Monday, December 22, 2014

DAN SEALS - Harbinger [Japan edition] (1982)

DAN SEALS - Harbinger [Japan edition] (1982) AOR
Requested in "REQUEST & FILL CORNER" section...

American singer DAN SEALS achieved enormous success in America as Melodic Country artist during the second half of the '80s, but the talented musician previously had a prominent background in Soft Rock music. Under the moniker 'England Dan' he was part of the duo England Dan & John Ford Coley which charted nine Adult Contemporary singles between 1976-79.
After the duo disbanded, Seals recorded his first solo LP still retaining the 'England Dan' name. It was an album intended to launch Seals in the mainstream rock&pop market and adult radio.
But it's this second release "Harbinger" which attracts our interest, as it was created during the golden age of seminal American AOR / Westcoast; between 1981-82.

For "Harbinger", Atlantic Records put a big budget at Dan Seal's service. Dan penned three songs, but one of the strengths of this release is the contribution of external songwriters, the cream of the cream around those years including Rick Bowles, David Foster, Jay Graydon and Glen Ballard just to name few.
Add to this the L.A. 'big guys' Dann Huff, Randy Mccormick, David Hungate (Toto) and you get the picture.
Just listen opener "Can't Get You Out Of My Mind". While Seals' verses are the less remarkable thing of the song (because are mostly spoken) the chorus and the music is awesome. In the best early Toto feeling, this is a classy Westcoast tune crowned by a terrific lead guitar work all over the song.

"I Could Be Loving You Right Now" is a breezy, elegant Light AOR beauty, same with superb "It's Not Gonna Be That Easy", prime '82 Westcoast of the highest order. Seal's vocal part here is first class, with a sweet melodic harmony ruling the tune.
Then the Bowles' co-written "In My Heart" is a catchy, melodic little gem, followed by the Airplay cover "It Will Be Alright (written David Foster & Jay Graydon) done with a nice vibe.

If you wanna check how a radio-ready song was crafted in the first half of the '80s, put "Once In A While" in your player. The chorus is pure AOR heaven, a melodic bliss to die for. As a movie soundtrack maniac, I always thought this track should have been part of a major film of the era. This song alone worth this disc.
"Up To Me" blends - like few tracks recorded during this golden period of American music - AOR, pop and Westcoast in a magnificent way. This is feel-good music guys, the kind they never made anymore. Great vocal performance by Dan, and one of his best on the record. Is that master Huff on the guitar? What a tone man.

Another gem arrives with "Not Every Heart Succeeds", AOR in the classic US way with a Player / Peter Beckett feel adorned with lovely keys and highly melodic verses. Wow.
Midtempo "Bad News" has a little country smell - a style on which Seals will move after this record - but the guitar solo is rocking and punchy, while "Harbinger, Sage or Fool" adds acoustics to its soft rock atmospheres.
These last two tracks, although good, are not in the same league of the previous, but that's almost an impossible task judging the high level of what we have listened so far. This is already a stupendous album.

DAN SEALS - Harbinger [Japan edition] (1982) back

"Harbinger" is a terrific US AOR / Westcoast album rarely mentioned as one of the best recorded during the first half of the '80s. Perhaps because Dan Seals turned a Country artist after this, but believe me, there's lots of high quality stuff here. At least half of the record is a must have material for fans of the genre.
"Harbinger" was released in the US for the first time on CD only ten years ago, but this is a rip from the highly priced, much sought after original Japanese release.
A Must.

