Tuesday, October 26, 2010

KING OF HEARTS - ST 1989 (1999)

KING OF HEARTS 1989 Funderburk Kelly Keagy
Requested by my friend Juba...

The group KING OF HEARTS born during Richard Marx's "Repeat Offender" recording sessions in 1988.

In fact, this is a duo comprising the talents of multi-platinum songwriter, guitarist, producer, engineer Bruce Gaitsch (Richard Marx, Chicago, Michael Bolton) and Tommy 'the-angels-voice-like-no-other-on-the-face-of-earth' Funderburk, supported by a dream team: Kelly Keagy (Night Ranger) on drums and vocals, George Hawkins (Kenny Loggins band) on bass, Bill Champlin (need to say!) on keyboards and vocals and more.

KING OF HEARTS has released 4 albums, all in Japan, Sweden and Germany only.
Particularly this one, their debut, recorded for a major US label in 1989 but rejected, never was published until 1999 by a japanese small company.
And what a gem it is.
Marketed erroneously as a westcoast album (although contains some tracks in this style and vibe), this is pure AOR guys.
Not the swirling-keyboard type, just pure American AOR. And rocks.

I can't highlight one track, all are really good. But 'Remember Me' ... OMG... super-duper first class AOR tune.
Tommy shines everywhere and Gaitsch guitar work is perfect (there's rumors that master Jay Graydon also play guitar, uncredited).
Attention Nigh Ranger fans, many of you do not know the fact that Kelly Keagy did lead vocals here on 'Smack Dab', 'Under The Gun' and 'Was It Good For You', and in 'Everyday' with Funderburk.
No fillers in sight, great song after great song, superb musicianship, terrific songwriting and top notch production.

This request was easy to fill because KING OF HEARTS is one of my favorites AOR acts ever. Yes, it's that GOOD.
High quality rip with scans.
A MUST HAVE, no self-respecting AOR fan should be without it.

01 - Working Man
02 - In So Many Words
03 - Don't Call My Name
04 - Smack Dab
05 - Remember When
06 - Hold On To Love
07 - Under The Gun
08 - Lovin' Arms
09 - Was It Good For You
10 - Everyday
11 - King Of Hearts

Tommy Funderburk: Vocals
Bruce Gaitsch: Guitars
Kelly Keagy: Drums, Vocals
George Hawkins: Bass, Vocals
Additional Musicians:
CJ Vanston: Keyboards
Bill Champlin: Hammond B3, Vocals
Timothy Schmit and Randy Meisner: Backing Vocals

Produced by David Cole & Bruce Gaitsch


Monday, October 25, 2010

ICON - An Even More Perfect Union (1987-95)

ICON - An Even More Perfect Union
What can I say about ICON?
One of my Top 25 bands of the '80s, and their fantastic 2nd album "Night Of The Crime", The Greatest Melodic Hard AOR Album Of All Time ever, my #1 favourite.

When the awesome lead vocalist Steve Clifford quit the band after the recording of NOTC, the group auditioned hundreds of potential singers looking for the right replacement.
Jerry Harrison was chosen, the new ICON then showcased for their label in an effort to persuade them that they were ready to continue. But the company drop the band.
Without a deal, ICON set about resurrecting their career.
Choosing a different musical approach, the group then took it upon themselves to self finance their third album.

Recorded in their native Arizona and produced by leader Dan Wexler, "More Perfect Union" was self released locally on cassette only, containing 10 tracks.
Its intention was introduce the new members and melodic style to the fans and re-establish them for hopes of being signed with a new label.
Thanks to the action of a rabid fan group, this 'lost' ICON album was properly released on CD for the first time in 1995, re-entitled "An Even More Perfect Union" including 7 previously unreleased tracks: 4 songs from the same recording sessions not included in the cassette, 2 songs written in preparation for their third major label release ("Right Between The Eyes" 1989) and a melodic rocking version of the classic christmas song "Little Drummer Boy" recorded around 1988.

