Reviews of rock, blues and roots music including alternative country. With an emphasis on organic production and musicians who can actually play and sing without the aid of auto tune or nuisance technology. Please comment on the blog posts and not the videos I do on YouTube.
Band Lineup Jerome Mazza – Lead & Background vocals Tommy Denander – Guitars / Keyboards Steve Overland – Backing vocals Brian Anthony – Bass Chris Metzger – Drums / percussion
Courtesy of Escape Music
About eighteen months ago I was fortunate enough to stumble on to Pinnacle Point's brilliant debut album Winds of Change. This collection represented some of the great music of my past. The comparisons to Kansas and the vocal skills of Jerome Mazza instantly set the underground melodic world on fire.
He was then asked to be a part of Steve Walsh's final solo album Black Butterfly. Again Mazza's voice shined, seamlessly weaving itself around Walsh's in the lead off single Born In Fire. Jerome actually got to sing three solo tracks which garnered him more international airplay and recognition.
This would all set the stage for Outlaw Son, Jerome's first solo album for The Escape Music record label. The production on Outlaw Son rivals the music on Black Butterfly. More importantly the material itself continues Mazza's upward trajectory. It doesn't hurt to have guitar ace Tommy Denander laying down tasty riffs and exquisite solos to push the music to the next level.
The album starts with "Neverland" a track that opens with a catchy guitar salvo that Neal Schon would approve of. Lyrically the world is too much for the song's character and a fantasy land of self actualization takes hold. Denander puts his icing on this cake with a fine guitar solo. "Immortal" opens with a big keyboard riff followed by Mazza's soaring tenor. If Kansas were recording modern AOR it might sound like this track. "The Dark Side" begins and ends with Mazza's voice acapella. The melody is grittier, progressive and a tad dark, which makes sense since the song is about the dark side.
Mazza is helped along in places by legendary vocalist Steve Overland. But this reviewer prefers Mazza's voice which to me has more texture at both the low and high ends of the spectrum. "Streets of Fire" might be the closest relative to a song from Black Butterfly. Overland is heard on background via a monster chorus. The story of a world in turmoil stops you in your tracks as you absorb the melody. A killer song from every angle.
Another standout track is the instantly catchy "Undercover Love" fueled by both Mazza and Denander who seem to be playing off one another. This is more great songwriting, and Jerome's voice, again is in the clouds. "Song For The People" has a raucous guitar string bending intro followed by a very smooth, yet progressive melody. Another track that could stand nicely on Black Butterfly.
"Calm Before The Storm" intros with a rapid fire guitar jam but then levels off into a big hook melodic masterpiece. Each song has equal parts melodic and progressive which will make fans of Kansas and Journey celebrate. The title track borrows a little from Night Ranger's "Don't Tell Me You Love Me" but eventually finds it's own original groove. "Unfinished Business" has a hard rocking, raw bluesy vibe through most of it, a bit of a departure from a lot of the rest of the material on Outlaw Son yet one of the strongest songs on the album!
"Crossfire" is another convincing melodic rock original that borrows some from Toto or Work of Art. It showcases Mazza's ability to go from soft to soaring. "Save The Best Til Last" is another fine melodic rock composition featuring a very optimistic story line. The bridge and guitar solo definitely find a higher level of greatness. "The Last Goodbye" might be the most progressive track on the album. Denander's opening riffs set the stage for another terrific vocal performance from Mazza, whose clarity and rich delivery are present on every track.
Outlaw Son is one of the most meticulous melodic rock records recorded in recent memory. So many attempts at this genre these days are mired in mediocrity. At times I've listened to things and forced myself to like it when in my heart I knew it was substandard. The bar has been reset on this collection of fine songs. The quality of playing and singing is truly in it's own league here. Jerome Mazza is one of the most talented and soon to be sought after vocalists on the scene today. Furthermore he's surrounded himself with great musicians who have only shed a brighter spotlight on his considerable vocal talents. As it stands, Outlaw Son will be my favorite melodic rock record of 2018.
