Let’s kick off this review with a confession: When I, about a year ago or so, got the reviewer’s download link to Phil Lanzon’s debut solo album If You Think I’m Crazy, I didn’t know whether to bother with it or not. I knew Lanzon’s name and some of his whereabouts and my first encounter with his name was on British AOR:sters Grand Prix’s brilliant debut Samurai from 1983. I also knew that Lanzon was a part of Andy Scott’s Sweet for a while and that he has been the keyboard-player in Uriah Heep since 1986. But Lanzon was never a guy for the spotlight and even though I knew he wrote the best track – the title-track – from Samurai, I thought to myself; “who’s gonna buy a solo album from Phil Lanzon?”. I know I would probably never had given that record one thought if it wasn’t for that link. I’m not saying this to bash on Lanzon because I know he’s a brilliant musician, but a solo album from a keyboard player who’s been working solidly as a band member with no solo excursion to his name at all?
As a teen who’d got a taste of Melodic Rock and AOR through Def Leppard and Bon Jovi back in 1984, I was totally floored when the radio played Shy’s “Hold On (To Your Love)” one year later. I spent a few years playing their albums Brave The Storm (1985) and the magnificent Excess All Areas (1987) until I wore them out, totally convinced that they one day would be in the same league as the two mentioned acts. When they went all in to break the U.S., the album Misspent Youth (1989) that was supposed to that, bombed completely. It had good songs but also a production that was a total disaster – it was almost unlistenable. The fact that said album was produced by a producer-icon like Roy Thomas Baker (Queen) made the whole thing a mystery. This debacle made their whole USA venture a total failure and the guys had to turn back home to England with their tails between their legs – and with a lead singer short.
I know that lots of those Frontiers Records’ projects are looked upon with skepticism – and at times, rightfully so. But here and there, those projects really delivers the goods on all accounts. First Signal, featuring Harem Scarem singer Harry Hess, is one of those. Ever since I set my ears on the self-titled debut album, this project has been a love of mine. It would take six years to finally release a follow-up, the almost as good One Step Over The Line. With that record, Swedish drummer, keyboardist, producer and song-writer Daniel Flores (Find Me, The Murder Of My Sweet) had taken over song-writing and drumming duties with guitar and bass help from Michael Palace (Palace, Kryptonite) which made this project crawl a bit closer to feeling like a band of sorts. With the new album, Hess, Flores and Palace called in bassist Johan Niemann (Evergrey, Therion,) with a bunch of different song writers where Hess actually participated in as well. With two killer records released, this comes with a great deal of expectations. Would all involved be able to reach those expectations a third time?
One thing I have been criticized for is that I, apparently, have a habit of giving out too high scores, especially when it comes to bands like Crazy Lixx and such. Why? Well, some people think that high scores really can’t be given to bands that’s not original enough and that 9’s and 10’s are only for classic albums and masterpieces. Well, there are classics that I’m not overly fond of and what’s a masterpiece really lies in the eye (ear) of the beholder, as far as I’m concerned. Well, for all of you, you can might as well stop reading now before your arteries explodes because here comes another one. Yes, I know I’m ahead of myself here but that’s the way it is. See, I really dig Crazy Lixx. A lot. Always have. Does that mean that they’re in for a high score here just because they’re Crazy Lixx? Of course not. Deliver a crap record and I will bring out my chainsaw but the thing is, they have never disappointed me (much) and I really don’t think they ever will.
Axel Rudi Pell. Gioeli – Castronovo. A solo album. And now a new record with his own version of Hardline. That’s a lot of records in just a couple of years. Add to that, Johnny Gioeli’s voice will be heard on a few tracks on an album with a project called Restless Spirit, owned by guitarist Tony Hernando, in May. Mr Gioeli have to watch out so that his (potential) listeners doesn’t feel like we’re on a Gioeli overkill here. Because, if you’re in people’s faces too often, you’re running the risk of tiring people – or being just a shrug of the shoulder. “Oh, is it that Gioeli guy again, didn’t he release an album recently?”. On the good side, Johnny’s projects are often musically different. Well, not like 180 degrees different, but different enough. Axel Rudi Pell is 70’s Hard Rock based with Rainbow and Black Sabbath as the biggest influence while the Giolei-Castronovo project was full-on AOR, Gioeli’s solo album was a more laid-back pop-rock album with a modern twist and Hardline is more Hard Rock based with AOR and Melodic Rock tendencies.
