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.
Once upon a time (1988), a bunch of young Swedish dudes led by bassist Anders “LA” Rönnblom and keyboardist Thomas Widmark decided that forming a melodic Hard Rock band was a good idea. Back then melodic Hard Rock with lots of keyboards and a good dose of Pop ruled the airwaves and bands such as Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Whitesnake and Van Halen were big business and in Sweden bands such as Europe (by now a world-famous act), Treat, Dalton and Alien were all over both TV and music magazines – and AOR/Melodic Rock bands were popping up everywhere in an almost insane pace. So why not strike while the iron is hot? Back in ’88, smooth melodies, lots of keyboards and cute hard rock guys writing love songs with a romantic shimmer over the lyrics was more or less the norm, so why not go all in? Said and done, Rönnblom and Widmark did just that and called their band Romance.
Remember when the CD came around? I mean, when it totally threw vinyl into the garbage bin? All of a sudden, you as an artist didn’t have to think about if there was room enough for another couple of songs. The days of 8-10 songs an album were gone. All of a sudden 12-14 songs was more or less the norm and many bands and artists were giving that all they were worth. Every last song written did suddenly appear on albums and 15 – 18 tracks weren’t unusual at all. Which also meant filler-time deluxe. At first I loved it but it quickly wore me out. All that music was a bit too much to digest at one time. Luckily enough, that seem to have changed back now and we’re back to 10-11 tracks per album. Why I bring this up is because I saw the tracklist for this album and went “Oh no. 18 songs!!”. A closer look told me that seven of the tracks were interludes which is basically intros. Still, 11 tracks plus seven intros is a bit of an overkill.
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.
Once upon a time, two brothers – let’s call them the Fortune brothers for simplicity’s sake – decided that it was about time they formed a band. Said and done, brother Mick decided that drums was his thing and brother Richard figured he could might as well be a cool guitar hero. Kind of. The brothers brought in some other dudes and signed a deal with Warner Bros and released a self-titled record in 1978. But members were in and out and in 1982, Fortune didn’t look the same as four years earlier. With new keyboard player Roger Scott Craig, singer Larry Greene and bassist Bob Birch, Fortune released another self-titled record in 1985, an album that today is looked upon as a true classic in AOR circles. But back then, no one really gave a rat, something that’s not that unusual in the music biz. No matter how a brilliant record you release, people sometimes don’t give a damn anyway.
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.