Tuesday, September 24, 2013

HAREM SCAREM: "Mood Swings II"

Rating: RRRRR
Label: Frontiers 2013
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of their cult classic "Mood Swings" album, Harem Scarem have ended their five year hiatus and re-recorded the whole thing all over again. Strange? After all, what they could possibly add to it? The original version was a personal highlight of 1993 for me and actually the "Album Of The Year" for RockUnited.Com (see our retro feature Back To The Nineties - 1993). Well, for starters, they've added three new songs to it and a couple of the old ones have gotten a "facelift". I guess record company politics and publishing deals had something to do with it too.

Now that I've played this album a few times, I've got to hand it to the band - the new versions sound very faithful to the originals. Most of the time I can't really tell whether they've done some changes or not. There's a keyboard line there, a backing vocal here which may sound different, but it might just be that I haven't noticed them before. No, I'm not going to take a pen and a paper and start nitpicking every second of every song... I'd rather just enjoy these great songs again!

The two songs that have gone through easily noticeable changes are "Mandy" and "Just Like I Planned". "Mandy" is a showcase for Pete Lesperance's guitar skills but it's also a fine, melodic piece of instrumental music. The new version has more keyboards in the background, giving the song a more ethreal feel. Somehow Lesperance's playing is even more melodic than on the original. I like this new version more. However, the updated "Just Like I Planned" loses a lot of its' charm. The original is an accapella song, but the new version replaces most of the backing vocals with keyboards and acoustic guitar. It's still a nice song, but frankly, a rather ordinary acoustic ballad. My vote goes to the original.

The three new songs are all good and they kind of fit the vibe of the original album, but so do most of the latter day Harem Scarem songs. I just take them as what they are, three new Harem Scarem tracks... the band's current view of the world sounds a bit hopeless - first we live in a "World Gone To Pieces" and in "Anarchy"... thankfully the last song proves that there's a "Brighter Day" ahead. Mood swings indeed.

If you already have the original the purchase of "Mood Swings II" isn't essential, but definitely worth considering. The new songs are good, and the little changes to the aforementioned songs two are interesting. If you don't have the original, you really can't go wrong with this one - it's a finely crafted version of a hard-edged melodic rock classic. Elements of AOR, Hard Rock, Metal, even Prog combined in a very special way. You might as well get them both.

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