01 - Can't Get You Out Of My Mind
02 - I Could Be Lovin’ You Right Now
03 - It's Not Gonna Be That Easy
04 - In My Heart
05 - It Will Be Alright
06 - I Don't Believe I'll Fall In Love Again
07 - Once In A While
08 - Up To Me
09 - Not Every Heart Succeeds
10 - Bad News
11 - Harbinger, Sage Or Fool

Vocals: Dan Seals
Guitars: Dann Huff, Bobby Thompson, Duncan Cameron, Jon Goin, Larry Byrom, Rafe VanHoy, Steve Gibson
Keyboards: Kelly Wilson, Bobby Ogden, Randy McCormick, Shane Keister, Farrell Morris
Bass: David Hungate, Jack Williams, Tom Robb, Bob Wray
Drums: James Stroud, Larne Landin
Percussion: Farrell Morris
Backing Vocals: Lisa Silver, Sherri Huffman, Dan Seals

DAN SEALS - Harbinger HQ

Thursday, December 18, 2014

JAY GRAYDON with K-A-Z - Blazin (2003)

JAY GRAYDON with K-A-Z - Blazin (2003) full
Requested in "REQUEST & FILL CORNER" section...

This a fun request. Super talented L.A. Session god JAY GRAYDON wrote some years ago the theme song for a Japanese popular wrestler, Kenta Kobashi.
The song titled "Blazin" was recorded by Asian guitar wizard K-A-Z, but also by Graydon in California, accompanied by some other luminaries often linked with AOR sounds; keyboard player Bill Cantos, bassist Jimmy Johnson and John Keane on drums.

Used when Kobashi entered into the Pro-Wrestling NOAH arena, the various versions of the song were pressed on CD.
K-A-Z takes are really hard rocking in a Marty Friedman style, while Graydon's and his cats, as you suppose, deliver a very melodic breeze. Jay Graydon shines with a clean yet powerful valvular guitar performance, while Cantos add some synths as embellishment.

The "Blazin" EP is a cool release, many versions of the same song yes, but fun. It's almost like a 'soundtrack type' release.
The CD is a rarity, as far I know out of print and a collectors item.

01 - K-A-Z - Blazin
02 - Ryu Nakata - Ring Announce
03 - K-A-Z - Blazin (Victory Version)
04 - Kenta Kobash - Message
05 - Jay Graydon - Blazin (Original Version)
06 - Jay Graydon - Blazin (Original Long Version)

Tracks 1, 3:
K-A-Z: Guitars, Bass & Programming
Go: Drums
Tracks 5, 6:
Jay Graydon: Guitars, Keyboards, Programming
Bill Cantos: Keyboards
Jimmy Johnson : Bass
John Keane: Drums

JAY GRAYDON with K-A-Z - Blazin

Monday, December 15, 2014

RUSS IRWIN - Russ Irwin (1991)

RUSS IRWIN - Russ Irwin (1991) HQ
Requested in "REQUEST & FILL CORNER" section...

The name RUSS IRWIN may ring a bell for few people, but chances are if you've seen Aerosmith live in concert in the last two decades, you've heard him playing keyboards and doing backing vocals. 
Indeed, New Yorker Russ Irwin has been been part of Aerosmith's touring band since the '90s, performing keyboards, guitars and backing vocals. Also, in the meantime, toured with Sting, Bryan Adams, John Fogerty, and recorded with Paul Stanley, Jeff Beck, etc.
But he's more than this.

Irwin is a skilled songwriter too, having penned songs for Meat Loaf, Foreigner, Scorpions and many, many more. As example, most recently Irwin co-wrote Aerosmith's top 20 hit 'What Could Have Been Love' on their album Music From Another Dimension.
However, Russ Irwin started his musical career as solo artist when he was singed at the beginning of the Nineties by major label Columbia. His self-titled debut appeared in 1991, produced by Westcoast guru Phil Ramone.
Despite of featuring as well session musicians also often related to Westcoast / AOR music like Vinnie Colaiuta, Jeff Bova or Steve Ferrone, "Russ Irwin" (the CD) is pretty Adult Contemporary, Rock&pop and Classic Rock oriented, with some melodic rock tracks in between as the beautiful "Sea Of Dreams".

RUSS IRWIN - Russ Irwin (1991) back cover

The album spawned a hit single - # 28 on the Billboard Hot 100 - with the ballad "My Heart Belongs to You", while "I Need You Now" hit No. 36 on the Radio Rock chart.
This is a very good record with cool tunes, of course top class musicianship & production, and Irwin's excellent vocals as a corollary.
It seriously grows in you with each listen.

