Jim Peterik is one dude that shouldn’t need a closer introduction when you think of what he has accomplished during his years as a professional musician that started with The Ides Of March back in 1970, a band he still belongs to and has made five albums with, the last one released in 2010 . But it is, of course, as the guitarist/keyboardist/song writer for Survivor this 68-year old AOR icon is mostly known for. His days as a member of Survivor are gone since 1996 and even if Survivor have continued without him, he’ll always be remembered as one of the writers behind mega-hits like “Eye Of The Tiger” and “Burning Heart”. Besides that he already got three solo albums to his name, two with the group Chase, two with the Henry Paul Band, three with Jim Peterik’s Lifeforce, eight with Pride Of Lions plus he’s on records with Jimi Jamison, Kelly Keagy and Marc Sherer. Not a guy who likes sitting idle, in other words.
World Stage are, what it looks like to me, more of a project than an actual band. On the other hand, Peterik did release a live album – Rock America: Smash Hits Live – back in 2002, two years after the release of World Stage’s self-titled debut album. Why I reckon this is a project is the fact that there are lots of different singer used – and the same goes for the rest of the musicians. Be that as it may, knowing that Peterik is known for being a highly skilled song writer and that the latest effort by Pride Of Lions, Fearless (2017), was a killer AOR-album, makes this a highly interesting album, an album I have high hopes for. The fact that he uses some stellar names as singers also helps rising said expectations.
Opening up with the album’s title track we get an upbeat, slick AOR-tune, not a far cry from the sounds of Pride Of Lions where Peterik, a good vocalist himself, duets with Don Barnes of 38 Special fame. It’s a shiny little pop-pearl that bears all of Peterik’s melody trademarks with an almost annoyingly sticky refrain. Gotta love it. It should be a future single as well as it screams HIT! Mike Reno of Loverboy takes the mike (sic!) for the uptempo, guitar-driven AOR-rocker “Without A Bullet Being Fired”. It’s a rhythmic, pretty crunchy piece that still holds the smoothness and slick arrangements that are Peterik’s trademarks. Complete with an in-your-face and amazingly catchy chorus, the track is a clear winner. Featuring Styx-man Dennis DeYoung on lead vocals, first single “Proof Of Heaven” is a half-ballad, quite pompous with a feel of AOR from the late 70’s/early 80’s. Slightly progressive, big on keyboards without declining the guitars, the AOR meets pomp makes it hard not to think about Styx. It’s a great, memorable track that deserves to be a hit.
“Sometimes You Just Want More”, featuring singer Kevin Chalfant (The Storm) is a big AOR track – smooth, slick, pink n’ fluffy. It comes in mid-tempo with a big 80’s feel. Survivor meets Pride Of Lions which means memorable melodies, lots of hooks and a truly sticky refrain. It’s a bit sugary but still a very good tune. Peterik’s Pride of Lions band-buddy Toby Hitchcock takes over the vocals for “Home Fires” and his dramatic, theatrical voice makes comparisons with POL inevitable. Musically too with it’s slick arrangement it goes straight into POL. It’s an uptempo tune that brings on both Pop, AOR and West-Coast in one fine mix. Good one. My first reaction when I heard “Just For You” was: This isn’t World Stage, this is REO Speedwagon. Sure, Kevin Cronin’s voice played a big part but fact is, this sounds so much like the Speedwagon it had to be written around Cronin’s voice. It’s a sugar-coated power ballad, sweet and romantic taken right off Hi Fidelity land. Which means we get a killer ballad here.
“The Hand I Was Dealt” features the glorious vocal cords of Tyketto singer Danny Vaughn. It’s a quite slick and smooth AOR-rocker that holds a mid tempo and lands somewhere between Survivor and said Tyketto and it got me thinking of a warm summer day in the mid 80’s. It’s not cheesy or tame but very catchy and accessible – a very good song and clearly single-material. We’re treated with some Swedish AOR-voices when Work Of Art’s Lars Säfsund and Robert Säll joins Peterik in the mid-paced, ballad-like “Where Eagles Dare”. It’s laid-back and soft with some brilliant vocal-harmonies, big in sound but with a modern twist. Very memorable, very good. Night Ranger drummer/lead vocalist Kelly Keagy lends his voice “I Will What I Want”, a more hard rocking number in the vein of Melodic Rock and not a far cry from his day job. It’s slightly progressive, guitar driven – where Keri Kelli (Night Ranger) brings on a solo – and holds a rowdy organ solo. The chorus is huge, though and damn catchy. Great!
“You’re Always There” is a big, pompous and overblown power ballad that lands somewhere between Survivor and 80’s Chicago which again makes me wonder if the song is written around singer Jason Scheff’s voice – I mean the guy did sing in Chicago. Bringing along a big string arrangement, a sweet sound-scape and melodies of candy makes the tune a bit too syrupy, especially the refrain. It’s not bad but a bit too slick for me. The Nelson brothers, Matt and Gunnar takes over the microphone for “Avalanche”, an upbeat and groove-laden Melodic Rock track with some Hard Rock tendencies. Sound-wise, it sounds as if Survivor took Night Ranger to a party at Nelson’s house – catchiness deluxe! Closing track, “Love You All Over The World”, feels almost spooky as it is the last recording of Survivor’s vocalist Jimi Jamison. Back from the dead, kind of. But it’s awesome to hear Jamison’s amazing voice once again. The tune itself is a power ballad, a bit on the syrupy side but also a bit reminiscent of Dare when some Celtic twists shows up. It’s a good tune with a sticky refrain and what would fit an album like this better than to end it with a tribute to Peterik’s old friend and lead vocalist?
Despite the fact that this record contains a different singer for every song and that many of them sounds as if they were written with exactly that voice in mind, bringing the singers’ day-jobs to mind, the album don’t sound like a split-personality. Much of it has to do with, of course, that Peterik leaves his own personal mark in every piece of music here. Quality wise, I really can’t find anything to complain as almost every song here are of the highest standard. Sure, a couple of them are a bit too sweet and saccharine, but the fact is, not even those songs are bad. Add to the fact that all performances on the record are ace and you’ll realize that this album is a killer. Sure, if you’re not into Melodic Rock and/or AOR then look elsewhere for what makes you tick, but the rest of you should really give this one a go. For me, this is the best album Peterik has been involved in in a long time – and I really dug the last Pride Of Lions effort. Top notch!
1. Winds Of Change
2. Without A Bullet Being Fired
3. Proof Of Heaven
4. Sometimes You Just Want More
5. Home Fires
6. Just For You
7. The Hand I Was Dealt
8. Where Eagles Dare
9. I Will What I Want
10. You’re Always There
12. Love You All Over The World