someday Somehow” is a straight forward AOR song that comes in a more hard rock way. The fake live crowd-screams actually brings out some heaviness and the guitars are glistening. This is brilliant – more of that, please!

To judge by the quality of the songs alone, this album is brilliant. The production although, is both this and that. It’s smooth, slick, big, satin and keyboard massive – and it sounds awesome both in your head-phones and in the car but at the same time it’s a bit too light-weight and too pop. I would have liked it to be heavier, rougher, meaner and with the guitars louder in the mix. You can have a slick production but still with some punch and  attitude and it is the too soft production alone that brings down the final rate a notch. The performances by the musicians are completely faultless to put things mildly – these are all world-class players – and Free’s voice has aged perfectly and isn’t even close to crumble. Fact is, it hasn’t changed one bit since the 80’s, it’s just as strong. For fans of Unruly Child’s earlier albums – and for fans of AOR and melodic rock in general – this album is nothing but a matter of course!

8/10

Other Unruly Child reviews:

Worlds Collide

Tracklist:

1. The Only One
2. Four Eleven
3. Driving Into The Future
4. Get On Top
5. See If She Floats
6. She Can’t Go Home
7. Point Of View
8. Ice Cold Sunshine
9. When Love Is Here
10. Sunlit Sky
11. Someday Somehow

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