"More Perfect Union" was the natural evolution of this kind of bands circa '86-'88: melodic rock / AOR, radio-friendly tunes, with great catchy melodies and polished sound. You may like ICON or not but you can't argue that they have done the same record twice.
Full of persistent keys courtesy of the new keyboardist Kevin Stroller, this album has a really good production for an indie, and the '95 remaster job from the old tapes by Steve Escallier (who originally produced and engineered the album with Wexler) is more than satisfactory.
I can't recommend one track, all are good, I am a sucker for this style and for this band.

"An Even More Perfect Union" was pressed in limited quantities, each one signed and numbered, and now fetches extremely high prices at auction sites.
There's also an unauthorized 2 on 1 CD (together with "Night Of The Crime") but due to the lack of physical CD space only features 12 tracks.
Recently (2009) a second reissue was released by a small label, also a fairly limited edition, and has become pretty scarce too.
This is a copy at maximum quality of the original '95 numbered press CD, including FULL artwork.
More than Highly Recommended; Mandatory Download

01 - In Your Eyes
02 - Local Heroes
03 - One Step Behind
04 - Walk Away
05 - Forever Young
06 - Lost Love
07 - Eyes Of The Prisoner
08 - Better Left Unsaid
09 - Left To be Alone
10 - Hold On
11 - Way Back To My Heart (prev. unreleased)
12 - Stranger Things (prev. unreleased)
13 - Strong Love (prev. unreleased)
14 - Second Hand People (prev. unreleased)
15 - Sweet Young Sinner (bonus track)
16 - Gold Bullets (bonus track)
17 - Little Drummer Boy (bonus track)

KEVIN STROLLER: Digital & Analog Syntesizers
JOHN AQUILINO: Additional Guitars


Saturday, October 16, 2010

TYCOON - Turn Out The Lights (1981) remastered

TYCOON - Turn Out The Lights

TYCOON was a New York based band formed by vocalist Norman Mershon and multi-instumentalist Mark Kreider.
The duo recruited some well known session musicians and released a self titled album in the late '70s which made a modest hit in the charts.
Two years after, the group took a completely different approach to their second effort "Turn Out The Lights": AOR was starting to rule the airwaves.

With the polished and expert production of Vini Poncia (Adrenalin, Kiss) and the always effective guitars by Bobby Messano (Joe Lynn Turner, Fiona, Martee LeBow, Franke And The Knockouts) Norman Mershon
offers in this recording all his vocal abilities and tasteful tone.
'One More Try' is a moody syncopated westcoast tune, followed by the superb pure classy AOR 'Walkin' The Line', in the vein of BALANCE debut.
'Hang On In' is a totally eighties melody and you can hear the typically "Poncia touch" here.
'Love You Till It Hurts' seems to be recorded by TOTO, one of the highlights here.
'Let It Down' is a sweet commercial ballad, 'This Island Earth' features a curious arrangement during the verses and 'C'mon Over' is simple but catchy.
The title track 'Turn Out The Lights' has a candy-floss piano very TOTO's Hold The Line, also remembers me a Little River Band tune. A really good one.

Regarded as a true and obscure AOR gem by many fans, this album is criminally ignored on almost every Classic AOR list.
Maybe it does not reach the cult status, but it's a great record that failed to sold well and rank in the charts due to the label lack of promotion.
This is a rip from the Renaissance 2 in 1 remastered CD release, featuring their self titled debut and "Turn Out The Lights", which tracklist has been changed (I think it works better than the original) plus 2 extra tracks added: 'Yes Men' and 'Over My Head'.

