album reviews

Stefanie – ‘S/T’

posted 2 Mar 2017, 14:38 by Paul Woodward

(Escape Music)

Review By Woody

The eponymous Stefanie is a singer songwriter from Pennsylvania in the United States. On the surface, she creates songs in a pop rock vein, but there is a lot more to her song writing than that blunt observation suggests. Her music is a real amalgam of styles and influences, there are some modern country touches in there which are at times accentuated by Stefanie’s vocal delivery. But there is a strong guitar edge which adds a strong Americanised modern rock flavour. Add to the mix a touch of blues, slight alternative twists and a healthy dose of potent melody and you get a really unique vibe but at the same time one that has broad appeal.

Sometimes there is a blues inflection to her voice, sometimes a country one, but in overall terms Stefanie has a really cool and mesmerising voice which has a really soothing tone to it which really appeals to me and draws me into her songs. Lyrically this album is quite deep and meaningful and I was really impressed by these thoughtful and emotional lyrics. She manages to steer away from clichés and obvious lyrical trappings whilst touching on very common subject matter which is easy to relate with and connect to. Although there are some quite soft influences in the mix there is always a strong guitar presence which gives many of the songs a nice heavy edge to their brand of pop rock that gives the songs more impact and urgency to listeners.

There is some really great song writing on display here, both lyrically and musically. This is definitely an album that people who appreciate something a little deeper and personal will really enjoy and get invested in. These quality songs are also wonderfully brought to life by some tremendous musicianship and the superb vocals of Stefanie. If you enjoy the style of music Stefanie has created here then you will find there are no weak tracks or fillers, making it a very solid album. It’s just about which songs you connect with the most that will reveal your own favourites and which tracks you personally feel are the strongest.

‘Everything You Need’ is a real carefree number with tinkling piano’s and a big chorus – it’s one of the most overtly pop tracks on the album. ‘Word Man’ is very evocative and is quite an emotional song with a heart-breaking tone, this is a song I think many will relate to. ‘Stranger’ has some intriguing lyrics and is a heavy edged modern country song.

‘One Life’ is an upbeat rocker with a very positive and inspirational vibe. Ballad ‘Hello Love’ has a powerful and entrancing chorus and has strong country touches. ‘All I Know’ is probably the track that demonstrates the most obviously, that blend of modern rock and modern country that is prevalent throughout Stefanie’s song writing.

Overall this self-titled album from Stefanie is a solid and enjoyable collection of songs which I can highly recommended. This album should appeal and interest a wide cross section of music fans given the mix of styles evident throughout. If like me regardless of style you need your music to have a strong melodic core, then that’s exactly what you get here. Well worth your time to check out, especially for lovers of female rock vocalists!

Track Listing: All I Know / Master Of Disguise / Stranger / Everything You Need / Word Man / Hello Love / One Life / In My Shoes / The Second Time Around / The Song I Was Meant To Write / We Will Fight

Album Rating: 8/10

Woody’s Essential Track: Hello Love

Sweet Mary Jane – ‘Winter In Paradise’

posted 22 Feb 2017, 12:16 by Paul Woodward

(AOR Heaven)

Review By Woody

New Swedish melodic rock band Sweet Mary Jane have some very experienced musicians in their ranks and Winter In Paradise is their debut album. It’s full on traditional sounding melodic rock with lots of loud keyboards and melodic guitar licks. Their smooth soft rock has a mixture of traditional Scandi melodic rock and splashes of Survivor, Journey and that eighties American AOR sound. It’s produced by Lars Chriss who has done some outstanding behind the scenes work with many melodic rock bands of late and yet again he has given this album a great shine and smooth production, The SMJ guys should be very happy with how he has helped present their songs.

Winter In Paradise is an enjoyable collection of songs, it’s very pleasant and easy to listen to but it’s not quite a dynamite album. It may not be an earth-shattering record but it is a fine and impressive debut album and I look forward to more music from them in the future!

