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?
Toby Hitchcock has always been, in my little world, a singer I’d call obscure. Why? Well, because I have never really gotten a hold of who the guy really is. Even when I first heard his voice when Pride Of Lions showed up, it passed me by who was singing. Today, I know well who’s singing when Hitchcock’s voice turns up. But what I know about Hitchcock as a person is zero nada. I only know that the guy holds an enormous range as a singer and he sports a style that brings my mind to musicals and Pop more than Rock. It seems like Hitchcock really didn’t have a career as a singer until Jim Peterik (Survivor) brought him along and formed Pride Of Lions.
What we have here is an AOR band on Frontiers records. Not a big scoop there. But this time we’re not talking about an AOR band from Sweden (or Scandinavia)! How about that? Magic Dance hails from Long Island, NY and started out as a project for singer and song writer Jon Siejka back in 2012. He released his debut EP Another World in 2013 followed by two more, The Mirror Of Dreams and Kiss Scene, heavily influenced by synth-pop and movie soundtracks from the 80’s. His fourth EP Haunting Me (2015) showed a change in style where guitars taking more place and an over-all more AOR-like sound, also 80’s style which was also the case of his debut full-length album Vanishing from the same year.
Palace took me a bit off guard when they (he, actually as the “band” is really Michael Palace doing 90 percent himself) released their debut album Master Of The Universe in 2016. Sure, I am a fan of both melodic Rock and AOR but since the album in question here hardly reinvented the wheel I was a bit surprised that I dug the album as much as I did. But Michael Palace is an artist with a huge love and passion for this kind of music and combined with his many talents as a multi-instrumentalist, producer and song writer, it really shouldn’t have surprised me at all. I didn’t know much about Michael back then but a quick google showed that his CV included great albums by First Signal and Kryptonite, a job at Frontiers as a song writer which included Toby Hitchcock, Adrenaline Rush, Miljenko Matejivic, Reach and Find Me. Now Palace is back with a new album – and a new haircut (well lack of, more…) and we hear talk about breaking out of the AOR box a bit musically.
“I have said it before in my later reviews concerning new AOR acts, nothing new has happened in a long time and it’s really rare that I get excited about new AOR albums nowadays.” That’s how I ended my last review. It was a review of an album called Love Equals War by a Swedish AOR foursome called Care Of Night. So here I am, back with another review of an album by another Swedish AOR act, State Of Salazar on Frontiers Records. Starting out in 2010, the band was formed by five students from the Malmö Academy Of Music – Marcus Nygren (vocals), Johan Thuresson (guitars), Johannes Hansson (bass), Kristian Brun (drums) and Stefan Mårtenson who is now replaced by Kevin Hosford (keyboards) and in 2012 they released their debut E.P. Lost My Way which was followed by the debut album All The Way in 2014 to lots of critical acclaim.
Here’s another AOR band that hails from Sweden and whadda you know, they’re NOT on Frontiers Records. Care Of Night contains four dudes – vocalist Calle Schörberg, guitarist and bassist Viktor Öström Berg, drummer Linus Svensson and keyboarder Kristofer von Wachenfeldt – that were formed back in 2009. They released their self-titled debut E.P. in 2013 after which they signed a deal with AOR Heaven – a label they’re still with – and released the critically acclaimed “Connected” in 2015. After a highly acclaimed performance at the Nottingham festival the same year, the band really had something to keep working by but things went silent after that. Now, with a new guitarist in Öström Berg, the band is current with a brand new album. But in this day and age, AOR bands pops up like mushrooms in the forest and it remains to be seen if Care Of Night has something that sets them apart from the rest.
So I was just getting ready to write this review when all of a sudden I started think about why Ten never got to rise up to the big league. They started out in 1995 – that’s 23 years ago – released their debut album in 1996 and have since then released 13 more albums, including the new one. Add to that list one live album, six compilation albums and five E.P.’s plus a lot of touring in between. Why isn’t Ten a big band now? Bad luck? Bad management? No record company promotion? Too much bad press? I dunno but maybe it’s the fact that they’re just not good enough? I know, this sound harsh and I’m not writing this because I hate Ten – I don’t – I write this because I seriously wonder. 23 years is a long time and if you deliver the goods then something should have happened right?
For the last couple of years, Swedish AOR-rockers Creye have been pretty much the talk of the (AOR) town – here in Sweden, at least. The band was formed in 2016 by guitarist and song writer Andreas Gullstrand (Grand Slam) and singer Alexander Strandell and with the help from some hired guns, they released the E.P. “Straight To The Top” with three songs to much critical acclaim. Since then, Gullstrand have built up a band around that E.P., not very unlike Jon Bon Jovi who built Bon Jovi around “Runaway”. Joel Rönning (keyboards), Gustaf Östa (bass) and Arvid Filipsson (drums) were hired shortly after with rhythm guitarist Fredrik Joakimsson joining the band last as the final piece of the puzzle. When Creye had finally transformed from a two-man project into a real band, singer Strandell joined Art Nation and left the band. New singer Robin Jidhed was recruited. If Robin’s last name seems familiar it’s because it is – he’s the son of Alien singer Jim Jidhed.
Do the name Hank Erix ring a bell for anyone out there? No? Houston maybe? The band, not the city, that is. Well, for you who don’t know, Hank Erix is the lead singer in Swedish AOR:sters Houston, a band that started in 2010 and have since released three albums of originals and two cover records. Personally, even though I have a weak spot for AOR music in general, I never fully got into Houston. Every album had the odd killer tune but most of their stuff has failed to grab me. Not bad, just too mainstream – and their music is very sugary, pink and fluffy, too much for my comfort. Now when Erix has branched out to make a solo record, he pointed out that this will be a rockier effort and that the sound of Houston was never so much his choices as the other members of the band. To me, this sounds interesting as if there’s one thing I have missed in Houston, it’s the Rock part.
The Voice is back. Who would have thought? After a long career as the singer in Journey, one of the biggest Rock bands throughout the 80’s, Steve Perry quit and has pretty much gone AWOL since then. With six albums with Journey between 1978 – 1986 and a solo album, Street Talk, in 1984, Perry is one of the most loved and respected singers in our time. He returned to the scene in the middle of Grunge domination in 1994 with a solo album, For The Love Of Strange Medicine, that despite musical climate shipped platinum before returning to Journey in 1996 for an album called Trial By Fire but it was short-lived and Journey continued with Steve Augeri (ex- Tall Stories) as his replacement and when he left, Jeff Scott Soto (Talisman, Eyes, Axel Rudi Pell, Sons Of Apollo) was their singer for about five minutes before they finally decided on Perry sound alike Arnel Pineda. After some though years, Journey are now a big headline act once more.