01 - Don't Like The Way You Look At My Love
02 - All I Want
03 - Alison-Francis
04 - She's Part of Me
05 - Get Outta Town
06 - Can't Stop Lovin' You
07 - My Heart Belongs To You
08 - That's What Love Should Be
09 - I Need You Now
10 - Sea Of Dreams

Russ Irwin: Vocals, Bass, Keyboards, Piano, Wurlitzer
Jeff Bova: Synthesizer
Jimmy Bralower: Programming, Synthesizer
Doug Katsaros: Synthesizer, Backing Vocals
Eric Rehl: Keyboards, Synthesizer
Vinnie Colaiuta, Steve Ferrone, Gregg Gerson: Drums
Bashiri Johnson: Percussion
Joe Shepley, David Taylor, George Young: Horns
Phoebe Snow, Rachele Cappelli, Jill Dell'Abate, Karen Kamon: Backing Vocals


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

FLAME (US) - Flame (1992)

FLAME (US) - Flame (1992)
Requested in "REQUEST & FILL CORNER" section...

It's time for some rocking waves here... this FLAME from US recorded two nice albums between the late '80s / early '90s. Their first disc appeared via a small label, a hard rocking effort with some hair metal on it.
By 1990, Flame was signed by a major label and they contributed a song for Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead OST, while the band's second album was being recorded with producer Bill Wray, a movie soundtrack specialist many times featured on this blog.

Entitled as the band's name, "Flame" is much more melodic and accessible than the previous CD.
With a sound & style typical of the 1990-92 years - read Damn Yankees, Tesla and a bit of Night Ranger, at places Flame infuse some songs with a bluesy vibe akin Great White or Tangier.
My favorite cuts are the ones with the more melodic hard rock oriented melodies and choruses, such as the very good "Don't Look Down", the punchy "Ball and Chain", the pumping "If You Had A Heart" or the midtempo ballad "Desperate Heart".

FLAME (US) - Flame (1992) back cover

A nice, very melodious US Melodic Hard Rock album, "Flame" delivers a quite 'easy to the ears' sound that, despite at places pretty hard rocking, it's always pleasant with friendly verses and choruses.

01 - Razor Blade Road (Prelude)
02 - Rain
03 - Electraglide
04 - Wild One
05 - Don't Look Down
06 - Wonderland
07 - Shelter You
08 - If You Had A Heart
09 - Never Say Die
10 - Ball And Chain
11 - Blood For Blood
12 - Desperate Heart
13 - Automatic
14 - Razor Blade Road (Reprise)

Phillip Andrew - Lead Vocals, Guitar
Billy Harvey - Guitar, Vocals
Steve Smith - Bass, Vocals
Dennis Bostok - Drums

FLAME (US) - Flame (1992)

Friday, December 05, 2014

JACK WAGNER - Don't Give Up Your Day Job (1987) remastered

JACK WAGNER - Don't Give Up Your Day Job (1987) remastered
Requested in "REQUEST & FILL CORNER" section...

When actors become singers... usually close to disaster. However that was not the case with talented JACK WAGNER, from which I already posted here some of his albums. Occurs that the good Jack not only has a smooth voice but he was able (and his manager) to surround him with the best of the best.
For his 3rd LP "Don't Give Up Your Day Job" (1987), we have again the cream of the 'L.A. boys': Michael Landau, Dann Huff, Clif Magness, Robbie Buchanan, Glen Ballard, Nathan East... and the list never ends.

Although at the time of its release "Don't Give Up Your Day Job" was marketed as 'West Coast pop', the album is a pretty uptempo collection of AOR songs.
Of course there's a couple of suave, charming West Coast ballads, but this is a mid-'80s sounding record destined to radio. You can feel Glen Ballard's touch (one of the producers) and his hand for poppy, commercial radio-friendly sounds.
"Don't Give Up Your Day Job" is impeccably recorded and performed, and I like all the songs. Wagner co-penned half of the tracks, with outsider contributions from the likes of Diane Warren, Clif Magness, the mega-talented Billy Steinberg (on my favorite cut "Easy Way Out" also recorded by I-Ten) or Ballard itself.

