Houston – II

Photographer Linda Åkerberg

Photographer Linda Åkerberg

Not to be mistaken with the excellent Italian band Houston!, the Swedish band of the same name earned plenty of acclaim and deserved praise with their self-titled debut album. Consisting of melodically enflamed passion drenched songs  the release soon found its place at the top spot on the Classic Rock Magazine’s top AOR albums of 2010, whilst Houston went on to garner further recognition through live performances including a successful tour of the UK the following year. Now they return with their imaginatively named second album II, building on that strong plateau with more potent melodic rock which will feed the needs of all AOR, Foreigner, Journey, and Survivor fans.

With producer/keyboard player Ricky Delin becoming a full band member for the new album alongside vocalist Hank Erix and drummer Freddie Allen, the album again sees the band bringing in some of the best Swedish melodic rock musicians including Tommy Denander for the majority of the guitar work and long-time band associate Soufian Ma’Aoui on bass. Also featured across the ten tracks are the likes of Calle Hammer and Jay Cutter, whist offering backing vocal talent there is Victor Lundberg, Geir Ronning, Jessa Slatter, Kristoffer Lagerstrom, and Catharina Lindqvist. Released via Livewire/Cargo Records, the album is a flourish of melodic might and striking songwriting from start to finish and as mentioned if their genre is your chosen pleasure, the release is like aural manna at best and poetic expression in its least dramatic breaths.

As the opener Glory shows, there is also plenty to entice for those of us with a heart stoked by more aggressive and intensive delights. Houston_II_CoverThe track immediately engulfs the ear with the outstanding keys and craft of Delin, their embrace a soaring pull of the senses into the heart and sky of the song where they find the fine vocals of Erix courted by accomplished guitar flames and an inviting bass stroll. Whether the song offers anything new or unexpected, which can be applied to the album as a whole, can be debated between AOR enthusiasts and the more casual visitor, but undoubtedly the skill of the band and poise of the song leaves the senses more than eager to indulge the album in greater depths.

The strong start is followed by I’m Coming Home, the recently released to strong responses first single from the album. Vocal harmonies and the ever persuasive keys shape a vibrant and emotive narrative to enjoy with real appetite though there is a strong familiarity to something elsewhere, though at this point in time it escapes definition.  It makes a good appetiser for both Return My Heart and Talk To Me, the first a keen but restrained melodic blaze with anthemic lures whilst the second merges power ballad grandeur with a smouldering temptation with female backing vocals adding an extra kiss of warmth to the emotive embrace.

The likes of the expansive yet precisely honed 24 Hours and the radiant Losing with a great bass tone from Ma’Aoui marking its territory, leave the ear basking in pleasing heat and melodic prowess but all are blown away by Just Friends, the best track on the album. Led by the delicious tones of Minnah Karlsson, a Stevie Nicks lilt raising their potency, the song is a thrilling wind of dual vocals and harmonies, Karlssson and Erix complimenting perfectly to lift the passion and heights of the song to lofty levels whilst musically the track wraps their seduction with equally magnetic textures and charm.

With the easily accessible and infectious Believe closing off the album, II is a release which will leave AOR fans basking in its open triumphs and the rest of us admiring its craft and alluring presence though maybe more from afar than close up. Definitely for and recommended to every fan of Michael Bolton to Foreigner, Styx to Journey.



RingMaster 04/09/2013

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John Taglieri – Lucky #9

Lucky #9 is unsurprisingly the ninth release from singer / songwriter John Taglieri, an artist who has forged a good name in AOR, Americana and country tinged rock. Over this side of the pond arguably he is yet to make that break through to emulate his recognition but with Lucky #9 one feels it is only a matter of time.

The six track release is a varied and expertly crafted collection of songs written alone and with co-writers in Nashville and New Jersey. The tracks are heartfelt and passionately brought forth to ensure one is never left unattached at any point. Co-Produced by Lee J. Turner (Darius Rucker, Jewel, Leann Rimes, Bo Bice), the album is an expressive piece of melodic rock which those  with more appreciation for the genre will fully wrap themselves up in.

Starting with a feistier melodic rock stance brought by Losing Me, the release immediately grabs an eager attention. The song is infectious without being addictive but still ignites strong pleasure to its strikes of resourceful guitar play and fiery melodic enterprise. It also offers a bass which gives nothing but delicious invention throughout here and through the album, and all combined makes for a song which is an easy and pleasing companion to the ear, by far the best track on the release.

