(Livewire / Cargo Records)
Review by Woody
Sweden’s Houston caused a major stir with their debut album a few years ago, receiving virtually universal critical acclaim amongst the music press. If I’m honest I wasn’t blown away by it myself and it always made me laugh how friends especially those with only a basic knowledge of the current melodic rock scene automatically presumed I was a huge fan given the furore surrounding Houston’s emergence on the scene. I enjoyed the album for what it was but I was always surprised by the amount of fanaticism it seemed to garner.
“II” sees Houston build on the promise of the debut and sees a vast improvement in quality to my ears. The songs are far more memorable and have a great feel good summer time feel to them. Be warned though everything you hear comes straight out of the eighties and “II” does have a strong retro vibe to it. While I do think the song quality here is quite strong in comparison to the debut I do fear there is a serious lack of stronger sing out loud choruses which does stop a very good album becoming perfect.
It’s the music that really grabs me and I would be very happy listening to an instrumental version of many of the songs. The juicy upfront keyboards are an AOR fans dream and coupled with some great melodic guitar licks they have created a real upbeat and positive sound. Singer Hank Erix’s smooth vocal melodies and harmonies make this a very relaxing listen and pay homage to the AOR genre’s heyday.
I absolutely adore the heavy use of Keyboards on ‘II’ and think Keyboardist Ricky Delin’s is an exceptional player with a great ear for a keyboard hook. Delin and drummer Freddie Allen are the principal songwriters and I think they have done a wonderful job trying to recreate pure AOR songs. The lush Keyboards and delicious melodies are sure to make this album a sure fire winner with the hardcore melodic rock fan base. I fully expect upbeat songs like “I’m Coming Home”, “Back To The Summer Of Love”, “Losing” and “Just Friends” to become feel good favourites.
I think fans of keyboard heavy pure AOR are going to love this album, so if that’s you, I suggest this glorious summer you fill your paddling pool, grab a tin of special brew, throw a straw in it, don your air keytar and crank “II” up and let that inevitable smile emerge across your face!
Track Listing: Glory / I’m Coming Home / Return My Heart / Talk To Me / Back To The Summer Of Love / 24 Hours / On The Radio / Losing / Just Friends / Believe
Album Rating: 8/10
Woody’s Essential Track: Back To The Summer Of Love
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