Prog and pomp rock are on the menu this week.
Arc Angel unleashed Harlequins of Light today in North America (and August 24 in Europe) as their exciting return from a rather long hiatus. Their heyday was in the 1980s but they never really went away. Originally a band that was similar in pomp to bands like House of Lords and Guffria the band, it then evolved into something much more prog. This album sees Jeff Cannata, the band mainman and constant, combine both eras into an interesting amalgam. There are touches of Marillion on songs like “War (Battlewounds of Life)” and some hints of Geoff Downes-led Asia. There are even touches of jazz piano on the various tracks. Whatever you wish to call it there is an inherent quality to the tracks that make it appealing.
Fergie Frederiksen is back with Any Given Moment (also out today, August 27 in North America) and boy what an album it is. The former Toto singer certainly embraces the style of his former band, even covering a song he sang with them, “Angels Don’t Cry”. The rest of the album very much reminds the listener of the Toto sound when Frederiksen was in the band and the Isolation album that marked his tenure was released in 1984. And that is no bad thing with solid songwriting, big choruses and not a stinker in the batch. He has a Norwegian female rock vocalist sensation Issa and “Not Alone” for good measure. Frederiksen generally has nothing to do with stinker albums and this is no exception. There is another reason to buy this album: Frederiksen is battling cancer and needs the income.
Find Me released their debut album as well on this date, in the form of Wings of Love. The band consists of American singer Robbie LaBlanc of Blanc Faces, and musician/producer Daniel Flores (Mind’s Eye). Frontier Records pulled out all the stops for this release, engaging a family of musicians, songwriters and producers to get the debut perfect. The result is an amalgamation of Foreigner and Journey all put through the sieve of the Swedish AOR sound, which is something familiar, yet still refreshing and new. Of course, LaBlanc needed to pull off some damn fine vocals to live up to the music and he does just that. The title track clearly demonstrates his talent.
Houston will release their album, simply entitled Houston II on September 2 worldwide, and it is what you have come to expect from this bunch. This is keyboard-laden hard rock. Think Survivor at their most pop or even the feel good pop rock that filled the air waves in the 1980s. But this isn’t a reissue or a band from that era having one more go at success. Houston have been around for just a few years, having released their debut in 2010.
These Swedes are unapologetically melodic rock, with huge choruses and catchy songs, and of course, a touch big hair glam. The duet “Just Friends” gets it just about right, as it is a song impossible not to like. A guilty pleasure maybe, but as long as it is pleasure, what is there not to like?
On that AOR-tastic note, have a safe and rocking time.