Wednesday, October 31, 2012

CAPTIVE HEART - Home Of The Brave (1996)

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

CAPTIVE HEART was a pure American AOR Melodic Rock band from Chicago, one of the many that arrived too late into the scene but deserved the stardom.
They recorded this bunch of songs in 1991-92 to land a U.S. deal, but you already know what happened after those years.
Luckily a German label released the tapes in 1996 as "Home Of The Brave", and what an impressive material it is.

Captive Heart strongly reminds me Signal (Mark Free's band) and Survivor on some compositional structures. Rick Tratar is a really good, second-to-none singer, accompanied by very talented musicians.
We have classic sounding AOR wonders such as "Outlaw", the awesome "It's Too Late" or the smouldering "Over You Over Me".
Title track "Home Of The Brave" has that lovable pulsating midtempo we all love (hints of House Of Lords), while "Can't Stop" is a soaring melodic rocker plenty of harmony vocal layers.
On the softer side "Shattered Dreams" is really American with its anthemic refrain, the soulful "Just One Touch" fits in the good power ballad mould, and "´Til The End" is a compelling slow acoustic number.

"Home Of The Brave" is rarely seen in many AOR / MR favorite's list, but it largely deserves that honor.
I remember reading some members of Captive Heart stating this recording as pre-production demos, something that you won't notice at all. I can't imagine what they would have been able to deliver with a full-fledged production budget.
This is classic stuff really well composed and performed, with all the magic mojo from the golden years of the genre.

01 - Outlaw
02 - It's Too Late
03 - Home Of The Brave
04 - Shattered Dreams
05 - Over You - Over Me
06 - Helpless
07 - Just One Touch
08 - Can't Stop
09 - Heartache
10 - Ride Of Your Life
11 - 'Til The End

Rick Tratar - lead & backing vocals
Chuck Kawal - guitars, bass, backing vocals
Tim McGovern - guitar, backing vocals
Scott Bahry - keyboards, drums, backing vocals
Paul Balsamello - bass
Guy Dominick - bass, backing vocals
Steve Moss - drums, percussion, backing vocals


Monday, October 29, 2012

GHOST - The Other Side (1995)

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

Although the grunge advent around 1992 caused a severe injury in the Melodic Rock genre, this type of music survived considerably healthier in Europe.
One of the British bands which had the opportunity to record during those years was GHOST, though their singer is actually from Gibraltar (a good one by the way).

Ghost's debut "The Other Side" starts strongly with "Can't Stop", a dynamic melodic rocker plenty of Journey influences and why not some The Storm hints.
Follower track "Brand New Start" is a midtempo AOR definitely British both in sound and style. The song has similarities with FM circa Tough It Out, including synths and acoustic guitars.
Some tracks have that classic UK rock melodies such as the late '80 Bad Company sounding "Should have Been Me" and "Rescue Me", while on others Ghost is quite bluesy as heard on "Ten Years".

"Send Me Somebody" is a good ballad resembling Journey's Trial By Fire material, and then we have the American influenced rocker "Get On The Bus" in the Damn Yankees style.
Title track "The Other Side" starts slowly creating an intriguing atmosphere and then explodes with big drums and an anthemic rhythm kinda From The Fire.
As you read, a varied album and most the time hitting the mark.

Correctly produced by Mike Exeter (Jeff Beck, Crown of Thorns), well written and played, "Brand New Start" is a pleasant and pretty unknown Melodic Rock / AOR album with a classic British sound.
Out Of Print.

01 - Can't Stop
02 - Brand New Start
03 - Country Boy
04 - Ten Years
05 - Send Me Somebody
06 - Should Have Been Me
07 - Get On The Bus
08 - He'll Let You Down
09 - Rescue Me
10 - The Other Side

Giles Ramirez - vocals
Steve Reid - keyboards, guitar
Trevor Spinks - guitars, backing vocals
Joe Soiza - bass, backing vocals
Phil Ridden - drums, backing vocals

GHOST - The Other Side

Thursday, October 25, 2012

WALK ON FIRE - Blind Faith + bonus B-side (1989)

Easily ranked amongst my favorite top 100 best albums of all time, "Blind Faith" by UK melodic rockers WALK ON FIRE is a must have in any collection.
Founded by keyboardist Dave Cairns and with the majority of the music written by him, you can expect a marvelous collection of songs with delicate arrangements, excellent pristine production and of course, high doses of keys.

