Hardline – Life Review


Released by: Frontiers Music s.r.l. 
Released by: 26 April 2019


Line Up:

Johnny Gioeli: Vocals
Alessandro Del Vecchio: Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Mario Percudani: Guitar
Marco Di Salvia:Drums
Anna Portalupi: Bass

 

Tracklist:

1.Place To Call Home
2.Take A Chance
3.Helio’s Sun
4.Page Of Your Life
5.Out Of Time
6.Hold On To Right
7.Handful Of Sand
8.This Love
9.Story Of My Life
10.Who Wants To Live Forever
11.Chameleon
12.My Friend


Hardline is a band that initially benefitted from the addition of Neal Schon and Deen Castronova of Journey on their debut, but I wonder if (Schon in particular) that has become kind of a hindrance for them? The pair only appeared on the first album which saw some moderate success, but nothing major, and then just like that they both took off leaving Hardline a band without name recognition in the band. Granted it was the pairing of the Gioeli brothers (Johnny and Joey) that started the spark of getting them notoriety on the Sunset Strip, but it seems like the Journeymen really helped propel them. And that has been a terrible injustice as when the Gioeli brothers returned after a 10-year hiatus, and even since Joey’s departure to this day, Hardline has released material as awesome as that first one, if not surpassing it in some cases. Johnny is the last remaining person from that first album, but with a voice as powerful as his it has easily kept the Hardline name alive.

The sixth studio album, Life, hails back to the Double Eclipse debut with its melodic hard rock, yet it doesn’t stray at all from the legacy the band has built from the albums in between. Having said that, they are on a definite juggernaut as the previous album, Human Nature, was a fantastic album too. As for Life, it is a melodic Hard Rock album that has the band sounding better than ever. Gioeli is one of those singers that seems to get better with age. Last year saw the release of his first solo album, plus a cracking collaboration with Deen Castronova, and not to mention his continued work with Axel Rudi Pell- his voice is at its peak, and showing no signs of giving up any time soon. Obviously as the only remaining member of the band still around, his vocals tend to be the showcase, but he serves the song as opposed to his own needs vocally. He does precisely what the track needs without trying to showboat. He has a powerful delivery and tack that onto a great set of songs like “Hold On To Right,” “Place To Call Home,” “Handful of Sand,” and the impressive cover of the Queen classic “Who Wants To Live Forever” and you have an album that rivals the best of them.

If melodic Hard Rock ever became en vogue again, Hardline could easily ride that wave to the top. Sadly, no matter how many great albums come out from this type of band they’re often missed by a large cross-section of the music listening population. If there was a way to get this music out to the masses better (outside of what I’m doing now) I would do it. So many amazing bands are left in the shadows by such inferior music. Hardline’s Life should be a massive hit. Let’s see if we can make that happen.



Written by: Chris Martin

Ratings: 9/10


Leverage – DeterminUs Review


Released by: Frontiers Music s.r.l. 
Release Date: 26 April 2019


Line Up:

Kimmo Blom – vocals
Mikko Salovaara – guitars
Tuomas Heikkinen – guitars
Sami Norrbacka – bass
Valtteri Revonkorpi – drums
Marko Niskala – keyboards


Tracklist:

Burn Love Burn
Wind Of Morrigan
Tiger
Red Moon Over Sonora
Mephistocrate
Afterworld’s Disciple
When We Were Young
Heaven’s No Place For Us
Hand Of God
Rollerball
Troy


I feel like I’m pretty knowledgeable about the music I love, but from time to time (as exhibited by some of my reviews over the years) I miss a band. I’ve been a regular music reviewer for the better part of my adult life from different publications across the spectrum so I’ve always got feelers out for new stuff. Despite focusing on young new bands most of the time, I am always trying to seek out those I’ve missed out on that have some age to them. I just discovered another one and if this release is anything like their stuff before, I’m a fan for life. The Finnish band Leverage is hitting the scene after a ten-year span between albums (maybe that’s how I missed them) and they are hitting it perfectly.