The following I Never Knew takes an easier gait into its heart with further strong riffs and melodic craft. There is a strong Bon Jovi essence , something which is present across much of the release and leaves from personal taste a less rewarding taste though one can only recommend and praise the songwriting and skilful artistry behind this and all the songs.

Without You continues on from its predecessor with fine accomplished play whilst  Dying Alive and Make Me Believe court melodies and show expressive songwriting which is superior to many other similarly flavoured releases elsewhere. Again the songs are finely crafted and brought with a sure charm and emotive power which is impossible not to be marked by and even though the overall sound is not the treat our ears respond to generally, the tracks still left one on a slight high.

The closing Not Gonna Be My Life does not quite find the heights of the previous tracks but is still a more than decent piece of country drizzled soft rock. It finishes off a strong and creative release which admittedly will find a better reception and home elsewhere but it is clear to see the impressive and cultured skill of artist and songwriting. If melodic soft rock is your feast then make a straight line to Lucky #9 from John Taglieri, you will only find full pleasure.


RingMaster 07/08/2012

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David J Caron : Thru Ever-Ending Black

In already a year of some great unexpected treats the newest one to come this way is arguably the most exciting and pleasurable. Thru Ever-Ending Black the debut album from composer, writer, and producer David J Caron, is nothing short of being wonderfully infectious and persistently compelling, its creativity and compulsive sounds  the most satisfying and thrilling experience.

      David J Caron is an Irish/Italian musician, who grew up in England but now resides in Ireland. He has marked his first steps into melodic metal/rock with a twenty eight track double album. When it first came through the size of it and memories of other large albums led to a slight lack of enthusiasm, with its old school classic rock impression slightly off putting. What emerged to please the ear and heart though was a release which captivates with every minute and takes one on an enthralling and inspired melodic journey. Caron crosses many genres with his album to ensure it does not easily sit in any which is glorious and frustrating for those that need to label. Weaving meshes of melodic metal, hard rock, classic metal, progressive rock…the list goes on; he has created an album of majestic and contagious rock n roll. The tracks are straight forward and simple yet carefully crafted and much more involved than initially assumed. There are also no excesses anywhere on the album, every element and sound as essential as the next and when a solo lights up the senses for example it is to add a depth and bring a fuller heart to a song, not merely to show off his skills and become an indulgent add-on.

Thru Ever-Ending Black took eighteen months to record and it is easy to hear where the time and attention went in making a release which engages on every level from the impressive lyrical content, irresistible sounds, and the seamless and organic merger every aspect of the songs. Every instrument played, note expressed, and word brought to life is the sole work of Caron with only Rob Mancini brought in to co-produce the album. The songs carry an elemental or celestial face to portray and bring forth the expressive emotions, personal devils and thoughts, either dark or light. Each track is varied like a star but part of and at one with an overall universal energy and sound, this makes for a release which is constantly mesmeric and openly accessible whilst perpetually intriguing and unpredictable. Musically Caron is as impressive as any new artist to appear in recent years, his imaginative guitar play and keyboard ingenuity siren like and the wonderful gravelly bass invention he adds as viral as the striking and ever evolving rhythms.

The album opens with a bang and a quartet of songs which alone tell you all you need to know about the invention and songwriting craft of Caron. It Gathers starts things off with a gentle but insistent beckoning before finding an eager pace to stomp through the ear with. First notable thing is the fine vocals of the artist. As the album consumes the senses with its overall quest one finds he does not diverse his delivery too much but with his great control and ability as well as superbly imagined harmonies there is never anything less than satisfaction from his style. The song romps with a sure belief and addictive imagination, the keys and guitars lighting up the emotions as much as the stylish lyrics.

Look Out picks up from the excellent opening with a feast of insurgent niggling riffs and growling darkened bass lines. There is a throbbing essence which fuels the song beneath infectious hooks and another vocal display carrying more potency than any fiery attack. Caron brings an anthemic essence to songs as much with his voice as musically which offers a seduction which is impossible not to join.