Sweet Mary Jane vocalist Tomas is the brother of genre legend Steffan Berggren of Snakes In Paradise fame, their voices aren’t similar though both having different flavours to their tone and delivery. I was really impressed with Berggren’s smooth voice which suits this style of rock perfectly adding an extra layer of silk to the songs polished sheen. Something that frequently stands out for me is Keyboardist Tomas Nasslin’s contributions, many of his prominent keyboard licks get right under my skin and for me his performances increases the overall impact of the songs on me.

On the whole Winter In Paradise can be very moody, atmospheric and have a touch of darkness to it – it’s not bleak, far from it, but it does have a cold tone at times, so the album title seems very fitting to me!

While I did enjoy the album from my initial play it is an album that benefits from repeated listens. I found that it made the songs have an increasingly better impression on me. I also picked up on other bits and pieces in the songs that I initially missed giving me a deeper appreciation of the songs and the musical talents of the band especially the Keyboardist and Guitarist Per Olof Asberg.

‘Madeleine’ is commercial and radio friendly with a potent sing along chorus. ‘Fire In Your Eyes’ has prominent Keyboards and a wonderful guitar lick, the chorus has a melancholic touch and is extremely memorable. I love the pumping synths on ‘Surrender’, it has a killer chorus which is totally addictive. The guitars give the song a real drive that push the songs impact deeper into you.

Beautiful mid-tempo ballad ‘Angel Of Mine’ has some really touching vocal melodies and a strong chorus that sticks with you. ‘Carry On’ features pumping synths and great guitar licks and it’s sweeping chorus has a bittersweet feel to it.

Winter In Paradise is an album that should please and be enjoyed by AOR and Melodic Rock fans even though it may not set the underground scene on fire. If you like atmospheric and moody soft rock this is definitely one for you to check out!

Track Listing: Fire In Your Eyes / No Retreat, No Surrender / Winter In Paradise / Madeleine / Miracle / Carry On / Angel Of Mine / Surrender / Keep The Fire Burning / Don’t Be Too Late

Album Rating: 7/10

Woody’s Essential Track: Surrender

Lionville – ‘A World Of Fools’

posted 22 Feb 2017, 12:06 by Paul Woodward

(Frontiers Records)

Review By Woody

A World of Fools is the third album from Italian’s Lionville who are led by guitarist Stefano Lionetti and once again features the lead vocals of Swede Lars Safsund. This one is perhaps a tad beefier than its predecessors but not dramatically so, it is still pure AOR. Getting Safsund involved has always elevated the impact of this band and yet again he delivers a dynamic and emotive performance. For me Safsund is one of the best AOR vocalists of the modern era, his vocals are impeccable, beautifully melodic and more importantly they convey the emotion of the songs in an extremely stirring way.

I’m not taking anything away from their previous albums which I enjoy immensely but I feel A World Of Fools is perhaps their most complete album and shows off their beautiful songs in an instantly delightful manner. The songs are all lush, smooth landscapes dripping with melody, unforgettable hooks and the production of the album intensifies that sound, when people crank this album up they should instantly get wrapped in the music.

There are some really beautiful melodies which can warm your heart one minute and then break your heart the next! It’s unbelievably smooth and has touches of West Coast, Journey and Toto in the mix. As you’d expect there is plenty of humongous choruses and lots of backing vocals and harmonies bolstering the smoothness and strengthening some melodies.

There are so many hooks on this album it’s hard to not get ermmm hooked! Even in one song there can be a few hooks going on throughout that drag you in and have you giving that repeat button on your stereo a battering. The hooks are not always obvious in your face ones, there are some subtle guitar and keyboard hooks imbedded in the music that will snap you up and on repeated listens will become ingrained in your mind.

It’s a summertime album, it’s bright, beautiful, ultra-melodic and straight from the heart. There are plenty of melodic guitar licks, awesome sweeping keyboards and knock out emotive vocal melodies. There is some really heartachingly moving musical moments that have me cranking the volume and I know these songs will stick with me over time. These songs will cement themselves into your consciousness with their powerfully indelible choruses and moments of sheer beauty.