As said, a very good album, well respected by serious AOR connoisseurs.
At this point, maybe you're tired by my repetitive footprint notes from my last posts : 'Highly Recommended'... I mostly share with you albums that I like a lot (except some requests) or consider worth to investigate, and this one fits that rule, hence... ;
Highly Recommended

01 - One More Try
02 - Walkin' The Line
03 - Can't Take That Away
04 - Hang On In
05 - Love You Till It Hurts
06 - Call The Police
07 - Yes Men
08 - Let It Down
09 - This Island Earth
10 - C'mon Over
11 - Over My Head
12 - Turn Out The Lights

Norman Mershon - vocals
Mark Kreider - bass, vocals
Bobby Messano - guitars, vocals
Jon Gordon - guitars, vocals
Keith Taylor, Michael Fonfara - keyboards
Mark Rivera - sax, vocals
Mike Braun - drums


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

PARBER & KERSTEIN - Stories From The Heart (1991)

PARBER & KERSTEIN - Stories From The Heart 2 bonus

Danish songwriters Jan Parber and Jes Kerstein teamed up with Morten Munch (former bassist of cult AOR heroes Skagarack) on the production duties, to release their one and only album "Stories From The Heart" in 1991.
These songs recorded throughout 1990 are heavily inspired and influenced by TOTO with the classic '80s scandi sound in the mix, it could be described as a light version of SKAGARACK combined with TOTO's rhythm / westcoast touches and GLASS TIGER on the hi-tech moments.

Opens with a climatic 'Intro' followed by a TOTOished pumping melodic rocker; "Keep On Waiting", featuring an interesting wall of vocals.
This is a distinctive aspect of this album: unusual background vocals/effects that makes it special.
"You Could Be The Last" is a great '80s flavored midtempo, "I'll Love You Forever" is the first ballad and what a song, I don't know why but remembers me ALIAS / FREDDY CURCI. Again, awesome layered vocals.
"Talk Too Much" seems taken from a 1983-84 american recording: poppy - AOR at its best.
"Love Don't Come Easy" is up next, a killer midtempo AOR that sounds a lot like SKAGARACK with nice keyboards. A really good one.
"Open Up Your Heart" is the 2nd ballad, much more relaxed than the previous, featuring a great power guitar solo.
"The World Keeps On Turning" is like a missing STRANGEWAYS track from the late 80's while "Give It From The Heart" is simple but effective, although I don't like the drum sound here.
"In Your Eyes" is another monster midtempo like DARE '88, great songwriting!
"Angel", another wonderful ballad a la SKAGARACK closes the disc.

This highly sought-after CD was rightly reissued in 2001 with a bonus track; "Once In A Lifetime" the official song for the Trialthon World Championship Games 2001, a bit different to the rest, an anthem-epic style tune, sung by ex Skagarack vocalist Tommy Rasmussen and composed by Parber & Kerstein together with british guitarist Ashly Mulford who had made himself a career with SAD CAFE and Mike & The Mecanics.
But this is a rip from the original 1991 press which sounds much better in my opinion.
I've added "Once In A Lifetime" anyway, and to make it more interesting, the only other song performed and recorded by this band; "Drømmer Om Dig" (Dreamin' Of You), for the 'Dansk Melodi Grand Prix 2001' (the danish Eurovision Song Contest). This single was sung by Kenny Lübcke (ex Narita and Zozer Mez).

"Stories From The Heart" is a must for any AOR fan.
The song material is very, very good throughout the album, and it's hard to name favourites. Excellent artistic production / mix as well.
Highly Recommended

01 - Intro
02 - I Keep On Waiting
03 - You Could Be The Last
04 - I'll Love You Forever
05 - Talk Too Much
06 - Love Don't Come Easy
07 - Open Your Heart
08 - The World Keeps On Turning
09 - Give It From The Heart
10 - Moving In Circles
11 - In Your Eyes
12 - Angel
Bonus Tracks:
13 - Once In A Lifetime *
from official '"ITU Triathlon Championship" single
14 - Drømmer Om Dig (Dreams About You) +
from "Dansk Melodi Grand Prix 2001"

