After the re-post of VAN STEPHENSON's first LP, a reader asked for the other albums recorded by the talented singer / songwriter. Then I figured out that I shared here all his rare unreleased stuff, but never presented the great, official two albums produced by Van Stephenson for major label MCA.
Prolific and skilled songwriter for various types of artists, Van Stephenson's chance as 'international solo artist' arrived in 1983. MCA signed him and "Righteous Anger" was published next year.
Some of the L.A. Session cream appear here; future Giant creators Dann Huff (guitars) and Alan Pasqua (keys), Mike Baird, Tom Kelly, Bill Champlin, etc.
What can I say about "Righteous Anger"... this is what '80s AOR / Melodic Rock / Radio Rock is all about. A little Bible to learn why we love this genre so much.
The smooth, exquisite vocals of Van Stephenson are just the ice on the cake on these fabulously penned and performed songs.
Minor MTV hit "Modern Day Delilah", the AOR heaven of "What The Big Girls Do", the excellent title track, or the pure Eighties "I Know Who You Are" are just fine examples of Van's craft. Despite the commercial, 'radio hook' approach of these songs, there's some muscular, awesome guitar work by Huff.
Of course we have two supreme ballads in "Others Only Dream" and the midtempo AOR of "Heart Over Mind", the latter - for me - a truly definition of the genre.
With an 'intense', crisp production by master Richard Landis (Nielsen/Pearson, Glen Burtnik) this is a gem of an album. It wasn't until 1996 when it was pressed on CD for the first time, in Germany.
This is a HQ rip to enjoy, but I suggest to buy the original if you find it at decent price. It's pure gold.
Needless to say; Van Stephenson's "Righteous Anger" is a Must Have.
01 - Modern Day Delilah
02 - I Know Who You Are (And I Saw What You Did)
03 - What The Big Girls Do
04 - Don't Do That
05 - Others Only Dream
06 - Righteous Anger
07 - The Cure Will Kill You
08 - You've Been Lied To Before
09 - Heart Over Mind
10 - All American Boy
Van Stephenson - lead vocals
Dann Huff - guitars
Alan Pasqua - keyboards, synthesizers
Dennis Belfield - bass
Mike Baird - drums
Richard Landis - percussion, producer
Ken Mims, George Doering - add. guitars
Mike Hanna - add. keyboards
Tom Kelly, Bill Champlin, Phil Brown - backing vocals
VAN STEPHENSON - Righteous Anger HQ
Sunday, November 30, 2014
Thursday, November 27, 2014
This THE TURN - there's many bands with this name - hailing from the US MidEast, was founded in the late '80s by guitarist Dave Turner and belonged to the CCM Rock movement.
Their musical style fluctuates between light AOR and poppy Melodic Rock with some Hi-Tech touches.
As far I know, "Reason With Your Heart" was The Turn's only album appeared in 1993.
The overall sound is pretty Eighties with a clean, correct production for an indie, where the lead vocals are shared between Turner, bass player Gary Bedell and keyboardist Dan Fritz resulting in a more varied output.
All are gentle songs like opener "I'll Wait", the catchy "Keep On", the lite AOR "Hearts On Fire" with nice keyboards, midtempo "Follow Me" and the sweet ballad title track among the best.
There's nothing memorable (at least for me) on this CD, although it's a pleasant listen. However, I can see why it was requested; it's impossible to find a copy (very limited release) fetching really high prices at auction sites.
One for collectors.
01 - I'll Wait
02 - Keep On
03 - Reason With Your Heart
04 - You Saved Me
05 - Good Times
06 - Hearts On Fire
07 - H2O
08 - Follow Me
09 - Nobody
10 - Shine Your Light
Gary Bedell: Lead Vocals, Bass
Dave Turner: Lead Vocals, Guitar
Dan Fritz: Keyboards, Vocals
Brian Duvall: Drums
Jimmy A: add. Guitar
Steve Griffith: add. Keyboards, Programming, Producer
George Skipper, Paul Bills, Marla Fritz: Backing Vocals
THE TURN - Reason With Your Heart (1993)
Thursday, November 20, 2014
Re-posted as requested
The rare and hard to find first album by VAN STEPHENSON...
Released through the small label Handshake Records in 1981, "China Girl" was Stephenson's entry into the music business as solo artist.
At the time Van was writing hit songs for artists from the Nashville scene (e.g. Restless Heart) and the songwriting for "China Girl" follow these musical roots.
Originally songwriters becoming producers, Bob Montgomery & Jeff Silbar provided to "China Girl" a warm, melodic Mid-WestCoast sound, with some late '70s / early '80s AOR feel.
There's many gems here such as the radio-friendly "Looks Like A Loser", the climatic "Looks Like A Loser", the awesome title track (with some Eagles on it), the dynamic "Lion In The Night" or the WestCoast midtempo "I Would If I Could".
Van Stephenson's voice is like an elegant lady velvet dress, just check his incredible performance on the exquisitely orchestrated "New York, Hold Her Tight". It still gives me chills on my spine after dozens of listenings.
