Sunday, November 27, 2011

HOBIN - Keepin' The Dream Alive (1982)

Todd HOBIN - Keepin' The Dream Alive (1982)
Todd Hobin, from Syracuse, New York, has been around for a a while. Singer, guitarist and songwriter of his own band, Todd's first self titled release date from 1978.
He still performs with the original Todd Hobin Band and as solo artist, but stopped recording since 1985 when 'Turn It On" (already featured HERE on this blog) hit the stores.
Prior to this one, 1982's "Keepin' The Dream Alive" - released under his last name - also includes some nice AOR radio friendly tunes typical of the era.

Opens with pompy title track "Keepin' The Dream Alive", a solid track with good guitars, keys and a wonderful refrain. The inclusion of searing sax lines enhances the track greatly.
Next song "I Ain't Got No Money" is a little and inoffensive rocker that reminds me Robert Berry's Hush, but follower "Lost Without Your Love" is a very good AOR track with awesome harmony vocals, a catchy song that also features an interesting and original middle section instrumentation.
"How Do I Kiss You?" is more poppy AOR oriented but with an irresistible catchiness, polished sound and a hooky chorus.

On the convincing "Talkin' Like A Fool" Hobin sounds like Rick Springfield circa Working Class Dog, whilst "Jealousy" has an early Loverboy vibe. Both fine tracks.
"Tonight (I Wanna Be Lonely)" is a melodic semi-ballad with tuneful vocals by Hobin and candy-floss keyboards ala Franke & The Knockouts. Certainly a goodie.
The ethereal instrumental "Aria For K.T." (mixed with the main title "Keepin' The Dream Alive" reprise) precedes the Le Roux's influenced AOR of "No Words". This is a classy sounding and arranged slow tune that grows on you vividly.

"Keepin' The Dream Alive" is a pretty obscure album released through the indie label Aries Records including really good AOR songs mixed with some fine rock&pop numbers. In short; a typical lovely early 80's American Rock record.
It's nicely produced and very well performed and arranged, a truly enjoyable record.
Vinyl rip restored by myself some years ago (not with my present quality standards but sounds really good) including artwork.

01 - Keepin' The Dream Alive
02 - I Ain't Got No Money
03 - Lost Without Your Love
04 - How Do I Kiss You
05 - Let It Roll
06 - Talkin' Like A Fool
07 - Jealousy
08 - Tonight (I Wanna Be Lonely)
09 - Keepin' The Dream Alive (Reprise) + Aria For K.T.
10 - No Words

Todd Hobin: lead vocals, synths, guitar, piano, percussion
Doug Moncrief: Piano, synths, bass, backing vocals
Bruce Fowler: guitars, backing vocals
Shawn Hobin: drums, backing vocals
John Kane: tenor sax
Peter Mack: string bass
Vince Taft: percussion
Mark Doyle: bass, synth bass, clavinet, guitar, backing vocals, producer

HOBIN - Keepin' The Dream Alive

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

VENICE - 2nd Album (1990)

VENICE - 2nd Album (1990)
Today it's time for a personal favorite: Venice 2nd album.
Not strictly AOR, nor strictly Melodic Rock, but all englobed at the same time, into a lush Classic Rock package.

Comprised of cousins Kipp and Michael Lennon and their respective brothers Pat and Mark Lennon, this quartet from Venice, California, spreads quality to the 4 cardinal points.
Often compared with The Eagles, and Crosby, Stills & Nash, this compliment is more than deserved.
Based on fantastic vocal harmonies and crisp and clean instrumentation without compromising rockin' consistency, their music is a bliss of musicality.

This is the best Venice album in my opinion, offering a varied section of tunes from bubbling rockers as the irresistible "All My Life" (which reminds me my loved Nelson), "Time" and "Kaylee" to the charming ballads "Change In The Season" or the perfect harmony-filled "Hideaway Hill", this band hasn't any single weak moment.
Known for their social consciousness, Venice also give us interesting lyrics on "People Laugh" (which draws attention to the subject of AIDS) and "Ocean", written about the polluted Santa Monica Bay.
If you don't know Venice the band, it's time to fill that gap.
Highly Recommended.

