Confession time. When I was a kid in my early twenties I had a huge – as in HUGE – crush on Robin Beck. I loved (and still do) her debut AOR album Trouble Or Nothin’ (1989) and I thought she was the most gorgeous woman on earth. I must have seen the video for “Tears In The Rain” a million times back then and I thought that if she ever plays in Sweden, not even a restraining order would keep me from stalking her. I wasn’t serious about that, of course – I wouldn’t even have dared to approach her to say hi back then – but man, what a teenage crush that was. Not only was she a beauty, she also had a fantastic voice and brilliant songs. In 2017, everything I wrote still stands. The teenage crush, however, is gone since many, many years. I even had the pleasure to talk to her after a gig not long ago so now I can add ‘extremely nice and humble’ to the list. No restraining order was needed. So it’s very hard to not be a fan of Robin Beck.
The first time I ever heard anything by – and of – Stan Bush, it wasn’t even him playing. I had bought House Of Lords’ brilliant self-titled debut album from 1988 and it contained the ballad “Love Don’t Lie”, a phenomenal tune and for quite some time I wondered who this S.Bush was, the guy who wrote the song. Even when I found out that S stood for Stan, I was more or less clueless of who he was. Stan Bush released his debut solo album – self-titled – in 1983, but it would take him four years for his next release, another self-titled record under the Stan Bush & Barrage banner. A friend of mine had bought that album and taped it for me. “Love Don’t Lie” was on that album and it was when I heard said album it came to me that this was the S.Bush who wrote that House Of Lords track. Since then, Bush have released one more Barrage album and no less than nine solo albums, out of which one is a compilation album, this one included.
Back in 2015 I got a download link for a new band called Cats In Space. Cats In Space, I thought. What a weird name. Who on earth names their band Cats In Space? I instantly thought that it was a pretty lousy name for a band and had I not gotten said download link, it’s doubtful that I had ever checked the band out. But I’m glad I did because the album in question, Too Many Gods, was brilliant. The press release said that they sported influences from bands such as The Sweet, Queen, Styx and Cheap Trick and the mention of those bands was enough for me to look forward to give the album a few spins and afterwards, the bands mentioned were all in there. Cats In Space plays melodic hard rock full of both pomp rock and AOR influences and the guys sure knew how to write addictive hooks. For me, the record pretty much showed up right out of the blue and I had never heard of the band before so the whole “supergroup” tag the band got – a bunch of musicians from different bands gets together in a new band – made me wonder if that album was a one-off and that if Cats In Space might have been just a project. Luckily enough, it wasn’t because right out of the blue once more, the band throws the follow-up on us and this time I was very keen to hear it.
You know those bands that have been around that seems like forever, you read about them and you read the reviews of their albums but they still seem to pass you by without leaving a simple scar, you just don’t have the interest to check them out? Ten are such a band for me. I didn’t even bother to check them out when I found that former Dare guitarist Vinny Burns was their guitarist – and I love Dare, especially the two first records. The band was formed by lead vocalist Gary Hughes back in 1994 and their debut album X came out in 1996 and they have now released 13 studio albums including the new one so it’s pretty strange that I haven’t checked them out before (my first Ten album was their previous one) as they do play in a genre that I’m a big fan of – melodic hard rock with big AOR tendencies. It’s also somewhat ironic that when I finally gave them a shot – I got their last album Isla De Muerta (2015) in the mail – Vinny Burns had left the band a long time ago. His last album with the band was their 6th one, Far Beyond The World in 2001. Now, I liked their last album enough even though it wasn’t without flaws and when I got the new one in my Haulix, I was keen to hear what had happened with the band since then.
I’m not gonna go on and on once more about all the constellations of Frontiers Records’ projects as there seems to be another one each month. All I can say about All 4 1 is that this is another one. This time, Frontiers’ president Serafino Perugino have gathered lead singer Terry Brock (Strangeways, Giant, Slamer, Brock Roth Project), guitarist Gary Pihl (Boston, Sammy Hagar, Alliance), bassist and vocalist Robert Berry (Three, Alliance) and drummer Matt Starr (Ace Frehley, Mr Big) for yet another melodic hard rock album with the hope that it will transfer into a regular band instead of just a project (at least that’s what I suspect). Some projects – like Revolution Saints, First Signal and Place Vendome – becomes very successful and at least gets a follow-up or two but time will tell how many of them actually turns out to real bands.