Absurdly never pressed on CD, had to be the Asians who did it last year (2013), but I still haven't managed to get a copy.
Anyway, for the moment I am happy with this nicely done vinyl rip, cleaned and de-noised from scratches.
1. You′ve Got A Good Love Coming
2. Looks Like A Loser
3. Seeing Is Believing
4. China Girl
5. Weekend Warrior
6. I Would If I Could
7. Tonight The Love's On Me
8. Hotter In The Night
9. New York, Hold Her Tight
10. Lion In The Night
Van Stephenson: Lead & Backing Vocals, Guitar
Wayne Perkins, Kenny Mims: Guitars
Larry Baxton: Bass
Mike Hanna: Keyboards
Shane Keister: Synthesizers
Joe English: Drums
Bob Montgomery: Wind Chimes, Production
VAN STEPHENSON - China Girl (1981)
Sunday, November 16, 2014
Requested in "REQUEST & FILL CORNER" section...
American singer JAY FERGUSON achieved respectable success both in US & Europe as frontman for the bands Spirit (alongside talented guitarist Randy California) and later Jo Jo Gunne. After the latter split in the mid-seventies, Ferguson was signed by Asylum Records as solo artist.
Jay recorded 4 LP with the label (scoring a US Top 10 hit in 1978) and then moved to Capitol to deliver two more during the '80s.
But perhaps Jay Ferguson is more known by AOR fans for his contributions to some cult movie soundtracks, such as Crystal Heart and Terminator.
"White Noise" was his last solo LP as 'recording artist', appeared in 1982.
Despite of being regarded as a 'L.A. Session' album typical of the era including first class musicians often linked to West Coast / AOR projects, "White Noise" is a pretty rocking album.
Indeed, there's great drummer Tris Imboden (Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald, David Foster, and later Chicago), Tom Kelly (Player, Airplay) providing harmony vocals / arrangements and guitarist Mike Hamilton (Robbie Patton) among others.
However, a prove of White Noise's rocking edge is the inclusion as guests of Joe Walsh and long time friend Randy California dropping six-string solos.
Produced by Michael Verdick (David Pack) "White Noise" delivers an eclectic mix of styles all revolving around the radio-rock, melodic rock sound from the US first half of the '80s. There's no surprise to find a song in the tracklist co-penned with Gerard McMahon (another movie soundtrack specialist) as musically "White Noise" has very much in common with McMahon's solo album 'No Looking Back' released at the same time frame.
Good rockers like title track, "She's Mine Tonite", "Inside Out", "Million$", "Tonite (Fallin' For Ya)" are mixed with the AORish bluesy midtempo "In The Heat Of The Night" and fine ballads in "I Come Alive" and "Empty Sky".
After this record, Jay Ferguson focused his career as soundtrack composer for movies and television shows like The Office, NCIS: Los Angeles, and many more. Jay wrote 'Prologue / Elm Street Kids', the main theme from A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, and several of the incidental music to The Terminator alongside Brad Fiedel.
Precisely to The Terminator, Jay Ferguson apported as well a song entitled "Pictures Of You", which I've included here - with his two tracks for Crystal Heart OST - as bonuses.
"White Noise" was re-issued on CD some years ago together with his previous Capitol album (2-in-1 CD), but this rip is taken from a rare 2000's French edition featuring "White Noise" alone. It's a good sounding CD although I think the source is taken from vinyl.
A quite rare, unknown and fun addition to your collection.
01 - White Noise
02 - I'm Down
03 - I Come Alive
04 - Inside Out
05 - Empty Sky
06 - Tonite (Fallin' for Ya')
07 - Baby Come Back
08 - The Heat of the Night
09 - Million $
10 - She's Mine Tonight
11 - Let Me Believe In You [Crystal Heart OST]
12 - Brave New World [Crystal Heart OST]
13 - Pictures Of You [Terminator OST]
Jay Ferguson: vocals, keyboards
Tom Kelly: harmony vocals
Mike Hamilton, Bob Webb: guitars
Mark Andes: bass
Tris Imboden: drums
Tom Ferguson: strings
David Tolegian: horns
Joe Walsh, Randy California: guest guitar
JAY FERGUSON - White Noise (1982) + extras
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Requested in "REQUEST & FILL CORNER" section...
Dutch singer RALPH VAN MANEN started his career in the early '90s, releasing a bunch of delicate AOR albums. I still prefer his slightly more rocking first CD, but this requested "Language Of Love" - his 4th studio album recorded in the USA - is another fine slab of Lite AOR / melodic WestCoast sounds.
Ralph's vocals are really smooth and melodious with some Canadian influences such as Michael Breen or Tim Feehan. Although with a root in the CCM territory, you vaguely discover in Van Manen's lyrics religious themes.
Musically, all is polished to the limit with excellent session musicians doing their best, including talented Chris Eaton providing harmony vocals.
