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?
First of all, Gathering Of Kings are not a band, it’s a project. That said, the fact that they’re booked to play Sweden Rock Festival in 2019 might say that the project will turn into a real band in the future. Time will tell. GoK is the brainchild of one Ron Dahlgren together with his wife Nina (hence the RN Records moniker) who wanted to put together an A-list of Swedish Hard Rock musicians and make an album clearly influenced by how Phenomena was put together. Ron Dahlgren, the Tom Galley of Sweden? The whole thing has been in the making for a year and on January 25, it was time to show the result of some really hard work that has been going on for a year or so. But first a little presentation of the people involved here, an impressing number of 22 participants, from organisers, cover-art artists to producers and musicians.
So Mike Slamer is back with another project. It was quite a while since he showed any signs of life musically, something I think is a pity as Mike Slamer usually equals quality. City Boy, Streets and Steelhouse Lane are a few bands where he and his cohorts have provided us with high-quality Melodic Rock, Hard Rock and AOR. I must admit, though, that I’m not at all familiar with his Seventh Key project, which is weird as I really dig the man’s other work. The last time I heard anything from the guy was in 2006 when he released an album called Nowhere Land under the Slamer moniker. Back then, Terry Brock (Strangeways, Giant) was hired as the singer and he did a brilliant job. The album itself was also a real killer, full of heavy yet melodic Hard Rock and AOR tracks. When Slamer now returns after years of silence, it’s with singer Andrew Freeman (Last In Line, Hurricane, Lynch Mob) at the mike, another dude with an amazing set of pipes. And of course, this is an album released with lots of anticipation to go with it.
Johnny Gioeli is one dude who apparently do not like to sit idle, rolling his thumbs and make an album a little now and then. Only in 2018, the guy was on no less than three albums – Axel Rudi Pell’s Knights Call, his project with Deen Castronovo (The Dead Daisies, Revolution Saints, ex- Journey, ex- Bad English) under the Gioeli-Castronovo moniker, Set The World On Fire and now his debut solo album. It should also be noted that he also makes records and tours with his own version of Hardline. This album is the result of Gioeli wanted to raise money for a guy from his hometown – Joe Barber – who is paralyzed from an accident so he created a Pledge campaign where a big portion of the money went straight to Barber’s recovery. Gioeli then went to work and wrote this album together with his guitar player Eric Gadrix. The rest of the band playing on this album is bassist Nik Mazzucconi, drummer Marco Di Salvia and keyboardsman Alessandro Del Vecchio with Gioeli’s powerhouse voice on top.
Back in August, song writer/guitarist/singer Jean Beauvoir released the compilation album, humbly called Rock Masterpieces Vol. 1 and now in November, only three months later, the sequel is out. Why he didn’t decide on making it a double album, I don’t know – maybe a third volume will be out soon? With a such a treasure-chest of Melodic Rock, AOR and Pop pearls as Beauvoir’s only one compilation volume isn’t even remotely enough. Two is almost too little. On the other hand – and this is only a matter of taste – there were songs on the first volume that I wouldn’t have picked and – it would turn out – it’s the same case with this volume. Not that I can find any bad songs on either albums but as I read the tracklist here, I see that there are still songs I miss on an album like this. But you can’t please everyone and what I dig someone else might not and vice versa.