Sunday, October 16, 2011

Fergie FREDERIKSEN: "Happiness Is The Road"

Rating: 9/10

Label: Frontiers 2011

Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Dennis Ward as the producer, songs from the top writers of the genre and a well-known vocalist... yes, sounds like another Frontiers "project" and October seems to be the month of projects, as the other two October releases, Kimball-Jamison and Issa, are somewhat similar albums.

The well-known vocalist here is Fergie Frederiksen, a familiar name to most AOR fans, thanks to his work on Toto's "Isolation" album and a few other bands/projects such as Le Roux and Frederiksen-Phillips. Fergie's recent history hasn't been the happiest one, as he has suffered of Hepatitis C and a liver cancer, both of which have been beaten. Now the future looks brighter, and I guess "Happiness Is The Road" for him. Nice!

One thing that Fergie can surely be happy about is this album, which is the strongest one out of the three "project" albums released by Frontiers this month. Superb production & musicianship, good songs and fine vocals are the reasons for this.

Frederiksen's history with Toto isn't forgotten on the album, but there are only some light touches of "Totoism" here. Mostly this is a much harder-edged AOR album which suits me just fine. The album gets a flying start with a couple of uptempo AOR gems ("Angel" & "Elaine"), followed by a fine version of "First To Cry", a track written by Mark Baker. Strangely enough, House Of Lords covered it on their latest album too, released a month or so ago, on the same label! I actually prefer Fergie's version, it's somehow fuller and rolls along more effortlessly.

The grandiose, dramatic ballad "Follow Your Heart" is very good, but the title track leaves me a bit cold. Sure, it has Jim Peterik's trademarks all over it, but it's just nice, likeable enough but that's about it. "I Still Believe In Love" sounded familiar, and indeed it's the David Roberts song from his album "The Missing Years", reviewed by me in May. I said it was a fine AOR song then and it still is, one that should appeal to the fans of Fergie's Toto years.

The next two tracks could've been just as well saved as the bonus tracks for the Japanese version or something, because they are the weakest two of the bunch. "Lyin' Eyes" isn't too bad but forgettable all the same, and the soft rocking of "Love Waits For No One" doesn't work for me at all.

The uptempo and intense "Writing On The Wall" is more like it, while "The Future Ain't What It Used To Be" IS my kind of soft rocking, melodic to the core and anthemic at the same time. Two additional AOR jewels have been saved to the end, the majestic "The One" and the almost progressive "The Savior". Both of these tracks feature keyboard player Eric Ragno in the leading role, and he really enhances them with his fantastic playing.

To be honest, I wasn't really expecting this album to be this good. I thought that Fergie would have been pushed to the Toto mould, but thankfully this is more rocking, more uptempo than I expected. Excellent!


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