There's a mix of lite AOR tunes like "Walk Tall" (very Mr. Mister) and "All Embracing Love", poppier in "Miracles", WestCoast ("Forever Yours") and more melodic rock oriented in the great "You Better Believe It" and title track.
If you like these genres in the vein of the already featured in this blog David Pack, Time Gallery and Fingerprints, but also West Of Sunset, Richard Page, Mr. Mister, Martin Stenmarck, etc, then Ralph Van Manen's "Language Of Love" is a necessary addition to your collection.
01 - Testify to Love
02 - Walk Tall
03 - Come Live in Me
04 - Language of Love
05 - Empty Page
06 - Miracles
07 - You Better Believe It
08 - All Embracing Love
09 - All I Need
10 - Faces at the Window
11 - Forever Yours
Lead Vocals: Ralph Van Manen
Harmony Vocals: Chris Eaton
Bass: Jackie Street
Drums, Percussion: Steve Brewster
Guitar: Jerry McPherson, Robert Riekerk
Acoustic Guitar: Tom Hemby
Strings: Luca Genta
Keyboards, Synths, Piano, Hammond: Henk Pool
Backing Vocals: Chris Rodriguez, Hans Sigmond, Michael Mellett, Ralph Van Manen, Robert Riekerk, Tommy Riekerk
RALPH VAN MANEN - Language Of Love HQ
Tuesday, November 04, 2014
Requested in "REQUEST & FILL CORNER" section...
Originated in Oregon, USA, VU was a Christian Melodic Rock group founded by singer & composer Bart Hafeman, who still continues in the music business with his own band much modern rock oriented.
But with VU, the aim was to create a bunch of arena-ready, anthemic songs rich in melodies, catchy choruses and pretty elaborated harmony vocals.
VU debuted with "All I Need Is U" in 1996, and were instantly compared with Def Leppard. If you want a reference related to CCM acts, I think Nouveaux, Sure Conviction, and the more commercial mid-Eighties Stryper.
Their Melodic Rock songs are extremely melodious indeed, plenty of big choruses adorned with super-harmonies (all members provide backing vocals) and an overall pristine, clean sound. Of course production is not at the same level of Def Leppard, but VU goes for the same path.
On the second and final CD appeared in 1999, entitled "Just As I Am", VU retains the same Melodic Rock vibe, perhaps this time with more biting guitars (bring to mind the underrated Stun Leer at places) but always in a very melodic environment.
Both albums feature short interludes between songs, so you have around 10 real tracks per disc, and lyrics are not preaching all the time.
VU cd's are almost impossible to find, and although the band is pretty unknown between Melodic Rock circles, you'll be surprised by the catchiness on display here.
Rare and good.
All I Need Is U (1996)
01 - Funky Intro
02 - Rock For The Right Reason
03 - Guitar Student
04 - Thief In The Night
05 - Love Of Jesus
06 - Shelded-
07 - What Will It Take
08 - Newlyweds
09 - All I Need Is You
10 - Balcuilrezsreers
11 - Child Of The King
12 - Who Will It Be
13 - Light Of The World
14 - Dave's Snoring
Just As I Am (1999)
01 - Search
02 - What Are You Gonna Do
03 - Point of View
04 - Just As I Am
05 - Broken Again (Brian's Song)
06 - C# Run
07 - I'm Forgiven
08 - Whenever I Call Your Name
09 - Anonymous
10 - Most Loving Man
11 - My Rock
12 - Holy, Holy, Holy
13 - I Put My Trust in You
Bart Hafeman: lead and backing vocals
David Karn: lead guitars, backing vocals
Jason Looney: rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Joe Swaim: bass, electric guitar
Jason Martinez: drums, percussion, backing vocals
VU : All I Need Is U / Just As I Am
Saturday, November 01, 2014
The genesis of Canadian AORsters BOULEVARD was already portrayed here in the previous post about their self-titled debut.
With their name officially changed from 'Blvd.' to Boulevard, for their second and final album "Into The Street" the group really sounded 'as a band'. The songwriting is stronger, the instrumentation more natural and the overall feeling absolutely organic.
This, simply put, is one of the best AOR-Rock albums of all time.
You have it all here; heavenly melodies, catchy-perfect choruses, delicate keyboards, sharp guitars and smooth vocals & harmonies. All songs here soar, all are fantastic.
But I have to mention "Talk To Me". This tune changed my life in many ways, at least musically. Oh yes, this is one of the best songs in AOR / Melodic Rock history.
Essential in your collection, this remastered version adds more brightness to the original and a better output balance.
A Must Have.
01 - Talk To Me
02 - Where Is The Love
03 - Lead Me On
04 - Eye Of The Hurricane
05 - Light Of Day
06 - Crazy Life
07 - Rainy Day In London
08 - Where Are You Now
09 - Need You Tonight
10 - Eye To Eye
David Forbes – Vocals
Randy Gould – Guitar
Andrew Johns – Keyboards
Tom Christiansen – Bass
Mark Holden – Saxophone
Randall Stoll – Drums
BOULEVARD Into The Street [remastered]