KEE OF HEARTS – Kee Of Hearts

When Europe split back in 1992, all members of the band went out on other musical journeys and they were, at least for us Swedes, in the limelight except for one guy – the brilliantly talented guitarist Kee Marcello. Yes, he recorded one very underrated album with his new band Red Fun back in 1993, but that project was short-lived. He also released a laid-back (and very good) solo album called Shine On in 1995, but after that – quietness, apart from the one-off Europe reunion on New Year’s Eve 1999/2000. Sure, he was involved in different projects, mostly as a song writer, producer or guesting on other artists records, but nothing that made any headlines and us Marcello fans wondered when – or if – he would return to the scene. It would take him all the way to 2004 and his band Kee Marcello’s K2 who released the brilliant album Melon Demon Divine and they played some gigs before things turned quiet once again. The next time we heard from Kee was when he released his Redux: Europe album in 2010, a pretty pointless record that consisted mostly of his own versions of old Europe songs. But since then, Marcello has been one productive dude.

Not only has he released two more solo albums, Judas Kiss (2013) and Scaling Up (2016), he’s also been touring them quite frequently around Europe and he was also involved in the hit musical Rock Of Ages, the Swedish version and the spin-off Rock Of 80’s, which was more a straight ahead cover project that featured a lot of well-known Swedish musicians. So when the news broke that Kee was involved in yet another project so up close to the release of his last album, I was quite surprised. This time, it was another project – a real band – that was put together with the help of Alessandro Del Vecchio of Frontiers records who put Kee in contact with lead singer Tommy Heart – hence the band’s name – of Fair Warning fame. With him, Kee brought his bass player Ken Sandin (also in Alien) and the band was completed by drummer Marco Di Salvia. Alessandro Del Vecchio also supervised the recording as both producer and mixing engineer and he also provided the keyboards. As a long time fan of Kee Marcello and since his last solo album was nothing short of brilliant, I really had some high hopes for this record.

So I let opener “The Storm” blast through my speakers and what I’ve been treated with here is an upbeat, bona fide melodic hard rocker with big AOR tendencies. Style wise, it’s nothing new under the sun but the striking melody, the big chorus and all the hooks in the world makes the tune a winner. A terrific way to get the ball rolling. First single “A New Dimension” follows and this big AOR stomper comes with a good beat and an atmospheric vibe. The huge chorus hits a home run right away and the tune and if I didn’t know better, I could have been fooled into believing that the song was written back in 1989. A real killer that grown with each listen. “Crimson Dawn” is even better. More a melodic hard rock tune than an AOR one, the tune seduces me with a rocking foundation where the guitarist are moved to the front-line in the mix and an über-catchy chorus that just screams hit. This is some brilliant stuff, folks.

And the hit fest continues with “Bridge To Heaven”, a hook-laden pop rocker that takes the fast lane to AOR-land. It’s quite poppy but rocks at the same time and I can’t help but to think of Treat when I hear it – awesome! In “Stranded” we get an up-beat, rock steady melodic hard rocker with radio friendly hooks, a sticky chorus and an arrangement that screams 80’s arena rock. It’s a tune that etches itself to the skull from go! ‘1989’ is the first thing that comes to mind when I heard “Mama Don’t Cry” for the first time. It’s melodic rock on the border to AOR with hard rock as its mainstay and a chorus that will stick to your brain whether you like it or not. I certainly don’t mind. “Invincible” comes in mid-pace and here and there I can spot a tiny Def Leppard influence. The tune sure is catchy enough but even though it’s a good rocker, it’s not as strong as the previous tracks. “S.O.S.” (short for Save Our Souls) is pure AOR albeit with a punch. The catchiness is imminent and style wise it reminds me some of The Poodles and Kryptonite, another newly formed Swedish band on the Frontiers label.

“Edge Of Paradise” is next and this uptempo AOR-rockers is just brilliant. Style wise, it’s not a far cry from fellow Swedish AOR:sters H.E.A.T. which can never be a bad thing – and it’s not. The amazingly catchy chorus is a total hit and the whole song just rocks. “Twist Of Fate” runs in the same vein – AOR with a large chunk of hard rock with the guitars turned up – and this track sports some major Journey influences with another huge refrain that will keep you humming for hours. Closing track “Learn To Love Again” is a good, straight forward melodic rock track with a pretty groovy rhythm and a good refrain. It’s a good song but not exceptional and not as hit-laden as the rest of the songs.

As a whole, what we got here is damn good melodic rock / AOR album with a sharp production, very smooth and catchy and as I wrote up above, there’s nothing new under the sun here. Which is… not a problem, but where Kee Marcello’s solo albums comes with his own sound and identity, Kee Of Hearts are a bit too streamlined and unpersonal which makes me wonder – since I don’t have any credits at hand – if the song writing has been done by outsiders and not the band itself. On the other hand, I don’t really give a rat because the songs are so damn strong and as always, it’s a joy to hear Kee Marcello go off on the fretboard – the guy is without a doubt one of the best guitarists around. What also strikes me is that the album is totally ballad free. I don’t have a problem with that at all – in fact, it’s quite refreshing – but it’s very unusual on an album in this genre. I haven’t listened much to Fair Warning at all but I must state that Tommy Heart is a great singer with a broad range. Sandin and Di Salvia also does a flawless job as the rhythm section. I do hope that Kee Of Hearts isn’t a one-off record and if we do get another record, hopefully the song writing will be done by the band and that the band develops their own style a bit more. But judging by song quality alone, this is a real killer.

8/10

Tracklist:

1. The Storm
2. A New Dimension
3. Crimson Dawn
4. Bridge To Heaven
5. Stranded
6. Mama Don’t Cry
7. Invincible
8. S.O.S.
9. Edge Of Paradise
10. Twist Of Fate
11. Learn To Love Again

 

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