I can’t remember the last time an AOR / melodic rock band created such a buzz that Finish rockers One Desire did when they released the first single “Hurt” from their forthcoming self titled debut album. In Sweden, that is. I mean, rock radio in Sweden were all over the song and the DJs couldn’t stop saying nice and then more nice things about the song. And it wasn’t only the radio DJs, everywhere I heard people talking about the song’s greatness – even people who aren’t usually all that into that kind of music have been giving it thumbs up. That’s how a hype gets started. The band started out as OD by drummer Ossi Sivula and a motley crew of band members when he ran into his old pal guitarist Jimmy Westerlund (Sturm Und Drang) in 2014, who had just moved back to Finland from a stint in Los Angeles. Jimmy was first hired to produce a few songs with the band, but when the songs took a new turn musically and Frontiers became interested, Jimmy went onboard as the guitarist. A new singer was needed as well so Jimmy brought along his old Strum Und Drang buddy André Linman and the band went from OD to One Desire right there and then. When bass player Johan Kuhlberg (Cain’s Offering, Paul Di’Anno) was brought in, the band was complete and the rest is, as they say, history.
Italy + Sweden = AOR. That’s the truth – at least when it comes to Lionville. The band started out as a project by brothers Stefano and Alessandro Lionetti in Geneva, Italy back in 2009. After playing the local club circuit of Genova for a couple of years, Stefano started Lionville for real with the help of Pierpaolo “Zorro” Monti (Shining Line) and Alessandro Del Vecchio (Edge Of Forever, Eden’s Curse, Hardline). With the involvement of singer Lars Säfsund (Work Of Art), they brought in their influences from acts such as Survivor, Toto, Richard Marx, Giant and Bad English and Lionville quickly began to take shape and by 2011 they had signed a record deal and also recorded and released their debut, self-titled album to lots of critical acclaim. The year after, the band released the follow-up, the very imaginatively titled (hmmm) II, a record that also got some very good reviews and the band stepped up a step or two on the ladder of success. After a few (that’s five, to be precise) years in hiatus, the boys – now including Lionetti on guitars and keyboards, singer Säfsund, guitarist Michele Cusato, bassist Giulio Dagnino and drummer Martino Malacrida – gained interest from Frontiers records and went to work again.
Unruly 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.
If you live outside of Sweden – even in our neighbor countries such as Norway, Denmark and Finland – there’s a pretty large chance that you don’t have a clue who Jim Jidhed is. My guess is that you must have a really great interest in melodic rock and AOR to know who this guy is. In Sweden, on the other hand, I think that more than the usual rocker knows at least something about him. Jim Jidhed became famous in the late 80’s as the frontman and lead singer in Swedish AOR rockers Alien. In 1988 the had a really big hit with a cover of the old Marbles track “Only One Woman”. The song was written by Barry, Maurice and Robin Gibb and the Marbles – a duo featuring future Rainbow, MSG and Alcatrazz vocalist Graham Bonnet – and was their only hit, something that would also apply on Alien. Jidhed left the band after their self titled debut album was released in 1988 and while Alien carried on, Jidhed released several solo albums, with both Swedish and English lyrics and he also participated in the Swedish Eurovision Song Contest in 1991, where he came at third place with a song called “Kommer Du Ihåg Mig” (Do You Remember Me). In 2005, Jidhed reunited with Alien and released the album Dark Eyes, but the only original members on the record were Jidhed and guitarist Tony Borg. But in 2010, the original Alien line-up reunited and in 2014 came the second album featuring the original band, called Eternity.
Wow. This is a band/project I haven’t given any thought in, well, more or less never, to be honest. I mean, I do know of this duo that is former Survivor keyboard player / guitarist Jim Peterik and lead vocalist Toby Hitchcock so a thought or two towards the band must have been going through my mind at some time, but it’s not like this AOR duo has made any impact on me. I received burnt copies of their self titled debut album that came out in 2003 and their second album The Destiny Stone (2004), but even though I didn’t dislike those albums per se, I wasn’t that impressed either. OK AOR but without anything that reached out and grabbed me at all, good but too forgettable is my verdict. And forgot about them I sure did because I didn’t know that they have released no less than three albums back in 2003 – the debut, The Sound Of Home and Black Ribbons (Voices Of The World) (although it looks like the other two aren’t actual studio albums of original tunes from what I have figured out) and I had no clue what so ever about the fact that this album that I’m about to review is number five in their discography – the live album Live In Belgium (2006) excluded. Their last effort Immortal came out in 2012 – another album I didn’t know existed. Fact is, I thought that the two albums I had were the only two Pride Of Lions had ever made, so there you go. So it turns out that Pride Of Lions are an actual band and not just some side project that Peterik and Hitchcock throws themselves into when they don’t have anything better to do.