Released by Sony BMG – 2010
Review Added January 15, 2010
· Running Time: 37:12
· Release Date: January 4, 2010
· Musical Style: Modern AOR
· Links: http://www.myspace.com/stagedolls
2. Rainin’ On A Sunny Day
4. Highway’s Open
5. Eye Of My Heart **
6. Better Off Pretty
8. Saturday Night
9. Where The Blacktop Ends**
10. My Strangest Friend
*Torstein Flakne: Vocals, all electric & acoustic guitars
*Terje Storli: 4, 5 & 8-string basses
*Morten Skogstad: Drums
*All keyboards: Ronny Wikmark
*Guest vocals on Rainin’ on a sunny day’: Darryl Tookes
*Guest vocals on ‘Strangest friend’: Mari Myrholt
*Background vocals: Darryl Tookes, Mark Spiro,
*Lisa Fisher, Vaneese Thomas, Angela Clemons.
Norwegian AOR legends STAGE DOLLS have always been one of those bands that are highly regarded in their home country and amongst hardcore AOR fans, but sadly, never seemed to get noticed by anyone else. One thing the band has done better than many of their contemporaries is move with the ever-changing times while still retaining enough their classic sound to keep fans happy. The new album ALWAYS, sees the band doing it again, with some subtle changes but still enough typical STAGE DOLLS sound to feel like a natural successor to 2004’s GET A LIFE.
While still influenced vocally and melodically by bands like DEF LEPPARD, the actual style of music on offer throughout the ten tracks has more of a modern radio rock feel to it which brings to mind bands like MATCHBOX TWENTY, GOO GOO DOLLS and a touch of BRYAN ADAMS. There are also a couple of tracks that have a sort of Alt-Country, Southern Rock feel to them a-la KID ROCK mixed with a bit of modern day BON JOVI.
The title track ALWAYS kicks things off with a bang and sounds like it could have been written in the same sessions that brought us DIG or GET A LIFE, and there is no logical reason why this song couldn’t be in the charts anywhere in the world. The second track RAININ’ ON A SUNNY DAY is the weak link of the album as it is just too soft. The uncanny knack for top-notch harmonies is there, but the overall song is too poppy and a little bit boy band-ish. An early stumbling block that thankfully is made up for on the next song ROLLIN’ which is a classic sounding STAGE DOLLS track with some added female backup vocals.
HIGHWAY’S OPEN has a very similar start to the BON JOVI song SOMETHING FOR THE PAIN and is definitely a highlight track. EYE OF MY HEART is the big ballad of the album and is as good as anything the band has ever done. BETTER OF PRETTY has a very modern sound to it and shares some similarities to the recent music of REO SPEEDWAGON. TAILLIGHTS is another album highlight which has a more classic melodic rock feel to it. SATURDAY NIGHT sees the band kick it up a notch and is just a great pure rock song. WHERE THE BLACKTOP ENDS is where the Alt-Country, Southern Rock influence is most prominent and it’s a perfect cruising song. MY STRANGEST FRIEND is an interesting acoustic folk duet in which vocalist Torstein Flakne shares the singing duties with Mari Myrholt, this closing track is something very different for the band and something I wouldn’t usually listen to, but it’s just so classy and well done that I can’t help but enjoy it.
So out of ten songs we get nine very different sounding, but all exceptional songs and one duffer. Not a bad return from a band that always manages to keep it’s fans interested and the critics happy. If you are a fan of the STAGE DOLLS’ last two albums DIG and GET A LIFE, or just a general fan of well crafted, excellently performed lite-AOR style music, you can safely go out and buy this without hesitation. If you haven’t listed to the band since the eighties albums COMMANDOS and STAGE DOLLS I advise having a listen first as the transition may be a bit too rapid.
Written by Zeezee
Ratings Zeezee 9/10