Some lighter fare is reviewed this week, with a trawl through the latest AOR offerings.
Robin Beck has a release called Underneath to offer up for your ears. James Christian of hard rock band House of Lords and solo fame has lent his considerable talents to this release. Not surprising of course, as he is Robin’s husband, a fact that probably makes “Burnin’ Me Down” so good. The duet, which features their daughter Olivia on backing vocals – and she has the pipes – really shines. Another standout is “I Swear the Nights” which is the ballad and delivers in spades. This is a solid release from Beck and an album that does the genre proud.
James Christian is back with another solo album called Lay It All on Me. What he is laying on you is some slick, heavily produced AOR of the highest quality. Christian has had a long career in House of Lords as well as being a guest on a whole host of quality AOR releases. This is his first solo release in a while – last one was in 2004 – but he has lost none of his luster and quality. And there is no doubt that Christian can rock with the best of them on tracks like “Don’t Come Near Me” and “She’s All the Rage”. The title track is no slouch either. There is enough variety on Lay It All on Me to keep any AOR fan happy.
The Jokers are set to unleash Rock n’ Roll Is Alive in September – and it is certainly safe in their hands. This bunch are more or less a modern day Free, and “Find My Way Home” is the best example of that on here. A British response to LA-based Rival Sons is another way to put it. There is not one turkey on this album and boy is it good. The reason it works so well is this is a very British type of bluesy rock in the same way The Answer is. They don’t try to ape the American hard rock, but get in touch with that rich vein of British blues rock history. You will be hard-pressed to hear an album of its type that is this good. This should be an essential purchase for any blues rocker worth his or her salt.
King Kobra are back with their new album II with the awesome Carmine Appice on drums (who founded the band originally in the ’80s) and Paul Shortino on the vocals. This is hard rock that makes no apologies for itself. This is about as pure as it gets. Just in case you are confused, this is in fact their fourth album, but it is their second “reunion” album since 2011 – the first reunion release, King Kobra, featured Shortino on vocals as well. I guess you call this a reboot – not that it matters much. This album, even more so than the last one, takes up where they left off in the ’80s. It’s bluesy heavy rock with all that it entails, rather summed up well on the track “The Ballad of Johnny Rod” (which is named for their bass player). They even manage a decent ballad called “Take Me Back.” As you would expect, they really get into the groove with tracks like “Have a Good Time” and “Running Wild”. You will find it hard to find a better straight-up hard rock album than this.
Newman will release Siren on July 19, and it is quite an offering. Newman is named, not the for the Mad magazine mascot, but for Steve Newman. Newman has been peddling his easy-to-get-into type of rock since the late ’90s. A talented vocalist, songwriter and producer, his output rarely dips in quality. This is very much steeped in the tradition of songs that are instantly catchy and addicting. The title track is one such song that is brimming with that Toto sound when they were at their most rockin’ state. In fact, Toto is the easiest touchstone for this group, and by no means is that a bad thing. When not evoking that band there are hints of Winger-like over-the-top rock, most notably on tracks like “When It Comes to Love”. It might be a tad over-produced for some, but taken at face value there is little to criticize on this release.
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