I connect with these songs comfortably and effortlessly, it’s full of emotion, passion and heartfelt lyrics, these are things I look for and desire in my music. I know I’ll not only be playing this album a lot over the coming months but given its impact on me I suspect it will have a lot of longevity with me and become one of those albums I always return to.

‘All I Want’ is one of the beefier rockers which has an impactful chorus and some killer keyboards! ‘Paradise’ is delightful AOR with a stunning harmony drenched chorus. The beautiful keyboard intro to ‘One More Night’ grabbed me instantly, It’s absolutely beautiful with a heartfelt and infectious chorus – emotive and captivating. Super smooth ‘Show Me The Love’ has a huge chorus and is heartachingly beautiful and the pre-chorus has me cranking the volume straight up to maximum!

This utterly brilliant slice of soft rock perfection is definitely keeping the AOR flame burning!  A World of Fools is a stunning pure AOR masterpiece and not only does it belong in every connoisseur of this genre’s collection it’ll also win the hearts of all AOR fans instantaneously. These guys write songs that are simply sublime to my ears with the added boost of Safsund’s emotional vocal delivery taking them into the stratosphere. A nigh on perfect album, an essential purchase for all AOR and Melodic Rock fans.

Track Listing: I Will Wait / Show Me The Love / Bring Me Back Our Love / Heaven Is Right Here / A World Of Fools / One More Night / All I Want / Livin’ On The Edge / Our Good Goodbye / Paradise / Image Of Your Soul

Album Rating: 9/10

Woody’s Essential Track: Show Me The Love

The Wild! – ‘Wild At Heart’

posted 13 Feb 2017, 15:54 by Paul Woodward


Review By Woody

Canadian’s The Wild! caught my attention recently after stumbling across them on YouTube, so I was very keen to check out this album Wild At Heart which is actually their second and it quickly capitalises on their recent run of critical acclaim. I’m actually surprised their first album flew under my radar!

Their sound is based heavily in the blues and if you stripped these songs to the bone there would be a traditional blues number at its centre. These songs are soaked in booze, full of rambunctiousness, totally carefree and full on rip snorting dirty raw rock n roll! There’s an infectious energy to the album as a whole and those shout it out loud choruses are sure to make these guys really popular with fans of no frills, no nonsense rock.

This album should be a dream for fans of blues based hard rock with its booze soaked rebellious biker rock touches. It should also appeal to fans of traditional blues because those influences are worn with a badge of honour and are very prominent in the song writing. I also detect touches of AC/DC in their blues drive and Guns N Roses in their rebellious energy. Wild At Heart is full of addictive rhythms that will get under your skin and involuntarily stomping along. Amongst the energy is some low-slung guitar riffs and swaggering rockers accompanied by gritty and gravelly vocals. The Wild! strip rock right back to basics and deliver fun time, beer swigging, uncompromising rebel yelling rock!

Check out energetic rocker ‘Best of The West’ with its stomping guitar riff and kick ass chorus, the addictive rhythms of ‘Livin Free’ and the swaggering rock of ‘Ready To Roll’ and ‘Down At The Bottom’ to sample these guys at their best! Blues traditionalists should go straight to ‘White Devil’ which is pure blues and booze fuelled rocker ‘Another Bottle’ is a sure fire hit with rock fans in general.

Wild At Heart is really enjoyable, you can just switch off to it, crack open a bottle or two, crank it up and rock out all night long to it! They may use every cliché in the book and their sound isn’t exactly unique but they take a well-loved rock n roll style and crank it up and deliver it with energetic gusto so damn well it’s so easy to find yourself punching the air and head banging along! It’s not going to change the world and it’s sure as shit isn’t thought provoking but it’s the perfect slice of rock to get any party energised and rocking!

