Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Robin BECK: "Underneath"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Her Majesty's Music Room 2013
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Ever since Robin Beck returned to the melodic hard rock style of her breakthrough album "Trouble Or Nothing", she's been one of the most reliable artists of the genre. I thought her previous album "The Great Escape" was another career highlight and I glad to report that "Underneath" is once again a very good album from the reigning AOR queen.

For "Underneath", Robin has reached out to new songwriters outside the genre to give her music a bit of a new, contemporary edge. Despite the new influences "Underneath" is still very much a rock album, but the new writers do add some new flavours to it.

"Wrecking Ball" gives the album a crushing start, showcasing the slightly modernized style yet boasting a big, rocking chorus. It's followed by something more familiar sounding, Robin's cover of "Ain't That Just Like Love", a track originally recorded by Fiona in 1992. This big, hook-laden rocker has always been one of my favourite Fiona songs and Robin's version is very good too. Production-wise I may prefer the original, but Robin's passionate vocals are in a league of their own. The modern pop/rock sound returns with "Sprain", which is okay but not one of my favourites.

The album's title track is something really special, a massive ballad with fine lyrics and a great vocal from Robin. It's penned by songwriters Annica Williams and Måns Ek and lyricist Charlie Mason, who has co-written most of the album actually. I wouldn't be surprised if it found its' way to the mainstream charts eventually - some major label artist will surely want to record it sooner or later.

"Catfight" and "Check Your Attitude" are two of the more contemporary tracks, taking Robin to the Katy Perry/Pink/Avril Lavigne direction. "Check Your Attitude" is rather good but I can't say I'm too fond of "Catfight", it just doesn't have enough meat around its' bones. But thumbs up for Robin, she sounds convincing singing these kind of "angry pop" tunes.

The rest of the album is more in the vein of "old school" Robin Beck, melodic hard rock with big hooks. Robin's husband and producer James Christian shares the lead vocals on the power ballad "Burnin' Me Down", while Christian's House Of Lords bandmate, guitarist Jimi Bell gets a co-writing credit for the energetic rocker "Perfect Storm". "Ya Can't Fight Love" is Tommy Denander's sole songwriting contribution to this album and a very good one it is too, a lively uptempo track with a great hook. "I Swear The Nights" is another fine power ballad but somehow the production doesn't do it justice. It might be just the mp3 I'm listening to, but it sounds somehow distorted. The Glen Burtnik-cover "Follow You" closes the album like it closed Robin's Firefest set last year, a good pop-rock song that suits the album's mood nicely.

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