The album enjoyed a considerable success in Britain, but sadly their American subsidiary label was absorbed by other company at the time, and despite favourable reviews following the US release, the album was not properly promoted.
Perhaps due their origins (Scotland) I always found Walk On Fire's sound similar to Strangeways, yet stylistically they're related to Canadians Boulevard.
All songs are perfect imho, elegant and sophisticated, played with the typical British charm. Some major session musicians such as Richard Cottle and Steve Ferrone where hired to enhance the quality even more.

In Europe, "Blind Faith" sold well and the band toured extensively, spawning three singles in the way.
One of them includes as b-side the non-album track "Land Of The Holy", which I have included here as bonus, a very hard to find track that, of course, match the quality of the album.
"Blind Faith" is superb, Period.
A Must Have.

01 - Blind Faith
02 - Wastelands
03 - Crime Of Loving You
04 - Tell It Like It Is
05 - Caledonia
06 - Hearts Of Gold
07 - Hands Of Time
08 - Hungry For Heaven
09 - Miracle Of Life
10 - Close My Eyes
11 - Land Of The Holy [b-side] (Bonus)

Alan King: Vocals
Mike Casswell: Guitars
Dave Cairns: Keyboards, Additional Acoustic Guitar
John Henderson: Drums
Add. musicians:
Phil Williams: Bass & Backing Vocals
Keith Airey: guitar
Richard Cottle, Peter Vitesse, Tim Moore: Keyboards
Steve Ferrone: Drums
Graham Edwards, Tim Archibald: Bass
The Faithettes, Andy Caine, Gary Dyson: Backing Vocals

WALK ON FIRE Blind Faith

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

BYSTANDER - Not So Innocent (1987)

Although coming from New Jersey, for the most part BYSTANDER had not the AOR style and sound typical from the States. They were more stylized, akin Canadian bands like Haywire or Honeymoon Suite, with two lead vocalists adding variation to the music.
Anyway, in their debut album "Not So Innocent" the keyboard infusion on some tracks recall American acts such as Dakota, while on more calmer numbers Mr.Mister and Stan Meissner come to mind.

Originally released in 1987 by an US indie label, "Not So Innocent" was rescued years after by the great German label Long Island Records with the addition of 3 bonuses.
"Not So Innocent" is impossible to find on CD, but it was widely posted through the blogosphere. However, I have never seen a copy at maximum quality of this little jewel, so here it is - in all its glory.
A necessary item in any reputable AOR collection.

01 - Welcome To The Real World
02 - Running In Circles
03 - Prelude
04 - Desiree
05 - Love Games
06 - Let Me In
07 - I Can't Stop
08 - Out Of The Night
09 - Someway Somehow
10 - You're History
11 - Momma Lao
12 - Real World [Dance Mix] (Bonus)
13 - What Do All The People Know (Bonus)
14 - All The Time In The World (Bonus)

Andy Kiely: lead vocals, bass
Bucky Naughton: lead vocals, drums, percussion
Mike Weaver: keyboards, vocals
Stanley Steele: guitar, vocals

BYSTANDER Not So Innocent 320

Friday, October 19, 2012

SWEET CRYSTAL - Power-N-Glory [Resurrected Masters] (1985)

SWEET CRYSTAL has been playing for more than 30 years releasing their material independently. "Power-N-Glory" was their 6-track first official recording from 1985, but remained lost for many years.
Although the style of the band has changed through the years, this particular set of songs well worth a listen for AOR collectors.