Their latest is called DeterminUs and is a genre-crossing stunner. Parts Power, parts AOR, parts Prog for good measure, and even a couple scoops of 70’s era Metal (think Rainbow) that make them a truly unique band. As I spun the album I thought I had them pinned down as to who they reminded me of, then they took a turn and reminded me of someone else. Sometimes when a band tries to create something that spans so many distinct styles they will create a chaotic mess, but Leverage manages to pull it off. Where most bands will genre hop, these guys have created a sound that is all-in-one thus creating something so distinctly Leverage. Though the whole album is fantastic such standout tracks are “Rollerball,” “Wind of Morrigan,” “Heaven’s No Place For Us,” and “Burn Love Burn.” I just can’t get over just how good this album is.

If you’re reading this and you’ve not checked out Leverage before you need to grab DeterminUs. It’s grand and majestic, it’s melodic and catchy, it’s hard hitting and guitar driven, it’s exactly what I needed to hear right now. And I feel like you need to hear it too.


Written by: Chris Martin

Ratings: 8/10


Fortune – II Review


Released by: Frontiers Records

Release Date: Out Now!!!

Genre: AOR/Melodic Rock

Links: https://www.facebook.com/fortunerockers/


Line Up:

Mick Fortune – Drums
Richard Fortune – Guitar
Larry Greene – Vocals
Ricky Rat – Bass
Mark Nilan – Keyboards


Tracklist:

Don’t Say You Love Me
Shelter Of The Night
Freedom Road
A Little Drop Of Poison (For Amy W.)
What A Fool I’ve Been
Overload
Heart Of Stone
The Night
New Orleans
All The Right Moves


The music business can be a thankless bitch. For every success story, there is an untold number of sad tales of woe from bands both big and small, famous and obscure. From tales of debauchery cutting the life of a musician/band short to something as simple as a change in perspective has brought many a band to their knees. One story that seems to occur for a number of acts is having the brass ring within their grasp only to have it dashed by a label either mishandling the band or merely falling to pieces altogether (the label, not the band in this instance.) This happened to the band Fortune back in the mid to late ’80s. 1985 saw the debut of their s/t release on the same label that brought Night Ranger and Giuffria to prominence (Camel/MCA Records) and has become one of the most sought after and beloved gems of the AOR world. In some circles, it is considered the best AOR release ever. That’s a pretty lofty claim, and though I’m not ready to commit to that personally I will say it is a brilliant album. As Camel went bankrupt Fortune was lost in more ways than one. Sadly, along with the loss of their label, they also lost the rights to the masters of their album. Forming the band Harlan Cage during the ’90s, the Fortune brothers (Richard and Mick) eked out a different existence though still managed to release some excellent material. As luck would have it, Fortune found itself back again with a festival appearance back in 2016 (and again in 2017) and Frontiers Records wooed the band to the label for their sophomore release some 35 years later.

Simply entitled II, the band seems to have lost nothing in the time apart. Still firmly planted in the AOR sound, Fortune proves that time is merely a number and that when you have the talent and skills reclaiming what was once lost is as easy as it seems. While the songs are very reminiscent of the debut, they don’t come off as dated. In a lot of respects, the songs on II feel like they very much could be a reissue of a lost gem, however, played back to back with the debut you hear similarities, but they’ve managed to create riffs and melodies that transcend what the did all those years ago. Richard Fortune’s slick guitar work is a highlight for me. I love his smooth style. The voice of Larry Greene is as strong as ever… perhaps even stronger. The band sounds in top form and the songs are stunning. Tracks like “New Orleans,” “Shelter of the Night,” “Heart of Stone,” and “Freedom Road” show a seasoned band that has an undeniable chemistry that even time itself can’t infringe upon.

Bless you, Frontiers for bringing this band back to the forefront. Fortune II is such an excellent album and the perfect accompaniment to their debut, despite such a time span between them. Now that Fortune is back hopefully they will take their rightful place as one of the top bands of the genre. This is such an amazing album all fans of this style should own this one.