01 - All My Life
02 - Sacrifice The Fool
03 - Mr.Lonely
04 - Change In The Season
05 - Kaylee
06 - Pushed Her Too Far
07 - Time
08 - Ocean
09 - People Laugh
10 - Save The Legion
11 - Hideaway Hill
12 - Ball & Chain

Kipp Lennon - Lead Vocals
Mark Lennon - Lead Vocals
Michael Lennon - Guitars & Vocals
Pat Lennon - Guitars & Vocals
Monroe Jones - Keyboards
Mark Harris - Bass
Scott Crago - Drums & Percussion

VENICE 2nd Album 1990


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

VINCI - Vinci (1995)

VINCI - Vinci (1995) melodic hard rock aor
VINCI is a studio Melodic Hard Rock project devised by German multi-instrumentalist Tom Blendinger.
Session musician and producer, the first self-titled 'Vinci' album was Tom's culmination of three years working in his own studio. For the lead vocals Blendinger called singer Wolfgang Riegal who used to be part of the earlier encarnation of Victory.

"Vinci" is a surprisingly good Melodic Hard Rock album in the Euro style, musically in the line of other German acts such as Casanova or Javan, Swedes Amaze Me and to a lesser degree, mid-era MSG, partly due to the McAuley-esque vocals of Wolfgang.
"The Shooter", "One" and "Get Your Wings" are fine and melodic numbers, not exempt of many AOR harmonies, as the nice midtempo ballad "What About You".
Tom Blendinger is a very good performer particularly on his main instrument, the guitar, building the songs over strong riffs and melodic solos. Good use of the keyboards too, orchestrating the whole Vinci's sound.

Tom Blendinger has released independently an instrumental album under Vinci's moniker, but seems a new MHR oriented CD with a new vocalist is scheduled for 2012.
"Vinci" is a good, catchy album, released by the legendary and now defunct label Long Island Records.
Out of print.

1. The Shooter
2. Get Your Wings
3. Smell of Spring
4. Sixth Sense
5. Chance of Life
6. 1999
7. One
8. What About You
9. Good Times
10. Love's a Jailer
11. Welcome Home

Wolfgang Riegel - Lead & Backing Vocals
Tom Blendinger - All Instruments, Backing Vocals

VINCI 1995

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

MARCEL McARTHUR - Don't Turn Around (1987)

MARCEL McARTHUR - Don't Turn Around (1987)
Requested in "Request & Fill Corner" section...

Marcel McArthur developed his initial artistic years in the Netherlands as frontman of the short-lived band 'Lose To Win'.

By '84 released his first solo album 'Face The Music' in Germany, while his 2nd and last "Don't Turn Around" (1987) was published not only in Europe, but in the USA one year later.

Christian artist as you may note from the song titles, on "Don't Turn Around" McArthur's style is typically eighties blending rock&pop and contemporary (CCM) with some smooth WestCoast and AOR.
The first tracks does not much for me, such as the poppy & gospel "Love Is Catching On", followed by the commercial sounding and light "I Rejoice" (good guitar solo) and then the boring "Sometimes They Call Me Father".
"Remember Who I Am" is a gentle midtempo rock&pop and things get better with the little rock of "Lost".

The good stuff here is on the 'Side B'.
"Don't Turn Around" is my favorite, a cheap action-movie lite AOR number with synth attack, marching rhythm and catchy refrain.
"He'll Be There" is a good commercial aorish ballad, one of the best vocally performed tracks here.
"Praise To The King" has a smooth westcoast sound, "Jesus Is The Way" is a nice uptempo pop/gospel tune with good arrangements, while last track is a powerful piano ballad very well composed and performed, again with a westcoast scent and some crooner touches.

"Don't Turn Around" - produced by McArthur's itself - it's a nice recording with some interesting and good songs, particularly on the second half. Marcel is preaching most the time, but his mellifluous voice is really pleasant to listen.
Not essential by any means, but obscure and rare as Hell (oops!).

Ripped from the even more rare CD copy. A collector's item for sure.

01 - Love Is Catching On
02 - I Rejoice
03 - Sometimes They Call Me Father
04 - Remember Who I Am
05 - Lost
06 - Don't Turn Around
07 - He'll Be There
08 - Praise To The King
09 - Jesus Is The Way
10 - Here I Am

Marcel McArthur : Vocals, production
Personnel : Unlisted / unknown


Monday, November 07, 2011

LOREN HARRIET - Round Up The Usual Suspects (1995)

LOREN HARRIET - Round Up The Usual Suspects (1995)
Requested in "Request & Fill Corner" section...