Sweet Crystal is a band with Christian origins but their lyrics are not directly preaching at all, and their musical style here can be compared with mid-eighties era Christian AOR acts like Allies or Idle Cure, and somehow they remind me other groups such as After Hours.
Title track "Power And The Glory" is a pure delight for Pomp AOR lovers, starting with some awesome synths and developing onto a wonderful typical '80s AOR marching tune.
"Lead Me To The Rock" continues with a pompster festival, sporting a catchy chorus recalling AOR-Pomp masters New England.

"Now Or Never" goes more commercial and poppy radio friendly, with a musical background which brings to mind another good Christian band of the era; Twenty Twenty.
"For Once In Your Lifetime" rocks harder in the Idle Cure vein, followed by the atmospheric midtempo / ballad "Now And Then", not so far from some Angel material.
For the end, Sweet Crystal decided to turn off the synths and rocks (hard) with "Come On Over", a guitar driven piece with a catchy rhythm.

Although recorded by themselves with a low budget, "Power-N-Glory" sounds good, well produced for an indie.
This is not the demo version floating around the web incorrectly titled as the Resurrected Masters, it's taken from the real 'Resurrected Masters' found by the band not so long ago, which is the real deal.
'80s rule.

01 - Power And The Glory
02 - Lead Me To The Rock
03 - Now Or Never
04 - For Once In Your Lifetime
05 - Here, Now And Then
06 - Come On Over

Marq Andrew Speck - vocals, bass, keyboards
Bill Blatter - guitars, vocals
Steve Wieser - drums


Saturday, October 13, 2012

CHRIS ANDREW - Hit And Run (1987)

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

This one was requested by a reader, and is a pleasure to post as it's a good '80s collectible.
There's not much info about CHRIS ANDREW or his "Hit And Run" album recorded in L.A. around 1986 and released one year later through the indie label Roadside Records.
The well known and always expressive Amy Holland is credited on backing vocals.

Andrew sings and play all the instruments helped in the production duties by Ross Pallone (Bryan Duncan, David Pack).
As you would expect, this is a pure mid-eighties sounding album with glowing guitars, candy-floss synths and compressed drums.
Andrew's vocals are good and polished for this style, which in many places reminds you Brian Spence, Billy Satellite, John Cafferty (Rocky IV soundtrack) and US Urgent. That's say: rockin' + poppy AOR with some hi-tech elements.

"Hit And Run" is totally '80s.
Mega Rare and good.

01 - Holdin' On
02 - Go Back
03 - Back Seat Lover
04 - Shake
05 - Gotta Get Away
06 - Hit And Run
07 - Fantasy
08 - Ticket To Ride

Chris Andrew: Vocals, Guitars, Bass, Keyboards and whatever else you happen to hear
Amy Holland: Background vocals
Ross Pallone: Cymbals on 'Go Back'


Thursday, October 11, 2012


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

US rockers DUKE JUPITER started as band in the second half of the seventies.
After three southern rock influenced albums, at the beginning of the '80s and with a recording label change, the Dukes decided to switch the direction in favor to the rising radio rock / AOR style.
There's no surprise then this album was entitled "Duke Jupiter 1", as indicates their new musical path.

Although still retaining their southern bluesy roots, "Duke Jupiter 1" reflects some of the sumptuous AOR sounds the band would develop later in the mid-eighties. This LP has the sound and style extensively used by .38 Special in years to come.
First track and single "I'll Drink To You" was an instant radio hit, becoming a Billboard Top 20 hit, with the video heavily broadcasted on MTV as well. Great hooky AOR track with an anthemic chorus.
Followers "Rockin' In A Motel Room" and "(You Gotta Love) The Wrong Ones" are more rocking oriented adding the typically crispy '80s-radio production.
"Don't You Look At Me Like That" is a beautiful rock ballad where early REO Speedwagon comes to mind, while the melodic yet rocking "Don't You Walk That Way" features a great guitar work with the sharp sound that ZZ Top would evolve for their 'Eliminator' two years after.

"Duke Jupiter 1" is a goodie not easy to find. Vinyl rip restored and cleaned by me.