Written by: Chris Martin

Ratings: 9/10

Spirits of Fire – Spirits of Fire Review

Released by: Frontiers Records

Release Date: February 22nd, 2019

Genre: Metal

Links: www.facebook.com


Line Up:

Tim Owens – Lead and Background Vocals

Chris Caffery – Lead, Rhythm and acoustic guitars Background vocals

Steve DiGiorgio – Bass Guitars

Mark Zonder – Drums


Tracklist:

Light Speed Marchin

Temple Of The Soul

All Comes Together

Spirits Of Fire

It’s Everywhere

A Game

Stand And Fight

Meet Your End

Never To Return

The Path

Alone In The Darkness



Oh good another super group. What are they called? Spirits of Fire. Whatever, what kind of music? Pretty badass metal! Really? Yeah, really. OK, if they’re so good, who is in the band? And that my faithful readers is when I took notice. Every single person in this band is an absolute Metal badass, and I am not kidding at all. When I saw the line-up of musicians involved with Spirits of Fire I knew then I was gonna have to get on that. Once I spun it a few times I was blown away by the album, but again, taking in consideration who makes up the band I’d be mighty shocked if it fell flat. Now, with the release of their debut s/t album I’m going to have to wait and see if this is a one and done or if they’re going to keep doing it.

So who exactly is in the band? Let’s take a gander shall we. Fronting the band is none other than Tim “Ripper” Owens, he of Judas Priest fame as well as countless other bands and solo offerings over the years. He’s sounding at the top of his game on this one delivering a vocal performance of a lifetime. Fresh off his most recent stellar solo album you have on Mr. Chris Caffery of Savatage and TSO fame, burning up the fretboard as he demonstrates that he truly is one of the best and most versatile guitarists out there. Next we offer up Mr. Steve DiGiorgio of Death, Sadus, and Testament fame (as well as a lengthy list of other performances.)

Easily one of my top favorite bass players of not only the metal world, but in general. His skills are simply astounding. Rounding out this already magnificent grouping is one Mark Zonder of Fates Warning fame. Certainly one of the top Progressive Metal drummers to pick up the sticks, but to hear him lay down these immaculately tasty metal drums…wow! It’s like they spun four wheels of musicians, chock full of the best of the best, and created Spirits of Fire. Add Roy Z to the mix as producer and you have a guaranteed Heavy Metal classic. Unabashedly Metal, Spirits of Fire deliver a list of powerfully heavy and deeply catchy songs with titles like “Stand and Fight,” “Light Speed Marching,” and “Meet Your End,” that will satisfy any headbanger out there.

If Spirits of Fire the album doesn’t force you to break out the leather studded armbands, the patch adorned denim vest and propel you to throw the horns up and bang your head, then you might want to check your pulse, because you might be dead. This album fucking jams, and only gets better with each spin. This is one super group that damn certain delivers the goods, and will hopefully make it happen again. But if this is the only album for them, what a way to do it.



Written by: Chris Martin

Ratings: 9/10

Toby Hitchcock – Reckoning Review

Released by: Frontiers Records

Release Date: January 25th, 2019

Genre: Melodic Rock

Links: Facebook

Line Up:

Toby Hitchcock: Vocals
Daniel Flores: All Keyboards and Drums
Michael Palace: Guitars and Bass
Yngve “Vinnie” Strömberg: Drums and Percussion

Tracklist:

1.No Surrender
2.Promise Me
3.Show Me How To Live
4.Behind The Lies
5.Fighting For My Life
6.Serenity
7.Queen Untouchable
8.Gift Of Flight
9.Don’t Leave
10.This Is Our World
11.Someone Like You

I’ve always been attracted to guitar driven music more than anything, but I have also been fond of a strong vocalist. To be honest, even if a band has some brilliant guitar stuff going on, if I don’t like the voice it essentially kills it for me. Granted, I’ve always thought I had a keen ear for good singers. My top favorites are folks like Jeff Scott Soto, Tony Harnell, Danny Vaughn, Ann Wilson, etc. When the music is vocally driven, you’ve got to have a pretty powerful voice to carry it. Jim Peterik of Survivor fame stumbled across a young man while putting together his Pride of Lions band by the name of Toby Hitchcock, and he has certainly made a major impact on the melodic rock world, without a doubt. While Pride is taking some down time so that Peterik can focus on a new World Stage record, Hitchcock decided to follow up his 2011 solo debut Mercury’s Down with new solo material entitled Reckoning.

