Label: AOR Heaven 2015
Review by Kimmo Toivonen
Bill Champlin of Chicago, Joseph Williams of Toto and Swedish guitarist Peter Friestedt have joined forces to create one of the smoothest, most polished AOR albums of 2015. To those who enjoy the harder, more metallic side of AOR only, this might not be an album to invest in, but to those into the aforementioned bands and west-coast rock this is an essential purchase. I’m somewhere between the two extremes, and I find this an enjoyable album to listen to.
Both Champlin and Williams have been around the block more than a few times, but on this album you don’t ”hear the years”. Especially Williams sounds better than he did on the Vertigo albums a few years ago. Friestedt’s guitar work is world class, and adds a bit of a rock edge to the album every now and then.
The album opens with one of the better tracks of the album, the soft-rocking ”Runaway”. It’s very much in the vein of Toto, and the same goes for ”Aria” which could have been taken from ”Toto IV”. The ”Africa”-vibe is clearly there. ”Still Around” is more of a Chicago-like ballad.
”All That I Want” is possibly my favourite track of the album. The chorus is the kind of stuff that AOR dreams are made of: explosive and bombastic but in a smooth, soft-rocking way of course.
”Carry On” owes a lot to certain Toto songs (”Rosanna” meets ”I Will Remember”?), while ”Nightfly” is one of the more uptempo songs of the album. The horns make you think of Chicago instantly. ”Hearts At War” is frankly a bit of a letdown - I expected something a bit more edgy and powerful with that kind of a song title.
”After The Love Is Gone” is indeed the song Earth, Wind & Fire turned into a huge hit in 1979. This version features one of the writers, Bill Champlin, on lead vocals, so I won’t call it an EWF cover… I could call it ”Love Boat music” though, smooth to the extreme! With this song, the band sails away from the Rock-y waters, first to the ”Rivers Of Fear” which is almost an accapella song! Nice singing but not for me otherwise. Can’t say I’m too fond of the last song ”Evermore” either, it’s a soft R’n B type of a ballad.
The band lost the ”R” in ”AOR” during the last few songs, and because of that, they also lost one of the R’s in my rating… First half of the album - fine soft-rock, the second half - smooth adult contemporary pop.