The absorbing Time Machine and hypnotic Coming To Get You continue the breathtaking start and together they already convince one of the special talent at work. The four songs so far bring a great mix of melodic rock with irrepressible pop elements but plenty of firm muscular energy too. As the release progresses the tracks offer diverse and equally irresistible imagination and sounds. There are the mellower AOR toned songs like Memory Magnetic, the solidly fuelled eighties melodic rock found in Beam The Ray or the power ballad The Tree That Waits to name a few all bringing a strong and varied breath to what is a multi faceted and flavoured release.

Further fires on a consistently impressive release include the twin shadowed gems Dark Of Night and The Knights as well as the magnetic Irreplaceable and the steely rippled So Let There Be Light. The last of these is probably the current favourite song but with each track so fulfilling and inspiring that choice changes persistently.

    David J Caron with Thru Ever-Ending Black has ignited the year for melodic rock with less than a handful of other releases so far able to match or even come close to what is an unexpected and completely rewarding let alone enjoyable feast of an album. The only thought is hopefully it is not another eighteen months before we get the next pleasure from him.

RingMaster 09/06/12

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Cornerstone – Somewhere In America

The title of the new album from Austrian melodic rock band Cornerstone gives a strong hint as to their flowing female fronted AOR soft rock sound. The band openly wear their influences on their sleeve bringing an 80’s tinged  rock sound that oozes essences of Berlin and Fleetwood Mac plus the musical flows of Journey amongst others. Impressive with natural melodies and well written guitars solos the creative Somewhere In America easily slips into the ear and even for those of us that wake up longing to be battering from pillar to post with rampaging riffs and threatening rhythms there is something inviting and satisfying within the album.

Cornerstone are no newcomers having formed in 1998 going through various line-up changes until they found the perfect formula in the current compliment. The band’s debut release came in 2008 with the album Head Over Heels released via Atom Records though it is fair to say it had a mixed response. Hard work being no stranger to the quartet brought a UK and a three week American tour and an appearance at the Z Rock Festival. Now with the release of  Somewhere In America the band is ready to spread their melodic wings and swoop up a much greater amount of new fans with their extremely enjoyable rock pop.  

The first noticeable and obvious thing about the album is the powerful flowing vocals of Patricia Hillinger. She expands each song with her confident and passionate voice bringing especially to the slower and more emotive songs an extra spice of feeling. The rest of the band more than ably work together to deliver music that engages and eagerly dances easily around the senses with the guitars of Steve Wachelhofer tight and succinct whilst the bass and drums of  Michael Wachelhofer and Mike Pawlowitsch respectively, instil a firm and inviting framework to each track. They both bring an obvious skilled ability but allow the guitars and Hillinger’s endearing harmonies to shine.

Stay’ opens the album with a pulsating riff and throbbing bassline as the keyboards skills of Michael Wachelhofer subtlety sweep throughout the song. It is a strong opener that immediately shows a band with the skill to write and make music that brightens any state of mind. It has to be said that none of the songs within Somewhere In America are going to forge new directions for music or leave jaws on the floor but they will make the simple act of pressing play a very worthwhile thing.

Note that it is down to personal taste which words and comments appear in any review and here the following tracks which are all immaculate and very easy to sink into do not quite ignite anything deeper, though as the album lays down its final note it is the beautiful song ‘Breathing For You’ with its sleek vocal swells and mesmeric tones that for some reason remind of The Pretenders, which is the track that plays long after in this head. The song is amongst those that satisfy without inspiring but the evidence that is lingers long after is a sweet argument against that comment.

It is the maybe the obvious but certainly punchier pop rock songs that do make their mark more readily and quickly, the instantaneous delights of ‘Being Unaware’ and ‘Oblivious’ hard to resist and both seem the distinct entry point for a great many into the treasures of Cornerstone and the album. Both songs have again a Pretenders touch this time mixed with the 80’s pop hooks of The Photos and maybe even a hint of early No Doubt. Bright and vibrant they soon have limbs and voices joining in as does the song to complete a trio of pop rock tunes that grab hold and gets the pulse racing ‘High And Low’.

If you are looking for brutal and punishing riffs or venom dripping intensity Somewhere In America is not going to do the job but if smooth sunny melodies and passionate songs are on your menu than the easy but satisfying sounds of Cornerstone will certainly bring something extra to your day.


RingMaster 18/10/2011

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