If it wasn’t for Tom Galley’s Phenomena, I would probably never have had heard of Rob Moratti. One of the later Phenomena albums, Blind Faith (2010), contained a huge power ballad called “House Of Love”, a song Moratti sang the living daylight out of and I had to know more about this guy. Sure, he replaced Michael Sadler in Saga for a short while in 2008 until Sadler decided to come back but I was never a Saga fan so that mattered little and his own pre-Saga bands Moratti and Final Frontier I had never heard of until I finally checked out the singer in question. I decided to check out his debut album Victory (2011) and I must admit I quite enjoyed the record even though it’s not on high rotation at my home. That said, I totally missed out on his follow-ups, A Tribute To Journey (2015) and Transcendent (2016), the latter an album I more or less stumbled over years later. It was also a good album.
Now he’s back with a new release, a release that came with an attached press-release that threw comments like “his strongest solo record ever”, “a league of his own”, “as astonishing as ever” and “Harmonies and memorable choruses that will capture the listener and engrave your soul”. Phew! Add to the fact that the album is humbly called Renaissance and it’s not hard to figure out that someone in the A&R department is busting his/her balls trying to create a hype here. When I read things like that, I take that with several pinches of salt – fact is, my first thought was that maybe the record isn’t all that good when you have to exaggerate your words like that. Sometimes too big words works the other way – it’s hard to take them seriously. Mr Moratti has a lot to live up to to match those over-the-top words.
Reminiscent of David Lee Roth’s old pearl “Just Like Paradise”, opening track and leading single “You Are The One” is a very slick and poppy AOR tune. It’s an uptempo song with a positive and almost happy-go-lucky vibe. The refrain is, however, insanely catchy and grand. AOR fanatics will surely blow a load over this one. And yeah, it really is a good song. “Let Me Be The One” is big on keyboards, very modern AOR-sounding with a Scandinavian outlook. The main arrangement is smooth, the melodies are all memorable and the chorus is good but it could – and should – have been stronger to make it last. Still a pretty good tune.
“Best Of Me” is a bonafide power ballad – soft and laid-back but with a big keyboard arrangement, very smooth, slick and sweet. The chorus is one of those that will stick in your mind forever, love it or hate it, and even though I have a weakness for power ballads, this one is actually a bit too gooey and syrupy for me. The uplifting and upbeat “Lift You Up” is a distinct Pop song that holds a big yet silky AOR refrain with a catchy melody and quite an elegant arrangement – good one. “Hold On To Love” is an energetic and uptempo AOR tune with a very Scandinavian (read. Swedish) sound. Fact is, this could easily be a tune by one of the many modern Swedish AOR bands that seems to be popping up like mushrooms in your garden in a never slowing pace. It’s very catchy, sports big pop-friendly melodies and it is a good tune. The problem is that it lacks identity – apart from Moratti’s voice – which makes the tune thirteen a dozen.
Still very Pop, “I Let You In” comes with a stompy groove where the guitars are let higher in the mix, something that gives the tune a more crunchy – all in the name of AOR – touch which adds wonders for the dynamics here. Reminiscent of late 80’s AOR, the tune holds a very distinct and catchy refrain. Best one so far. Guitars and keyboards meet as equals in the Pop meets AOR stomper “It’s Time To Let Go”. On a good groove and a sound that totally screams the 80’s, the song seduces with a brilliant refrain that hooks you up right on the spot. What also gives the song a somewhat different sound is that Tony Franklin’s (Blue Murder, The Firm, Whitesnake) fretless bass shines through. Very good.
“Mandy Come Home” is upbeat but also softer-laden and holds a quite crafty rhythm. The song’s chorus is another one of those sticky, smooth and saccharine ones that sticks even if you hate the tune. I don’t hate it but it sounds way too impersonal – and very Swedish. “I Don’t Want To Wait Forever” is in mid pace but with a groove – and it stands on the threshold to balladry. A strong refrain with lots of hit-potential brings the song home. “It Hurts To Be In Love” closes the album in a more Classic Rock influenced way. It comes in an uptempo pace, very groove-laden and tries its best to rock things up with Franklin’s bass standing out but the big use of keyboards makes it very AOR-slick. The main melody is on the smooth side of Rock and the refrain is a real killer. It’s a really good song but with crunchier and heavier guitars, this song could have been amazing. A good closer, though.
Rob Moratti has been jokingly called Mr Autotune and if it’s because his use of autotune or the fact the guy more or less could be a human autotune, I don’t know. But what stands clear is that Moratti is an amazing singer with an almost inhuman voice-range. What also stands clear is that there are autotune being used here, something that totally baffles me since Moratti’s voice is so strong – he certainly isn’t in need of any autotune what so ever. Song wise, this is a good album but not without flaws. First of all, the music is a bit too impersonal and hadn’t it been for Moratti’s recognizable voice, this could have been any AOR band out there. Also, the production is way too light-weight, slick and even lacklustre at times and some crunch, heaviness and punch wouldn’t have hurt – it is possible to rock even if you’re in the AOR genre. That said, many songs are really good and I have no problem picking the album for a spin every now and then.
More Rob Moratti reviews:
1. You Are The One
2. Let Me Be The One
3. Best Of Me
4. Lift You Up
5. Hold On To Love
6. I Let You In
7. It’s Time To Let Go
8. Many Come Home
9. I Don’t Want To Wait Forever
10. It Hurts To Be In Love