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?
Well, I’m damn glad I checked the album out – and cursing myself for my musical prejudice and preconceptions – because I was hooked by first listen. And completely floored by the second. Full of melodic Hard Rock with both progressive vibes and pop arrangements with hooks enough to sell and never ending memorable melodies, the album was one of my top albums from 2018. I gave it 8/10 but it has grown on me even more since then so today I’d give it a nine. When Lanzon now is back with his second solo effort only one year after the debut – add a new Uriah Heep album plus tour to that – I’m a bit curious when on Earth he had the time to write and record it so fast. Are these songs leftovers from his debut? Are they newly written and if so, how high would the quality be? My hopes were more or less sky-rocketing so I kept my fingers crossed that this wouldn’t be one of those rushed affairs.
The album opens with a big, pompous and orchestrated instrumental song called “Azura’s Theme”. Influenced by classical music, this dramatic tune has the vibe of a movie score and it takes us into the next one, “In The Rain”. This one’s laid-back yet upbeat, smooth but not cheesy at all. It holds a slight 80’s Pop vibe and befriends classic AOR with a gorgeous arrangement to go with it. It’s very memorable but not the least radio flirtatious. Very good. Orchestrated and pomp-laden, “Forty Line” brings on a stompy beat and 70’s AOR influence that reminds me of Cats In Space. It also comes with a slow, laid-back and atmospheric middle-break that works up the dynamics of the song. On top we get hooky melodies and a spot-on refrain – magnificent! Not a cover of the Dio song, “Rock N Roll Children” is slightly stripped and laid-back with slower verses and smooth melodies while the magnificent chorus gets into a more upbeat and faster pace, slightly progressive with lots of keyboards and a horn-arrangement. Pure brilliance!
Lanzon breaks into balladeering mode with “Blue Mountain”. Starting off on a slow note, the verses are on the laid-back side but when the chorus comes along the song turns big, bombastic and symphonic with pompous strings and big backing vocals with glistening pop melodies – catchy as hell but never saccharine. The brilliant, metal-like guitar solo takes the song into another atmosphere and builds up another kind of dynamic. Fantastic! “Look At The Time” starts off with a somewhat progressive riff and continues in uptempo with early 80’s pomp-AOR laden melodies, slightly reminiscent of Asia and very big on striking hooks but not airplay-aiming at all. It’s quite straight-forward and holds a juicy refrain that sticks from go – very good. “Road To London” is an acoustic guitar laden, laid-back with a slight Celtic influence Pop number that brings along a straight-forward rhythm in an upbeat pace. Sung by Lanzon himself, it’s a sparse and a bit melancholic feelgood-track that comes off as a breather here. I like it a lot.
“You Can Make A Living” is more Hard Rock driven and rougher, groovy in an uptempo pace. It also brings on a feel of 70’s Classic Rock with a gritty twist and an in-your-face attitude. But it doesn’t end there as the tune also is a bit symphonic with a 70’s prog-rock undertone. A tough rocker on an album like this makes the record more dynamic. Great! “Face To Face” is a slow, dark and stripped piano-ballad with a big arrangement. There’s also a cello solo which is very effective and sounds very cool. After the solo, the tune turns big, bombastic and orchestrated. The vocal melodies are spot-on and very memorable and the refrain is amazingly catchy without being radio-friendly one bit. Love it.
The album closes with the title-track, a 9+, epic track that starts out as an orchestrated, bombastic track that just like the intro-track sounds like a movie-score. It continues as a soft ballad before it speeds up, again big on orchestration and a huge melody-line. Then it strolls into a progressive, pomp-laden, instrumental passage, rocky with a groove. Another passage with a catchy deluxe vocal-melody follows before a quick break of spoken-word over a piece of music takes over. Next turn, a soft arrangement with vocals over orchestrated music which turns into a big movie-like refrain, big and pompous with a million hooks and choir as the icing on the cake. The whole tune is brilliantly catchy and quite accessible despite its length. Fact is, the tune is so very intriguing and captive that the 9 minutes flies by in a heartbeat. This is amazing stuff. An epic ending to say the least.
Compared to Lanzon’s debut, this is pretty much a sister album to that with the slight difference that this one’s a bit more progressive at times – and not as direct. Where many songs on the debut brought on a great deal of direct hooks with a big hit-feel, this record needs to grow a bit longer before the tunes stick hard. Of course, this album too has those songs that has you humming them directly on the spot but not as many as the debut. With that said, it’s not like the album isn’t any good because of that – quite the contrary. When the record sticks, it damn well stays with you big time so the answer to the question whether Lanzon has done it again have to be a big YES! As for now, I think debut is slightly better but this one’s really breathing down the debut’s neck. And since the debut kept growing on me for months, who knows where I’ll put this record in a year to come. Highly recommended!
More Phil Lanzon reviews:
1. Azura’s Theme
2. In The Rain
3. Forty Line
4. Rock N Roll Children
5. Blue Mountain
6. Look At The Time
7. Road To London
8. You Can Make A Living
9. Face To Face
10. 48 Seconds