Daniel Flores, producer, keyboardsman, drummer and songwriter and lead singer Robbie Leblanc are back with the third album from their AOR project Find Me. I wasn’t all that impressed by the debut album, Wings Of Love from 2013 so naturally I wasn’t too thrilled when I took on the follow-up Dark Angel (2015). So it was a very pleasant surprise for me when the album turned out to be a real knock-out. I know that main-man Flores projects are a bit up and down, his project The Murder Of My Sweet has released four albums of which two are really good and two are underwhelming and/or uneven and the latest Toby Hitchcock record left some to be desired. That said, Flores was involved in the two First Signal albums, both awesome. That means, I haven’t the slightest idea what to expect from the new record (the second album with “angel” in the title). Oh yeah, I still think Find Me is a pretty crappy name. Can someone tell if there’s a meaning to it?
Opener and leading single “No Tears In Paradise” is an uptempo, straight-forward AOR-rocker anchored in the mid 80’s and holds a big sound-scape. It’s pop-fueled with an intense and striking refrain full of hooks that won’t disappoint any fan of this project. Style-wise it comes across as a mix of Palace and modern day House Of Lords, catchy as hell. It’s a great opener that bodes really well for the rest of the album. The following “Chain Of Love” is in-your-face AOR in an uptempo pace. Almost drenched in keyboards, the tune is pretty punchy anyway and brings on a live-feel that makes me want to catch this lot live. The verses are in a more laid-back vein but the catchy refrain pumps things up. Very good. “True Believer” is upbeat but very poppy, total AOR with smooth melodies and a slick outlook, very pink n’ fluffy indeed. However, the song’s chorus is immediate and so catchy it almost hurts – no AOR fan will be able to dismiss this one. Very good.
There is more live-vibes to be had with “Straight For Eternity”, a big grooved and uptempo AOR stomper with an enormous refrain, stickier than glue and a main melody that is both striking and memorable – great stuff. “Can’t Let Go” comes with the guitars more upfront which works very well with the pop-laden and very AOR style of the song. The faster pace makes the tune more direct and the chorus goes for the throat and takes no prisoners, catchy as can be – another really good one. Big and pompous, the ballad “One Last Kiss” does its best to seduce us with a power ballad-laden refrain that screams hit – and I’m sure as hell is seduced by the tune. Brilliant! “Living A Lie” starts with an intro full of mid 80’s sounding synthesizers but rocks up a good groove with a big, fat riff of guitars and keyboards combined. It’s an energetic tune with a monster of a refrain. The tune reminds me of the debut Palace album (Master Of The Universe) which makes me wonder if Mike Palace had a hand in this tune in any way.
The title-track is direct and bouncy with a big live-feel over a fat and big rhythm. But it’s the hooks and the super-catchy refrain that brings the home at the end, the hit-potential here is endless. Despite a darker touch, it is a positive song – brilliant! “Show Me What You’d Die For” is the first song that doesn’t hit me hard. It’s pretty upbeat but at the same time a bit light-weight and the chorus is catchy enough but it doesn’t cut it all the way. It’s an ok song but a bit too streamlined. “Waiting For A Lifetime” is a bit more laid-back and relaxed, especially the verses but the chorus fastens up some although it’s still pretty soft and calm. It’s not as hit-laden and direct as most of the songs here – it feels more like an album track than a single-choice. Which does not mean it’s a bad track because it’s not, it’s a good song but maybe not as striking as tracks 1 – 8.
The album continues in a mainstream way with “You Are The One”, a song that do hold a decent groove but it’s way too cheesy and sugary for me. It’s a lukewarm tune that never really lets go and even though I don’t hate it, I doesn’t tickle any nerves either. “Desperate Dreams” is a Survivor cover taken from their underrated Too Hot To Sleep (1988) and the tune has always been a favorite of mine. Find Me stays very true to the original, so true that it feels like they have just removed Jimi Jamison’s voice and added Leblanc’s and done like that, I really don’t get the point. Why make a cover if you’re not gonna make it your own? That said, Find Me’s version sounds great and it is a great song in the first place. Closing track “Only The Lonely” is a mid-paced and very poppy AOR stomper with a big mid 80’s sound, Heart influences and a good beat that combined with an insanely catchy refrain makes this tune a winner – great that they ended the record on a good note.
If you’re a die-hard AOR fan, then this album’s a no-brainer – it holds all the elements for you, it’s pop-laden, pink, fluffy with lots of smooth keyboards and a clear and sharp production. The musical performances are all flawless, to put things mildly, especially singer Leblanc – what a voice. As usual when it comes to modern AOR albums, I think it sounds a bit too clean and smooth and I believe that most AOR albums, this one included, would be bettered with louder guitars, more pounding drums and a rawer production but Find Me has come up with so many great tunes that I don’t care. Quality wise, there are a few tracks towards the end that brings down the score some but as a whole this is a great AOR album, an album I think is way better than the debut but not as great as Dark Angel.
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