Jan Parber: Vocals, Background Vocals, Keyboards
Jes Kerstein: Guitars, Keyboards
Morten Munch: Keyboards, Bass, Guitars, Bckgr Vocals
Tommy Rasmussen: Keyboards, Lead Vocals*, Bckgr Vocals
Carsten Kolster: Drums
Jan Kaspersen, Jesper Gruschy: Sax
Ole Hansen: Piano
Kenny Lübcke: Vocals +

Thursday, October 07, 2010

GOTTHARD - Dream Ballads


I have never been a big fan of this band.
But one of GOTTHARD's undoubted strengths is their ability to write quality, deep soulful power ballads featuring terrific chroruses.
Maybe you have not read the news, their frontman Steve Lee passed away last Tuesday in a traffic accident when he was fulfilling a life-long dream of driving around the U.S. on a Harley Davidson.

This is a humble tribute to the man: my favorite ballads.
If you have never listened to this group, try it now, you will not regret.
If you already know them, enjoy this collection.
R.I.P. Steve. -

01 - I'm On My Way
02 - Peace Of Mind
03 - One Life, One Soul
04 - Father Is That Enough?
05 - Say Goodbye
06 - Everything Can Change (piano version)
07 - All I Care For
08 - Let It Rain
09 - Someday
10 - He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother
11 - Heaven (radio version)
12 - Everything I Want
13 - Homerun (original version)
14 - Let It Be (Live)
15 - Angel (Live)
16 - Love Soul Matter (Live)
17 - Out On My Own (Live)
18 - And Then Goodbye

Steve Lee: Vocals
Leo Leoni : Guitars
Mandy Meyer : Guitars
Marc Lynn : Bass
Hena Habegger : Drums

artwork preview:

GOTTHARD - Dream Ballads

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

WHAT IF - What If (1987)

WHAT IF 1987 Tommy Funderburk

Requested in "Request & Fill Corner" section...

Tommy Funderburk has been one of the most hired main / background singers since the early 80's ; Airplay, Boston, Stan Bush, The Cult, Tim Feehan, Richard Marx, Van Stephenson, John Waite, Whitesnake and more and more...
Around 1983 Tommy met drummer Bob Wilson from the group SEAWIND, they formed THE FRONT and recorded a cool self titled album in '84 that was followed by a U.S / European tour in 1985.
By 1987 Funderburk and Bob Wilson reformed the band and brought in Larry Williams on keyboards and saxophone, changed name to WHAT IF and released this gem on a major label.

What can I say about this great album... I am Funderburk's unconditional fan.
His high multi-tone vocals, perfect modulation, turns into gold everything it touches. Tommy's performance here, as usual, is perfect.
"Perfect World" written by Glen Burtnik (and later recorded by ALIAS / Freddy Curci solo) is a winner of course, but there's much more on offer here.
Just listen "One Look" vocalization... WOW
"Ride The Hurricane" has an awesome guitar work and "Love Is A Fire" beats you with a killer tempo, even the sax is great and strong.
All tracks are outstanding and production First Class.

Add to the package the 'who is who' in the AOR session world: maestros Michael Landau and Dann Huff on guitars, Larry Klein (pumpin' bass sound!), Casey Young, Paulinho Da Costa, Bill Champlin, Bob Carlisle, etc.
Ripped from the japanese CD (brilliant sound) @ maximum quality.
Highly, Highly Recommended.

01 - What If
02 - If This Is Love
03 - Perfect World
04 - One Look
05 - Ride The Hurricane
06 - She Rocked The World
07 - Love Is A Fire
08 - When Right Is Wrong
09 - Turn And Walk Away

Tommy Funderburk : LEAD Vocals
Larry Williams : Keyboards, Sax
Bob Wilson : Drums
Michael Landau : Guitars
Dann Huff : Guitars
Jakko M. Jakszyk : Guitars
Larry Klein : Bass
Paulinho Da Costa : Percussion
Casey Young : Synthesizer
Eric Persing : Synth, Programming
Bill Champlin : Backing Vocals
Bob Carlisle : Backing Vocals


thanks Lostryder for the re-up