Plain and simple, Hitchcock could sing the phone book and make it sound great, but do you really want to hear a great voice doing something as inane? Of course not. His first solo album was stunning, and while Reckoning is pretty good, musically it is a bit more subdued and not as strong sonically. Toby’s voice is still powerful as hell, and it isn’t from lack of his talent. It’s almost as if the songs are kind of phoned in and uninspired. It pains me to say that too, as I had some high hopes for this one. And it’s not even that the songs are bad. At least in that case I could just say, “Blech,” and move on. The songs are good, I didn’t feel like I wasted my time listening to it. I just didn’t feel fired up by it. It’s a good album, but what is going to set it apart, aside from that amazing voice? If I step away from the debut solo record and hear it as a project on its own (and perhaps that’s the intention, why does comparison need to happen) it still doesn’t’ blow me away, but it’s still good. Tracks like “Fighting For My Life,” “No Surrender,” and “Don’t Leave” have potential, but it still seems like something is missing.

Toby Hitchcock’s Reckoning is a good album, and helps him keep his chops in shape I suppose, but sadly it falls kind of short of the greatness that it could’ve been. It’s got to be a daunting task to follow up an amazing album, and perhaps with the length of time between the two, Hitchcock has changed directions musically. I just wish the songs matched the strength of that voice because Reckoning  would be almost untouchable. As it is it’s a good listen, but not one that is going to stick with me later on I’m afraid.

Written by: Chris Martin

Ratings: 7/10

Red Dragon Cartel – Patina Review

Released by: Frontiers Records

Release Date: Out Now!!!

Genre: Hard Rock

Links: http://www.reddragoncartel.com/

 

Line Up:

Jake E Lee – guitars
Darren James Smith – lead vocals
Anthony Esposito – bass guitars
Phil Varone – drums

 

Tracklist:

Speedbag
Havana
Crooked Man
The Luxury Of Breathing
Bitter
Chasing Ghosts
A Painted Heart
Punchclown (Bonus Track)
My Beautiful Mess
Ink & Water

 

I’m pretty sure I reviewed the Red Dragon Cartel debut for MGM, but without going through the archives to check, I do know this: I have never been so pumped for an album to have been so greatly letdown as I was for it upon its release. Without a doubt, out of all the axe slingers Ozzy had during his solo years, Jake E. Lee is easily my favorite of the bunch. I know that likely bugs the Rhodes and Wylde fans, but it is how I feel. Those two albums, Bark At the Moon and The Ultimate Sin, truly blew away my young mind. Once he was out and formed Badlands, I was totally sold on his talents. After a solo album and some guest spots he essentially went into hermit mode, avoiding the industry and seemingly the world completely. So long I had hoped for his return to the music world. So when RDC was formed I was beyond stoked. For me, the s/t debut was too modern in spots, too experimental in others, and outside the songs that had guest singers, I really didn’t care for it. Something about Darren Smiths voice bugged me…bad. I’ve since gone back and revisited the album and actually liked it a lot more, getting the fact that he wanted a heavier album, distancing himself from his past a bit perhaps, maybe trying something new to get his bearings again. Much like the new Stephen Pearcy, I was a bit hesitant in reviewing the new album, but like the Pearcy album, I was actually impressed with it.

Patina is definitely more in line with the bluesier Badlands style while retaining some of the heavier more modern trappings of the last album. No vocal special guests this time, leaving the vocals up to Smith this time, and I have to say he doesn’t’ sound like the same singer. He’s a total badass now. Not sure what brought about the change, but I’m damn glad it happened. Of course, much like the s/t release, Patina shows why Jake is the guitar master. Not that he didn’t sound stunning on the last album, but whatever kinks he needed to work out are definitely out. Blazing through massive solos fired up with blues power and heavy metal aggression, to delivering thick riffs that you can feel in your soul, Jake is 100% on top of his game. Tracks like “Bitter,” “Speedbag,” “My Beautiful Mess,” and “Crooked Man” demonstrate that not only are Red Dragon Cartel powerhouse performers but that they have the ability to create such great music. I was fairly well hooked to this album from the first listen, and it just got better and better with each additional spin.