Loren Harriet is a name that doesn't ring a bell among general rock fans, but this executive producer and musician has been behind several major music projects.

By 1993, the man had the chance to set aside the concerning aspects of the business, and go for his guilty pleasure; his artistic side as musician.

"Round Up The Usual Suspects" is his one and only album, and as you could imagine, heavy weight musicians were part of the recording.
If Loren's name is unknown to you, I'm sure Bill Champlin, Michael Landau, Timothy B. Schmit or Leland Sklar are not.
This stellar line-up (check personnel below) really shine on these quality westcoast/AOR tunes. Some tracks are more classic rock&pop oriented, but with an aorish flavor all over.
Harriet's vocals aren't the strongest, but all the time he's cleverly supported by monsters like Champlin (on 3 tracks), Schmit, Nicolette Larson, Jay Winding, Vonda Shepard... you can't go wrong with these gorgeous throats.
Musically all the songs are impeccable, and even on the few weakest tracks the musicianship is really good, particularly Michael Landau's awesome guitars.

Originally released as promo in 1993, "Round Up The Usual Suspects" was finally published two years after in small quantities.

01 - What Do You Really
02 - Just A Matter Of Mind
03 - Native Son
04 - Be Strong
05 - Loyal Friend
06 - Do You Believe
07 - Stand And Fight
08 - Living A Lie
09 - Strange Man
10 - All The Way
11 - El Dorado
12 - Friends

LOREN HARRIET - Round Up The Usual Suspects (1995)tracks

LOREN HARRIET - Round Up The Usual Suspects

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

STINGRAY - Revisited Re-Mastered (1979-2009)

STINGRAY - Revisited Re-Mastered (1979-2009)
Requested in "Request & Fill Corner" section...

From the atypical land for pompy AOR, Stingray was the first South African band to play this genre.

Their first self-titled album, heavily influenced by Boston, Journey, Queen and a bit of early Survivor, scored the local hit "Better The Devil You Know" reaching #4 in the South African radio charts, which was also played in several European countries, specially Germany.

Aside from the pomp keyboards and style, their music has a strong Melodic Rock feel on many tracks, as on the fabulous opener "Better The Devil You Know", a catchy tune with a fantastic chorus.
Follower "The Man In My Shoes" has an earlier Boston influence, from the vocal harmonies to the melodic line. A killer track.
If the previous song had some Boston scent, wait to hear "Same Old Party". Layers and layers of terrific harmony vocals, swirling keyboards and a monster contagious chorus makes this song a favorite.

"Breakdown" has a melodic Survivor feel, while "Devotion" is a Journey-esque midtempo with some proggy AOR elements.
"Where Do We Go From Here" is another favorite. Again influenced by Boston but essentially by Queen due the great vocal arrangements.
Another great one is the classy "Love Saver" where the guitar work resembles Brian May. On "Whole Lotta Fire" they rock a bit harder in the late '70s American style.
"Lucy" is a superb pure pomp AOR ballad based on electric keys, where the lead vocals really shine.

"Stingray" is a great and pretty unknown Pomp AOR / Melodic Rock album with infectious melodies and excellent harmonies, with a crisp and lush production typically American sounding (despite of being recorded in Johannesburg).
As a curious note, drummer Shaun Wright lost a leg in a shark attack in 1980 whilst surfing at Balito Bay. He carried on drumming, but was eventually replaced by Wally Cullis for the next and last album, from which the band was expecting an international success. Unfortunately it never happened, and the group split up soon.
A shame, because they were really good.

This is the CD reissue of the self titled debut with the addition of 2 single b-sides and different track order, re-entitled "Revisited Re-Mastered". I have my doubts if the 'remaster' was done from the master tapes, anyway, it sounds nice.
No fillers in sight, all tracks are really good.

01 - Better The Devil You Know
02 - The Man In My Shoes
03 - Same Old Party
04 - How Much
05 - Breakdown
06 - Devotion
07 - Where Do We Go From Here
08 - Gonna Keep My Head Together
09 - Love Saver
10 - Hard Headed Loner
11 - Whole Lotta Fire
12 - Lucy

Dennis East: Lead Vocals
Mike Pilot: Lead guitar & vocals
Danny Anthill: Keyboards, flute
Eddie Boyle: Bass
Allan Goldswain: Keyboards
Shaun Wright: Drums & percussion

STINGRAY - Revisited Re-Mastered