01 - I'll Drink To You
02 - Rockin' In A Motel Room
03 - (You've Gotta Love) The Wrong Ones
04 - Don't You Look at Me Like That
05 - Sugar Blues
06 - Rock & Roll Band
07 - Slow, Loud And Dirty
08 - Don't You Walk That Way
09 - Baby, I Do

Marshall James Styler - vocals, keyboards
Greg Walker - guitars, vocals
George Barajas - bass, vocals
Rickey Ellis - bass
David Corcoran - drums, vocals


Monday, October 08, 2012

CHERRY PIE - Eye To Eye (1998)

CHERRY PIE born in Switzerland in the summer of 1995 primarily as a cover band, playing songs ranging from Bon Jovi to Metallica as opening act for major bands like Gotthard, Bonfire and Jaded Heart.

While recording their debut album of original songs, Cherry Pie had the opportunity to write a championship-song for the international boxer Stefan Angehrn from Switzerland.
The single “Eye To Eye” was produced by Tommy Newton (Victory, Ark, Gamma Ray) in Germany and released in September, 1998. This is the only official release by these musicians under the Cherry Pie moniker, as soon changed their name to Crystal Ball.
Indeed, Cherry Pie is Crystal Ball, the Melodic Hard Rock band still active today including great vocalist Mark Sweeney.

“Eye To Eye” is a fine, rocking and melodic anthem presented in this maxi-single CD in four versions, choose your best, all are good.
Extremely rare and hard to find.

1 - Eye To Eye (radio edit)
2 - Eye To Eye (long version)
3 - Eye To Eye (surround-mix version)
4 - Eye To Eye (instrumental)

Mark Sweeney; lead & backing vocals
Scott Leach: guitars
Tom Graber: guitars, keyboards, backing vocals
Dany Schallibaum: bass, backing vocals
Marcel Sardella: drums, backing vocals
Kalle Bosel (V.A.N, Askari): guest backing vocals
Tommy Newton: backing vocals, producer


Monday, October 01, 2012

GRAND PRIX - There For None To See [Expanded Edition] (1982)

Without a doubt, GRAND PRIX was one of the finest UK acts of the eighties.
Commonly praised for their 3rd and final album (close to perfection) 'Samurai', the band's second effort "There For None To See" - often ignored in everyone's favorite lists - is a brilliant one too.
Robin McAuley (later to achieve international fame with Michael Schenker) replacing original vocalist Bernie Shaw and a label change (from RCA to Chrysalis) provided the catalyst for the band to something distinctly more melodic and polished.

"There For None To See" was a pivotal link between their early attempts at melodic hard in the self-titled debut and the glossy sound of Samurai, being for many Grand Prix's most complete album.
And indeed it's a superb Melodic Hard Rock / AOR disc plenty of memorable songs, in fact, I can't find a filler here. All are great.
Just to name a few; opener "Heaven And Hell" and its awesome chorus and synths, the terrific pomp-infused "Troubador", the tinkling "Runaway" or the splendid Americanized AOR in "Take A Chance".
The wonderful "Keep On Believing" is the British answer to Journey while the atmospheric ballad "Paradise" is nothing short than perfect.

This is not the horribly noisy 2006 2nd reissue including a bonus track, it's the much better original 2000 cleaned by me. I doubt you will find a better sounding copy than this one.
I have included the bonus of course, as it is another great song to treasure; "Life On The Line", originally appeared as b-side in the Keep On Believing single.
"There For None To See" is a Must Have in any serious AOR / Melodic Hard Rock collection.

01 - Heaven To Hell
02 - Troubadour
03 - Take A Chance
04 - Paradise
05 - Keep On Believing
06 - Taking Your Life Away
07 - Runaway
08 - Tough Of The Track
09 - Atlantis
10 - Relay
11 - Life On The Line [b-side] (Bonus Track)

Robin McAuley - vocals
Michael O'Donoghue - guitars
Phil Lanzon - keyboards
Ralph Hood - bass
Andy Beirne - drums

GRAND PRIX There For None To See