If you had problems with the first Red Dragon Cartel album, give Patina a shot. It is so much better than its predecessor. If you enjoyed the first one, then there should be no issue with loving this one as it basically builds upon that one, just tightened up and better songs and performances. No one is happier to be able to say this other than me, “Jake E. Lee is back baby!!” Had this album been the first one I could’ve avoided the last four years of distress, but it was well worth the wait. Plus, it gave me the chance to revisit the first one, walking away appreciating it a lot more.

 

Written by: Chris Martin

Ratings: 8/10

 

Creye – Creye Review

Released by: Frontiers Records

Release Date: Out Now!!!

Genre: AOR/Melodic Rock

Links: https://www.facebook.com/creyesweden/

 

Line Up:

Robin Jidhed – Lead Vocals
Andreas Gullstrand – Lead Guitar
Fredrik Joakimsson – Rhythm Guitar
Gustaf Örsta – Bass
Joel Rönning – Keyboards
Arvid Filipsson – Drums

 

Tracklist:

Holding On
Nothing To Lose
Different State Of Mind
Never Too Late
All We Need Is Faith
Miracle
Christina 
Straight To The Top
Love Will Never Die
Still Believe In You
City Lights
Desperately Lovin’
A Better Way

 

I used to be a super optimistic, then I became an adult. And truth be told, after years of getting my hopes up for things only to have them dashed I realized maybe it was better to lower my expectations. And for the most part, I’ve been successful. Oh sure I still get pumped about something from time to time and try like hell to pull back, but I’ve not had too many major letdowns on those occasions. I almost did with the new Creye though. After last year’s stunning debut EP I have been super stoked about a full album. Never has three songs gotten me as excited about a new band as Straight To the Top did. There was something about it at that moment it just clicked with me, besides being kick ass songs. When I heard they were finally putting out their first full length I couldn’t help but get my hopes up.

On my first listen of the s/t album I really liked it, but it didn’t wow me as I wanted it to. I’m glad I went back and checked it out again. I think it hit me weird as I had just listened to several things, some really bad and a couple of surprises that blew me away, so I don’t think I paid much attention to it. The second time around I went straight into it and cranked it up and then I was reminded why I fell in love with these guys last year. Very much influenced by AOR and 80’s Pop Music, this album could easily have been a huge hit along with folks like Don Henley, The Fixx, and Brian Adams. If there was a better market for this sort of band they could be huge now, but for some reason, AOR gets shoved to the side as a fringe market. How one can’t get swept away by the melodic sing-along chorus’, the precise guitar work, and songs that grab hold and never let go I’ll never know. Tracks like “Christina,” “Holding On,” “City Lights,” and of course “Straight To the Top” are instant AOR classics, and if you get the Japanese edition there’s an acoustic version of “Straight To the Top” that shows how easy it is to change the vibe of a song by presenting it in a different way; taking a super upbeat song and making it more melancholy, though it still has a positive message.

If you love melodic music as much as me, Creye’s s/t should be added to your “To Purchase” List right now, if you haven’t already gotten it. How I ever doubted this album’s greatness, I’ll never know. I’ve said it before: sometimes an album catches you at the wrong time. This is why, unless it is a style I know I dislike straight out, I always go back at least once more to see if how I heard it the first time was my real feelings. I anticipated this to be an Album of the Year for me, and it still could take the lead. The jury is still out on that. But Album of the Year or not, this is still an amazing album.

 

Written by: Chris Martin

Ratings: 9/10

 

Groundbreaker – Groundbreaker Review

Released by: Frontiers Records

Release Date: September 14th, 2018

Genre: AOR/Melodic Rock

Links:  https://www.facebook.com/Groundbreakerband/

 

Line Up:

Steve Overland – Vocals
Robert Sall – Guitars 
Nalley Pahlsson – Bass
Herman Furin – Drums
With Alessandro Del Vecchio – Keyboards

 

Tracklist:

1.Over My Shoulder
2.Will It Make You Love Me
3.Eighteen ‘Til I Die
4.Only Time Will Tell
5.Tonight
6.Standing Up For Love
7.Something Worth Fighting For
8.The Sound Of A Broken Heart
9.The First Time
10.  The Days Of Our Life
11.  The Way It Goes