Track Listing: Ready To Roll / Livin’ Free / White Devil / Another Bottle / Best In The West / Six Hundred and Sixty Six / Rattlesnake Shake / Run Home / Down At The Bottom / Kansas City Shuffle

Album Rating: 7/10

Woody’s Essential Track: Ready To Roll

Edenbridge – ‘The Great Momentum’

posted 13 Feb 2017, 13:57 by Paul Woodward


Review by Woody

Austrian Symphonic Metal act Edenbridge are one the genre’s most consistent acts and are one of the bands from within this specific genre I keep an eye on. Principal Composer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Lanvall knows this genre inside and out and knows exactly what fans of this very defined genre crave. The Great Momentum is another fine example of what Edenbridge can do, with Lanvall’s compositions always been intriguing, grandiose and epic. I’m positive established Edenbridge fans will be left jumping for joy upon hearing it!

Like a lot of Symphonic bands, it combines ethereal vocals, epic keyboards and orchestration with a pounding and forcefully rhythm section and unforgivingly heavy and fast paced metallic guitar shredding. Although the music can come across on the surface as very heavy and seemingly blunt in its directness there is also some quality musicianship at play for those who immerse themselves in the music. Theses flourishes and sometimes they are subtler than the bombastic metal onslaught which powers the songs are what highlight Lanvall’s song writing genius. You’ll hear how he combines a very traditional classical style of musical structure with the energy and aggression of modern metal. He uses a whole host of musical instruments to enhance his own brand of epic and grandiose symphonic metal.

Yes, it is very heavy, but there is lots of ambience and atmospherics painted atop and beneath the brash exterior and its heavy grind lifting the overall sound into a more accessible one. Vocalist Sabine Edelsbacher has the perfect voice for this style of music it has that ethereal tone that draws many genre fans to it. She has a borderline operatic style, which obviously sits well with classical compositions. Her vocal style really adds an extra sense of otherworldliness to the music, soaring and it can be very dramatic. You also get spotting’s of choral vocal harmonies which add a punch to a songs impact and is something I know is insanely popular amongst genre fans, hence the reason these styles of harmonies are used to create drama as frequently as possible.

There is a surprise vocal guest on ‘Until The End Of Time’ and I almost didn’t recognise it at first, but Erik Martensson (Yes, he of Eclipse fame) puts in a real cool and unexpected soaring vocal performance. It’s an epic piano lead Ballad on which Erik duets with Sabine, it’s beautiful and operatic in nature.

Stand out tracks for me include ‘The Moment is Now’ with its prowling guitar riff, beautiful keyboards and it’s soaring and catchy chorus. The whimsical ballad ‘Only A Whiff of Life’ which has some cool intricate acoustic guitar licks and atmospheric keyboards. Another is ‘Return to Grace’ which kicks off with some killer melodic guitar soloing before dropping some heaviness into the mix, lots of fast guitars and full on pomposity!

For me personally though it’s held back by it not been commercial enough for my own tastes, it does have its commercial moments but not enough to fully immerse me in their sound. The Great Momentum is a very strong album which I will return to occasionally but more importantly I think Symphonic metal fans will adore these compositions and I would be genuinely shocked if the album is not embraced by and large by the core symphonic audience. If you’re into Nightwish, Within Temptation and Epica, you should definitely check this album out.

Track Listing: Shiantara / The Die Is Not Cast / The Moment Is Now / Until The End Of Time / The Visitor / Return To Grace / Only A Whiff of Life / A Turnaround In Art / The Greatest Gift Of All

Album Rating: 7/10

Woody’s Essential Track: The Moment Is Now

Lizhard – ‘Bigger, Better, Stronger’

posted 6 Feb 2017, 15:13 by Paul Woodward

(Perris Records)

Review By Woody

Italy’s Lizhard are back to kick some ass with their new album Bigger Better Stronger. They have gathered together a solid album of energetic raw and dirty eighties style rock n roll. It might not set the world on fire but it is really enjoyable and genre fans should really dig this throwback to an era of rock decadence.

It’s raw and jagged with layers of smooth melody at times. It combines the energy, swaggering raw riffs of hard rock with smoother more commercial melodies to great effect. The Influences are crystal clear, Guns N Roses, Poison, Motley Crue – it’s very Eighties Hard/Glam rock sounding, mixing rock rawness with commercial touches. There’s even some down and dirty biker rock in the mix, cranking up the swagger and beer swilling attitude of the music.

