I still don’t get the reason behind this side-project. That artists of today start side-projects isn’t strange at all, it happens all the time. But what I don’t get is why Gotthard guitarist Leo Leoni – together with drumming bandmate Hena Habegger, bassist Mila Merker, second guitarist Jgor Gianola and singer Ronnie Romero (Rainbow, The Ferrymen) – instead of writing new music has decided on re-recording old Gotthard-songs. I mean, I get that he wants to give those oldies new life to get the recognition he think they deserve, but why not do it with Gotthard and give singer Nic Maeder a shot at making those song his? To be honest, this project sends out some pretty mixed signals. Isn’t Leoni content with the band without Steve Lee? I’m not saying that this isn’t a qualitative project, I just don’t get the reason behind it.
CoreLeoni’s debut album Greatest Hits Part 1 (2018) was a better release than I thought it would be and the newly written tune “Walk On Water” was a real killer. Why didn’t he save that one for Gotthard? It sounds like Gotthard and would have fitted that band like a glove. That album focused on the two first albums, Gotthard (1992) and Dial Hard (1994) while the albums G. (1996), Open (1998) and Lipservice (2005) had one song each. When II now on the shelves, I thought it would focus on the albums that didn’t have any songs on the debut, Homerun (2001) and Human Zoo (2003). But just like the first one, this album is all about the two first records plus two new tracks with one each from G, Open, Human Zoo and Lipservice, leaving Homerun neglected. And we get a cover as well.
Just like on the debut, this album opens with an instrumental, a cover of Dmitri Shostakovic’s “Waltz No. 2”. It’s a violin-based piece of classical music that passes by pretty much unnoticed. I dunno if it’s there to create some kind of building-up for the actual opening track but it kinda fails doing so. A skipper for me when the album is played again. Taken from the debut album, “Standing In The Light” is an upbeat and quite crunchy rocker that lands somewhere between Classic Rock and Hard Rock and holds a groovy, punchy and meaty beat and a rough yet melodic outlook with a striking refrain – Romero’s voice fits the song perfectly. A very good version. “Love For Money” is a pretty rowdy number with a stompy groove reminiscent of Billy Squier’s “The Stroke”. I dig the Arena Rock vibe of the song, perfect for a big stadium gig, but I hold the verses stronger than the chorus, which comes off as a bit bland even though it’s quite catchy.
“Open Fire” is a fast, rough and rowdy hard-rocker, very in-your-face, meat n’ potatoes kind of rocker. Energetic with a punchy and striking refrain, the tune is hardly single material but brings on a live-feel so I guess it will suit the stage very well. Good one. On a more laid-back note, second single “Angel” comes along, bringing a Whitesnake 1987 vibe with a soothing yet rocking groove in the verses. The refrain holds a bigger arrangement with lots of hooks and catchy melodies. It’s close to a ballad but not quite – perfect as a single. Very good. “And Then Goodbye”, the ballad from Lipservice, is stripped, earthy and very emotional – a Classic Rock ballad not a far cry from Whitesnake’s mid 80’s. The chorus is fantastic and Ronnie Romero really nails this one with a performance full of passion and heart – convincing to the point it feels like he had written it himself. Awesome!
Riff-happy on a bouncy groove, “She Goes Down” brings along some gritty guitars and steady and hot rhythm-section. If you take the song as a party-tune you might let the clichéd and somewhat cringy lyrics slide and the same goes for the refrain that kind of falls flat if you don’t bring enough beers to get you in the mood. It’s ok but they have better songs. “No Tomorrow” – the only Human Zoo track – starts out borrowed from Deep Purple’s “Mistreated” but when the verses comes in, the tune turns melancholic and a bit laid-back. A poppy arrangement lies over the refrain, but with the “Mistreated” borrowing intact. And it works brilliantly – it’s a damn good track and again, Romero is king here. “I’m Your Travellin’ Man” is more dark-laden and blues-rock oriented with a down-to-earth edge. I really dig the crunchy guitars that goes together with the rowdy attack of the rhythm section. Good one.
“Cheat And Hide” and “Make My Day”, from G and Open respectively, is made from the same cloth – upbeat and raunchy rockers that sports equal parts Classic and Melodic Rock. They both hold a raunchy groove where the latter is the weaker of the two. “Cheat And Hide” do hold a catchy and memorable refrain and comes across as very direct, while “Make My Day” is ok but quite forgettable. “Mountain Mama” has been safe and sound in Gotthard’s live-setlist for years and years and is one of those true Gotthard classics out there. With a pumping bass-line, a bouncy drum-groove and some gritty and fat guitars, the song’s in-your-face melodies and beefy refrain goes straight for the throat and sticks without being neither poppy or radio-friendly. It’s a great track and this line-up really does it justice with Romero shining all the way through it. Awesome.
The album’s leading single and one of the newly written songs, “Queen Of Hearts” is an upbeat rock-groover with intense and catchy melodies that holds the classic Gotthard style – Classic Rock with big, memorable melodies and a refrain that holds slight pop-twists, lots of hooks on a meaty and crunchy ground. It’s brilliant. The second new track – and the latest single – “Don’t Get Me Wrong” is also in uptempo and is reminiscent of a grittier and rowdier Bonfire. This too brings on a beafy rhythm and a striking refrain, lethally catchy without coming across as a pop-song. This is great stuff. Then there’s a cover of John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom Boom”. In CoreLeoni’s hands, this blues number has turned into a blues-boogie-rock track with tons of groove. Spontaneously, I’m thinking of a more hard-rocking ZZ Top here. Good one. The album ends like it started – with a violin-based classical piece called “Il Padrino” (Nino Rota) and just like the intro it really feels quite pointless.
What was said about the debut is what I’ll say about this. It’s good but I don’t get really get the reason behind it. Also, the old Gotthard tunes are alright but they lack the extra mile and I guess there’s a reason why Gotthard never made it to the big guys’ league. Their old material just isn’t strong enough. That said, it’s a damn mystery that neither Lipservice nor Domino Effect (2007) did that for them – those are awesome records with all the ingredients for taking Gotthard to the next level. What the two new songs here – and the new song on the last album – tell me is that CoreLeoni really could make it as a band on their own. The new songs are the strongest numbers on these records, so why Leoni & co. persists on being a Gotthard tribute act when they could go the full monty is really puzzeling – and with a singer like Romero they have the winning card in their deck as well. A good album but I’m sure any Gotthard fan out their will pick up the originals instead of this.
More CoreLeoni reviews:
1. Waltz No 2
2. Standing In The Light
3. Love For Money
4. Open Fire
6. And Then Goodbye
7. She Goes Down
8. No Tomorrow
9. I’m Your Travelling Man
10. Cheat And Hide
11. Make My Day D
12. Mountain Mama D
13. Queen Of Hearts
14. Don’t Get Me Wrong
15. Boom Boom Boom
16. II Padrino