At number one again this week is Ice Age by Fire Tiger. The song is the catchiest thing I've heard in years. A combination of Taylor Dayne, Miami Sound Machine and Wilson Phillips.
At number two is Borrowed Time from State Cows. A Swedish band that has tapped into the Steely Dan west coast vibe better than anyone. Michael Landau guest stars on the guitar solo.
At number three is 10 Miles by Champlin, Williams and Friestedt (CWF). This trio makes music I wish Toto made. This sounds so vintage but is a brand new song and is instantaneously a hit.
At number 4 is the brand new single from Paul Carrack called Amazing. This almost sounds like it was stolen from the Stax music vaults. A wonderful, breezy slice of R&B and Paul nails the vocals. Destined for #1 on this chart.
At number 5 is a classic power ballad by Clif Magness called Unbroken. The song would be a perfect track for Jason Scheff to record. Such a great melody.
At number 6 is Easy To Love by Steve Perry. My favorite tune from his new album Traces. A complete R&B hook and melody and it gets better with each spin.
At number 7 is All Alone by former Outfield lead vocalist Tony Lewis. Tony sounds exactly like he did in 1986. This has all of the mojo of anything his former band ever recorded. This should be on the radio.
At number 8 is a blues artist by the name of Hamish Anderson with his song No Good. A combination of contemporary blues and retro rock. A great guitar line and some terrific playing throughout.
At number 9 is former Survivor lead singer Dave Bickler and his song Hope. Dave's voice has held up remarkably well and this is his first solo album. The track itself is a call for a better day and the hook is perfect for classic rock stations.
At number 10 is the brand new song by guitarist Colin James. His song is called 40 light years. It features of all things, a harmonica. The playing is reserved by effective. Very catchy song.
Robbie Dupree writes an amazing tale about how we all seem to have gotten used to the violence and craziness in the world. Dupree is best known for his two mainstream hits from his first album. But here he makes an amazing musical statement. Both the lyrics and the atmospherics of the track itself are stellar. For fans of west coast California style rock this is how you do it. The track clocks in at over seven minutes and has both acoustic guitar and piano but an electric lead guitar comes in to really give the song more passion and meaning.
We learned in recent days that Stevie Nicks decided to boot Lindsey Buckingham from Fleetwood Mac over his alleged bad behavior at a benefit concert earlier this year. That behavior amounted to smirking when Nicks began to ramble during her speech and not approving of the song "Rhiannon" being played as Stevie's entrance music. Originally we were told that the break-up was centered around Buckingham who according to the original narrative, wanted to record and tour and then join his former band mates on the road.
None of this is surprising for a band that has gone through drama before. But what is different now is the age and maturity (or lack thereof) of these now 70 somethings as they tour the states via Live Nation. Both Mac and Buckingham are touring and so far it appears that the split is hurting ticket sales for Fleetwood Mac and possibly helping Buckingham who just filed a lawsuit seeking 12 million dollars in lost wages. This is the kind of drama that doesn't result in creativity.
Fans seem to be on Lindsey's side and if one were to examine the evidence on a cursory level they would have to implicate Stevie Nicks as not being the team player. Strangely enough though, Nicks has been nominated to the rock and roll hall of fame at precisely the same moment Buckingham filed paperwork in a Los Angeles County court.
Monopoly board master Irv Azoff was the one who broke the news to Buckingham that he was no longer welcome on stage with Stevie Nicks. It was an ultimatum and she won at least in the short run. Azoff is banking on the curiosity car wreck theory, where people want to show up and support their favorite team as each side tries to gin up sympathy both fake and real to lure fans to their side.
People who have watched this band for decades are at a loss to explain the speed at which Mick Fleetwood and Irving Azoff moved to upend Lindsey Buckingham. The venues were likely already booked. And the show must go on. But for now, it's a show long and drama and short on substance for a band that at this stage of their existence needs Lindsey Buckingham more than he needs them.