It’s the Ballads that hit me the most personally, but I’m sure it is the energy and tight chant choruses of the rockers that will win them fans and appease established fans, especially live!

Mid-tempo ballad ‘All I want Is You’ is very melodic with a great emotional guitar riff, it’s beautiful song in contrast to the rawness of the rest of the album – perfect for late summer nights! ‘Hard To Say Goodbye’ is a smooth ballad with a similar flow as the aforementioned song and ‘Leave Me Alone’ is a smooth melodic rock ballad with a very memorable chorus.

I think the songs to send genre fans straight to for them to get sweaty to are ‘Rock N Roll Is Hard To Die’, ‘Urban Cowboy’, ‘Candyman’ and ‘Getting Tighter’. They are full of swagger, chunky guitar riffs, fist pumping energy and shout it out choruses – Raw rock n roll!

The band meet in the middle between raw and melodic on the funky ‘Funkytown’, the infectious ‘Downtown’ which has an overblown chorus and killer guitar hook and ‘And Now…..Take This!’ which has some killer guitar riffage and a soaring chorus which makes it stand out to me!

Fans of late Eighties rock n roll should really enjoy this album it has a good energy and plenty of vigour that should get genre stalwart fans rocking! Bigger Better Stronger sounds like it was born in the Eighties so old school rockers are in for a treat with this one! Raw, dirty, lots of energy, tough guitar riffs and plenty of shout it out loud choruses.

Track Listing: Funkytown / Downtown / Rock N Roll is Hard To Die / Candyman / Leave Me Alone / Urban Cowboy / Gettin Tighter / All I Want is You / Hard To Say Goodbye / And Now….Take This / Lizhard

Album Rating: 7/10

Woody’s Essential Track: All I Want Is You

Jaded Past – ‘Believe’

posted 6 Feb 2017, 08:06 by Paul Woodward

(Melodic Rock Records)

Review By Woody

Jaded Past is essentially New Jersey native multi-instrumentalist and song writer George Becker. He’s been around a while, so has lots of industry experience and he has even enlisted the help of Trixter’s Steve Brown with the production. Believe is the second album from Becker under the Jaded Past moniker.

It’s a decent enough album for what it is, nothing revolutionary but it’s a pleasant enough listen. I think the average melodic rocker will enjoy it, even if it doesn’t have them frothing at the mouth and I think it’ll be especially appreciated by fans deep into the underground melodic rock scene.

There is a slight problem with the sound level on the CD, not sure if this is a manufacturing problem or is indeed at the level that was intended. It doesn’t affect the impact of the songs, it just means you need to turn the volume up a little bit more than usual. It’s a little bit annoying but not degrading the quality of the music.

There’s a few influences and styles in the mix, but overall, it’s a modern pop rock record in the vein of many current American bands, because this album is American to the core in its flavour. That’s emphasised by a couple of songs having a southern rock touch and the album in general has a strong Americana vibe throughout. But at the core of all the songs is a strong traditional melodic rock core shining through.

Becker has a deep gruffness to his vocals which adds to the modern pop/rock feel of many of the songs as well as enhance the Americana vibe that keeps hitting me. Performance wise it’s nothing out of this world, but solid nonetheless and most the songs are well crafted and executed.

The most out and out melodic rock track is the album closer ‘Taken’ which has a memorable guitar riff and a catchy yet subtle chorus. Other tracks to check out are ‘Tattered’ with its modern flavour and underlying Americana and the smooth flowing melodic rock of ‘Good Bad Innocent’.

Believe is one of those albums which is ok but never attains anything mind blowing but at the same time never goes below ok into stinker territory and that is why I think people will in the main like it, but never howl at the moon about it. If you’re a melodic rock diehard it’s worth investigating, but It’s an album I think that will receive mixed reactions, but nothing excessively negative or indeed positive.

