For the most part this week I review some of the latest album-oriented rock (AOR) releases, but I managed to sneak in some good power metal too.
Fergie Frederiksen: Happiness is the Road
Another journeyman vocalist who has done time in Toto as well as popping up all over the AOR scene,. FF has got a great set of pipes and this set of solo songs really shows them off to good effect. It was rumored that he had thrown in the towel musically a few years ago only to relent and embrace his obvious talent once again.
Nowhere is this talent better displayed than on a soaring “First to Cry”. “Writing on the Wall” has all the elements that make for a great paced AOR rock track. There is even a track that would not seem out of place on a Christian rock release, in the form of “The Savior”. There are lashings of keyboards on here and soaring vocals.
This is a solid release from Fergie that will please his fans and probably attract many more. It’s great to see solid releases being put out by various artists and labels. There was a bit of band-wagon jumping going on for a while, with too much filler masquerading as good music. Sick of X Factor vocalist wannabes how about listening to proper AOR piles for a change?
Bobby Kimball: Jimi Jamison: Kimball Jamison
Bobby Kimball of Toto fame and Jimi Jamison of Survivor fame get together for a AOR vocal duet extravaganza. Survivor is in Jimi’s future as it was just announced that Jamison has re-joined the band and they are recording a new release. This could have been a disaster or a triumph.
You will be relieved to know that egos were put aside and the song-writing is up to scratch on this release. In fact it sounds quite a bit like Jamison-fronted Survivor with Kimball along for the ride. It’s a very good thing and cannot fail to enthrall.
Unlike many such record company-pushed pairings, there is no sense that tracks on here are filler to pad out the album. They are quality songs that neither singer will look back on in a few years time in horror. Tracks like “Shadows of Love” just nail that AOR sweet spot perfectly. If you have been burned by these sorts of “dream” pairings before, give this one a chance. It is a vocal-fest of talent and well worth your time.
Jorn: Live in Black
Yep, the vocal cameleon that is Jorn Lande is back with a live album with his solo band Jorn. The journeyman singer who has done everything from power metal with Masterplan to older Whitesnake material in Company of Snakes/The Snakes has released a 17-track affair recorded before an appreciative crowd. The music featured here is far closer to power metal with touches of Dio fronted Rainbow than anything bluesier.
Not sure why it was necessary to include two guitar solos and a drum solo with the other tracks. They are bad enough in person most of the time but recorded they really do smack of “filler”.
On the other hand, Jorn’s shout-out to the dearly missed Ronnie James Dio is welcome and not surprising considering the band released an album of Dio covers. Live albums are always a hard sell to those unfamiliar with the band.
There is no doubt Jorn has a great voice and can certainly sing the paint of anything he puts his voice to. There are few more versatile vocalists peddling their wares today. If you like the band or Jorn’s heavier work then this is certainly a good testament to the quality of the band. The track “Spirit Black” is truly hard to resist.
Those new to this band might, however, want to check out the excellent Worldchanger for a better introduction. Then again, Jorn could sing the phone-book set to music and it would probably be worth listening to.
Night Ranger: Somewhere in California
Unlike some bands of era, including Styx, Night Ranger have resisted the temptation to re-record some of their older hits under some obscure excuse. This is a genuine new album from Night Ranger and the best thing they have released since their 80s heyday. It has all those elements that made Night Ranger such a great band.
It’s the same vibe that Jack Blades brought to Damn Yankees that made them so damn good. “Growing Up in Califronia” is a nostalgic track that paints of picture of what inspired the band to be what they were. What is great about the track is that the keyboards give a hint of “You Can Still Rock in America”. This song makes for a great companion to that classic track. Needless to say the track has that same sing-along quality that marks out all great Night Ranger tracks.
Blades has said this reflects the hard rock side of Night Ranger rather than the “power ballad” side that the band also has. “Lay it on Me” is certainly hard rock fare, make no mistake.
He has a point, as there is nothing in the vein of their most famous track, “Sister Christian,” on here, although “Time of Our Lives” comes close and is a great Night Ranger song.
This is album for long-time Night Ranger fans who have been with them since the beginning. There is really no filler anywhere on here and you would be hard-pressed to find a better hard rock album this year.
First couple of listens didn’t do much for me for reasons I have yet to understand. It is a good heavy rock album fronted by a scorcher of a female singer. This is solid stuff but doesn’t leap out of your earbuds.
That is, of course, until you hit “Scream It,” in which a certain bloke called Jorn Lande shows up to lend his pipes. The pair trade off beautifully and end up producing a damn good performance. It is certainly the stand-out track on the album and one I look forward to.
Amanda Somerville certainly has the range to work well with this sort of music. While she does not have an operatic style voice she does have a well-trained voice that never seems weedy or over-compensated electronically. I would hazard a guess that this release will probably blow the doors off the new effort by Evanescence both in the song-writing and performance department. There is a certain similarity with that band as well as other groups like Leave’s Eyes and their type.
Unless the new Nightwish is far better than the last effort, I suspect this will be better than that as well. Sascha Paeth of Avantasia and a whole hell of a lot of other similar type bands plays guitars as well as producing the release.
There is a Lunatica cover on here, “Into the Dissonance,” and it is no surprise as there is a similar vibe between the bands. Trillium is melodic and heavy while never sounding trite or weedy. I must confess that I never heard of this bunch until the disc landed in my virtual box. The album is a bit of a grower, barring a few tracks, but give it time and you will be richly rewarded.
Stay safe, warm and rocking this Thanksgiving.