JACK WAGNER - Don't Give Up Your Day Job (1987) remastered back cover

For years, "Don't Give Up Your Day Job" was really hard to find, and in fact it's a record rarely seen featured into the blogosphere.
Rarer is this 2009 remaster which adds even more splendor to these meticulously recorded & produced songs.

01 - Weatherman Says
02 - Island Fever
03 - Love… Find It
04 - It's What We Don't Say
05 - Easy Way Out
06 - Common Man
07 - Lovers In The Night
08 - Sneakin' Suspicions
09 - It's Been A Long Time
10 - Back Home Again

Vocals, Guitar: Jack Wagner
Guitars: Michael Landau, Dann Huff, Nick Kirgo, Clif Magness, Tony Peluso, Paul Warren
Bass: Nathan East, Joe Chemay, John Farrar, Abe Laboriel
Keyboards; Robbie Buchanan, Randy Kerber, John Farrar, Glen Ballard, John Hobbs, John Van Tongeren, Mike Egizi, Marcel East
Synths: Randy Kerber, John Farrar, Jim Lang, John Van Tongeren
Drums: Vinnie Colauita, Paul Leim, Tony Humecke, David Logeman, Jack Bruno
Percussion: Paulinho Da Costa
Guest Vocals: Siedah Garret (duet Track 4)
Sax: Joel Peskin
Backing Vocals: Joe Pizzulo, Gary Falcone, Roger Freeland, Maxine Waters, Julia & Oren Waters, Edie Lehman, Clif Magness, Glen Ballard, Joe Turano, John FarrarJohn Batdorf, Brie Howard, Paul Warren, Bryan McDonald, Robbie Buchanan

JACK WAGNER Don't Give Up Your Day Job - remastered

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

VAN STEPHENSON - Suspicious Heart (1986)

VAN STEPHENSON - Suspicious Heart (1986) HQ
Well, this is simple: "Suspicious Heart", VAN STEPHENSON's second album for MCA Records and his last as solo artist, is a must have in your collection too.
Despite of being recorded with almost the same personnel from the previous, including Dann Huff / Alan Pasqua and Richard Landis producing, the album - released in 1986 - has a pretty different sound.

Actually, "Suspicious Heart" is pure '80s too, but less 'rocking' than its predecessor and more AOR according to times. It's more 'elegant' I'd say.
Smooth, delicate tunes like "We're Doing Alright", the dreamy "(We Should Be) Together Tonight", the atmospheric title track or the ballad "Never Enough Night" are among the best AOR produced in the mid-Eighties.
But don't be fooled, the second half of the disc features uptempo Melodic Rock gems such as "Fist Full Of Heat" driven by Dann Huff impressive riffs and Pasqua stabbing synths, while the fun rockers "Make It Glamorous" (The Wild Life OST) and "No Secrets" (Secret Admirer OST) end the LP on uptempo form.

VAN STEPHENSON - Suspicious Heart (1986) back cover

Sumptuous, at places more energetic, but always refined, "Suspicious Heart" is a great record made by great musicians.
Yes, another essential piece in your collection.

01 - We're Doing Alright
02 - (We Should Be) Together Tonight
03 - Suspicious Heart
04 - Never Enough Night
05 - Confidentially Yours
06 - Desperate Hours
07 - Dancing With Danger
08 - Fist Full Of Heat
09 - Make It Glamourous
10 - No Secrets

Van Stephenson - vocals
Mike Baird - drums
Dennis Belfield - bass
Dann Huff - guitars
Alan Pasqua - keyboards, synthesizers
Michael Fisher - percussion
Richard Landis - percussion, keyboards, producer
Mike Landau, Waddy Wachtel, Stan Lasiter - add. guitars
Craig Krampf, Mark Hammond - add. drums
Michael Rhodes - add. bass
Richard Gibbs, Reed Nielsen, Dave Innis - add. keyboards
Tom Kelly, Tommy Funderburk - backing vocals

VAN STEPHENSON - Suspicious Heart HQ