Back in the early 90’s there was a Canadian melodic Hard Rock band called Gypsy Rose. They released an album called Prey in 1990, picked up by a good friend of mine. Back then, the way we file-shared our stuff was to borrow a record from a friend and having it taped on an empty cassette, something I did with that album. I dug it so much I had to get my own copy but after that record, I didn’t hear squat from that band. Fast-forward to 2005 and all of a sudden, Gypsy Rose appeared out of nowhere with a self-titled album. The only problem was, it wasn’t that Gypsy Rose but a Swedish band who used the same name. When that info reached me, disappointment had me not checking the record out, but the name popped up here and there throughout the years. A second album, Another World, was released in 2008 and featured former Accept singer David Reece (also in Bonfire for five minutes).
This is album # 3 from British FM-rockers Cats In Space. When they released their debut album I thought that this was nothing but a project with a weird name – a name I first thought sucked bad – with a bunch of aging musicians from other bands that would last just one album and then disappear. But I was wrong. Thankfully. Because their debut album was brilliant. Totally unpredictable musically where AOR, Pomp Rock, Symphonic Rock, Classic Rock, Pop and Hard Rock met, Too Many Gods (2015) is an album that I still hold very dear and better yet, the follow-up Scarecrow (2017) was even better, even if it isn’t by much. So, today, almost four years after the release of the debut, I am not only a big fan of the band, I have also reappraised their name. Dammit, Cats In Space is a brilliant name. What was I thinking back in 2015? Well, the new album was longed-for on my part – and expectations are shooting for the sky.
I know this review is pretty much a “Who?” moment for most Rock fans, both Swedish and around the globe, but if you dig in and search for information about this singer, you’ll find that he’s done quite a lot during the years. Erlandsson started his solo career back in 1994 and has released no less than seven solo albums (including this one) and one compilation album since then, but before that he was the lead singer in N’Gang, who had a hit in 1990 and in a band called Crash that released one album in 1993. But his mostly known as the lead singer in Swedish AOR veterans Last Autumn’s Dream with who he has released no less than fourteen albums since their self-titled debut back in 2002. Also, in 2006 he took over the frontman spot in Swedish Pop band Secret Service from original singer and song-writer Ola Håkansson. The band had some big hits back in the 80’s and are now only a touring act, mainly in Russia of all places.
About a year ago, I got a download-link for reviewing purposes by this German based Melodic Rock act’s (that I wrongly put in the AOR folder) debut album Never Say Never. Style-wise, their brand of Melodic Rock with AOR twists is right up my alley but there was something about DeVicious’ debut album that made sure it didn’t stick. Sure, there was some really good songs on it but over-all it felt like I had heard them a million times before. To be honest, I thought DeVicious were the kind of band that would release an album and then disappear never to be heard from again so guess my surprise when another DL-link with their second album had found its way to my letter-box less than a year later. As I found some potential in both the band themselves and the songs they had written I was curious to find out if they had developed in that year or if they simply had written and produced – because the light-weight production was an issue for me as well – the debut album all over again.
When I got my reviewer’s link to UK melodic rockers debut album Speedway back in 2015, I thought that they were just another bunch of middle-aged dudes who got a second chance on making the album they should have recorded decades ago and that they would be gone sooner than later. It wasn’t like the album set the world on fire and personally I found it a good record that didn’t make that much impact on me and to be honest, I haven’t exactly played it to death since it came out. And it would take them three years to release their second album Love Hate Conspiracies, an album that bettered their debut in many ways. For starters, it was a bit heavier – Blood Red Saints went from AOR to Melodic Rock there, but mostly, the songs were better. After only one year, BRS are back with another album as if to show us that they are here for the long run. The question is, in a day and age where three years – at least – between records is the norm, will this be a rushed project or an ever better effort?