 

Like I’ve said before, I tend not to look at the bio stuff until after I’ve listened to an album a few times and am about to sit down and actually bang it out. I just don’t want to be biased about a new band, just in case, there are people involved that I am already a fan of. Clearly, this can’t help when it is an artist or band I am already familiar with. When my ears were treated to a new Frontiers release by a band called Groundbreaker I kept getting this sense that 1. I know that voice, and 2. How is a new band so fully formed musically and so damn good? Well, the answer to the first question was yes, I do know that voice. It’s Steve Overland of FM, and it’s so spot on musically because the bulk of the songs were written by Work of Art/W.E.T. guitarist Robert Sall, who also is the guitarist for this project. Of course Steve and producer/keyboardist Alessandro Del Vecchio added some of their own material as well.

The s/t debut is a stunning collection of some of the best melodic rock to come out in a while. More in the vein of Giant and Honeymoon Suite, not necessarily hard rocking, but 100% nestled into the AOR sweet spot. Full of catchy tracks like “Eighteen ‘Til I Die,” “The Sound of A Broken Heart,” “Over My Shoulder,” and “Standing Up For Love” Groundbreaker isn’t really attempting to break new ground, but there is such a passion and vitality to these songs and performances it takes this genre to a new level. I was struck by my first listen to just how memorable these songs were. I found myself by the second chorus singing along, that’s just not something I tend to do towards any new release. This is the perfect melding of two tremendous talents of this type of music, creating a stunning debut.

If this album isn’t at the top or at least in many Top 5 of the year lists I will be shocked. In a year of some standout releases, Groundbreaker with their s/t debut is pulling no punches and hopefully giving the fans of melodic rock not just another one off project, but another band to look forward to in the future. Yet if this is it, wow, what an incredible album. I’ve been kind of holding back some in the rating area of my reviews because I feel like in the past I was giving out too many 10 for 10’s than I later felt like I should’ve. This one is a no-brainer though.

 

Written by: Chris Martin

Ratings: 10/10

 

Treat – Tunguska Review

Released by: Frontiers Records

Release Date: Out Now!!!

Genre: Melodic Hard Rock

Links: https://www.facebook.com/treatofficial/

 

Line Up:

Robert Ernlund – lead vocals
Anders Wikström – lead guitars and background vocals
Patrick Appelgren – keyboards, guitars and background vocals
Pontus Egberg – bass guitar
Jamie Borger – drums

 

Tracklist:

Progenitors
Always Have, Always Will
Best Of Enemies
Rose Of Jericho
Heartmath City
Creeps
Build The Love
Man Overboard
Riptide
TomorrowNever Comes
All Bets Are Off
Undefeated

 

Watching the growth and development of a band, especially one with an extended existence, is something that has always fascinated me. Rarely do I simply listen to an album or two from a band anymore. I find more and more that I want to absorb as much of a bands catalog if not all of it. I used to reserve this for bands I already had an established love for, but lately, I’m finding when I want to explore a band I only have a passing familiarity with I’ll start from the beginning and work my way up. I’d love to be able to do that with every band I review (especially those with a back catalog I really should already be familiar with,) but that’s just not possible. One band that I have been a fan of for a while, but haven’t taken the plunge deep into their catalog that I just did is Treat. Having planted the seed of what was to come in 1981, it wasn’t until 83-85 that the band grew into what they would become. Starting out somewhere between an early 80’s AOR band and a burgeoning 80’s Hard Rock act, Treat made some fantastic music between their debut Scratch and Bite until 1992’s s/t release, yet never achieved the level of fame that their music truly deserved. Not long after the s/t the band broke up. In 2005 a greatest hits collection came out and sparked renewed interest in the band and sparked a reunion, which led to the release of the bands best release Coup De Grace in 2010, and followed up by The Ghost of Graceland in 2016 ( a good album, but falling a little short of Coup De Grace.)