Track Listing: Tattered / Don’t Judge / Believe / Good Bad Innocent / Whiskey Dreams / Be My Lady / Dashboard Jesus / Hurt / Scratch That Itch / Traces / Taken

Album Rating: 6/10

Woody’s Essential Track: Taken

Overland – ‘Contagious’

posted 5 Feb 2017, 13:57 by Paul Woodward

(Escape Music)

Review By Woody

Contagious is the fourth solo album from British vocal legend Steve Overland. There are certain bands and musicians in the AOR/Melodic Rock scene that I hate saying anything negative about, many will agree with me in stating Steve O is probably The voice of British AOR. So, saying anything remotely bad about anything he’s involved in is like insulting a close friend and been left with the feeling you need to apologise, but the long and short of it is this album is not very good at all.

It all falters on the songs they just aren’t up to scratch, compared to the first two Overland albums this is a real stinker. Overland’s vocals are amazing throughout albeit it a little disconnected at times, but these songs fail to showcase him at his best. Producer Lars Chriss does a fantastic polish on the production, you couldn’t ask for more in the mix or mastering. The songs leave no lasting impression and it makes me wonder if they were songs from Steve’s cutting room floor or unwanted songs from guitarist and co-writer Tommy Denander’s extensive song writing vault. There’s no bad performances as such just bad unremarkable songs.

Overland’s voice has a blues touch to it so pushing the direction of these songs into blues and old school R’N’B makes perfect sense and should create a great album in theory. It just doesn’t work for me, if you want to hear Overland doing something a little blusier check out the rather awesome Shadowman which is far superior.

It’s the tracks that stick to more of a traditional melodic rock sound that make the biggest impression on me, especially ‘Easy on Me’ with its strong chorus, but the other two ‘Back Where I Belong’ and ‘Unforgiving World’ are just substandard and easily forgotten. If you’re curious about the R’N’B touch check out ‘Pocketful Of Dreams’ and ‘Wildest Dreams. The album opener ‘Doctor My Heart’ is pure Blues, so if that’s your thing the album will start well for you!

Nothing on this album resonates with me and as hard as I try I just can’t connect to it! Die hard Overland fans may be more complimentary than myself and hopefully enjoy it more (if they are not just blowing smoke up Steve O’s ass!). In general terms though I think most melodic rockers will be disappointed with Contagious and this CD will gather dust on my shelf quite quickly. Overland’s better than this and I’m sure the next time I hear his voice I’m going to be rocking like a bastard!

Track Listing: Doctor My Heart / Easy On Me / Edge Of The Universe / Every Lonely Night / Wildest Dreams / Intoxicated / Define Our Love / Pocketful of Dreams / Making Miracles / Back Where I Belong / Unforgiving World / Shame On You

Album Rating: 3/10

Woody’s Essential Track: Easy on Me

Jim Jidhed – ‘Push On Through’

posted 2 Feb 2017, 16:01 by Paul Woodward

(AOR Heaven)

Review by Woody

Alien frontman Jim Jidhed has enlisted the help of respected producer Daniel Flores on this his sixth solo album Push On Through. Jidhed wanted a heavier sound and Flores has not only helped him achieve this but has also given the album a really great polish, as you’d expect from Flores. Jidhed fans don’t need to worry about the term ‘heavy’ been bandied about in regards to this album it’s not a major change in direction or even overall tone of the music you would expect from Jidhed. Yes, it is heavier but it’s just moving into more melodic hard rock territory and the AOR core to the song writing is still present. It just has a stronger back line punch and a more prominent hard edge than you’d usually expect from his music.

It doesn’t feel like Alien either, so if that’s what you want and will be displeased with anything else then you’re going to be disappointed, the closest you’ll get to the Alien vibe is ‘Next In Line’. If you’re a melodic rocker full stop and a fan of Jidhed’s vocals, then you’re going to love this album as there is hooks aplenty and some very impressive choruses to wrap your ears around. It’s nice to hear Jidhed spreading his wings slightly to give us something different from him whilst firmly remaining in the melodic rock genre.

My initial playthrough of Push on Through left me thinking it was a bit lightweight, pleasant and enjoyable but perhaps a little bit to run of the mill to really crow about. But when I returned to the album for further plays it quickly made a deeper impression on me with a multitude of hooks taking a firm grip on my attention. The music has a light tone which I know is one of the strong draws to the genre for fans, we all want something to make us smile, sing along to as well as an emotional connection.

Jidhed is in fine form too and really excels on many of the songs, so fans of the voice will be very pleased indeed. He has a touch of the blues to his voice which intensifies some of the emotive impact of many of the songs.

Highlights for me are the awesome ‘One Breath Away’ which is beyond catchy, I love its addictive melodic guitar licks and its killer ‘crank it up loud’ chorus! Mid-tempo ballad ‘The First Time’ has an AOR core which hooks me in, a great guitar hook and some cool vocal harmonies which emphasis the impact of the chorus. The emotive and provocative lighter raising ballad ‘Too Many Words’ and the direct ‘If We Call It Love’ which has some lovely keyboards and a big chorus!

Push On Through is full of beautiful and emotional songs with strong melodies. There is a slight retro tone to the song writing and flow of the songs and I think this is something that will only intensify genre fans appetite for this album. There’s not a weak track on the album which is pleasant and rare, some tracks hit harder than others but there is not a single track that has me reaching for the skip button! I highly recommend AOR and MHR fans give this one a spin as it has all the prerequisite elements we all love in our music.

Track Listing: Glorious / Push On Through / If We Call It Love / Waiting For Summer / The First Time / One Breath Away / Too Many Worlds / Next In Line / Drowning / Love Was Waiting / It Is What It Is

Album Rating: 8/10

Woody’s Essential Track: One Breath Away

Stephen Pearcy – ‘Smash’

posted 31 Jan 2017, 17:21 by Paul Woodward

(Frontiers Records)

Review by Woody

Smash is the fourth solo album from Ratt founder member Stephen Pearcy. I’ve always had a soft spot for Ratt and even managed to see them live at JB’s in Dudley not so long ago which was a pretty damn awesome experience! Pearcy might not be the strongest singer to emerge from the eighties rock scene, but given the right songs he can be very effective – Ratt’s back catalogue showcase Pearcy’s impact frequently. I’d checked out the video for the lead single ‘I Can’t Take It’ when this albums European release was announced and had very high hopes off the strength of a strong radio friendly song.

I was underwhelmed initially and I hoped further spins would give the songs a deeper impact, but sadly they didn’t. It’s quite a dark album at times, with strong alternative, modern touches added into the song writing which as you’d expect at its core is eighties flavoured hard rock. There’s more to a song than a chorus, but I feel that the album is littered with really weak choruses so very little grabbed my attention. Overall, it’s an album that makes very little impact and fades quickly from your memory.

The album opener ‘I Know I’m Crazy’ seems a strange choice to kick off with as it’s very dark, plodding and a tad grunge, It is not a good start at all. If you can make it past the first half of the album, you’ll discover the stronger tracks. Starting with ‘Rain’ which is a mid-tempo ballad with strong engaging melodies and a memorable guitar hook. The simplistic but effective ‘Want Too Much’ and the fast paced ‘Passion Infinity’ help prevent Smash from been a total stinker. The lead video single ‘I Can’t Take It’ is probably the catchiest song on the entire album, if this doesn’t fire you up lower your expectations for this album.

To me Smash as a whole feels a little empty with no heart or passion behind it, not just in the songs but also in their delivery. It’s not a bad album, trust me I’ve heard bad and this comes nowhere near, It’s listenable, but if you’re not an established Pearcy fan I’m not sure whether it’s worth your time. Check out the videos on youtube for a taste, the better songs have been officially released there for you to sample so if you’re not struck by them I’d avoid this one. I’m a fan of Pearcy, always will be and I really hope his next album sees him back on track!

Track Listing: I Know I’m Crazy / Ten Miles Wide / Shut Down Baby / Dead Roses / Lollipop / Hit Me With A Bullet / Rain / Want Too Much / What Do Ya Think / Jamie / I Can’t Take It / Passion Infinity / Summers End

Album Rating: 5/10

Woody’s Essential Track: Rain

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