Two years later, the band is putting out their third album since the reunion, Tunguska, and it continues them on with the sound they incorporated with the return, a more of a melodic, AOR-ish hard rock approach, taking on a much more mature sound than on their prior run. As someone that had a passing relationship with their early stuff, I’ve found the new Treat sound to be a step in the right direction. Coup De Grace was an incredible album, and though The Ghost of Graceland wasn’t as great it was still pretty good. I was very curious to see where the new one would head. I’m pleased to say that the latest is closer in sound to the first reunion release. It’s packed with great songs like “Rose of Jericho,” “Heartmath City,” “Always Have, Always Will,” and “Undefeated” they’ve nailed down another amazing collection of hook-laden tracks that are instant classics. If the last one was a let down for you, this one should fix that (yet I really don’t understand why anyone would be let down by the last album.)

Fewer bands have been able to turn a reunion into a rebirth better than Treat. Though the ultimate success still eludes them (and who knows why) they continue to release some incredibly catchy music that deserves to be adored by the masses. Tunguska is another home run for this Swedish band and will hopefully not be the last from them. Much like their peers Eclipse, Pretty Maids, W.E.T., and Harem Scarem Treat keep showing that they are a force to be reckoned with, and hopefully someday the average music listener will catch on. Of course, when you think about average music listeners you realize that music this good is far from average.

 

Written by: Chris Martin

Ratings: 9/10

 

3.2 – The Rules Have Changed Review

Released by: Frontiers Records

Release Date: August 10th, 2018

Genre: Rock/AOR/Melodic

 

Line Up:

Robert Berry: Vocals and All Instruments

 

Tracklist:

1.One By One
2.Powerful Man
3.The Rules Have Changed
4.Our Bond
5.What You’re Dreaming Now
6.Somebody’s Watching
7.This Letter
8.Your Mark On The World
9.Sailors Horn Pipe (Instrumental)

 

The melding of Prog Rock and AOR isn’t a new thing. Many bands over the years have attempted to make Prog a bit more palatable for the common music fan, and some of it to great success (Asia and Genesis being two excellent examples of where taking a more pop-oriented sound with Prog worked out big time.) Prog purists hate the idea, but I love both styles so bringing them together strikes me as a no-brainer. The late Keith Emerson, Carl Palmer, and Robert Berry put together a side project back in the 80’s called 3 that made a brilliant album, To the Power of Three, that brought them a bit of success, however, the project quickly disbanded because Emerson was a bit uncertain about doing a follow-up for Geffen Records. As time moved on Berry and Palmer discussed the possibility of getting back together and creating another album, actually coming up with a handful of songs. Sadly, Emerson took his own life a couple of years ago thus closing the potential for another collaboration. However, after discussions between Robert Berry and Frontiers Records, he decided to forge ahead working on those tracks and adding some more material as a tribute to his friend, dubbing it 3.2.

The album, The Rules Have Changed, is a stunning tribute indeed. Playing all the instruments and handling the vocals, Berry proves that he is a musical force to be reckoned with. It has the perfect balance between interesting progressive passages and a smooth, melodic sound, certain to make any naysayers rethink their position. There is certainly a bit more Prog involved here than I was expecting, which was a pleasant surprise with tracks like “The Rules Have Changed” and “Somebody’s Watching” having a definite ELP feel to them yet also seemingly taking a few pages from the Spock’s Beard songbook, then you have a poignant track like “This Letter” combined with the more AOR-ish “Powerful Man” to have a fully transcendent musical experience. Of course, with an album that is coming from a former grouping of people pared down to one person, you do miss some of the nuanced stuff of Palmer and Emerson and wonder how different the album would’ve been as a full-blown collective. Berry should still be very pleased with the final product though, and know that this is a very touching tribute to Emerson.

If you enjoy more melodic, pop-oriented Prog Rock, 3.2’s The Rules Have Changed should fit the bill. Berry took to the task of filling some spots for some legendary figures and came out shining like a star. This is a very powerful and stirring album. I’m not sure if he will continue with this project or not. Part of me thinks this is the perfect bookend to The Power of Three, but it is such a brilliant album that I wouldn’t mind at all to hear some more music in this vein.

 

Written by: Chris Martin

Ratings: 8/10