Monday, February 25, 2019

First Night Is First Class AOR

Honestly I had to look up Tallinn Estonia to see where it is. It happens to be somewhere just south of Finland separated by a narrow strait of ocean. Another melodic rock wonder from halfway around the world. Another debut album filled with hypnotic, well crafted rhythms.

The band is listed as just three men. Reneck Sweet on lead vocals. Mikk Tivas on lead guitar, backing vocals and production. And Kristjan Aasamae on drums and backing vocals. Their self titled debut appears to be an independent labor of love. The results are nothing short of spectacular. The band delivers 14 songs, one of which is an atmospheric appropriately called "intro". This is followed by a song called "First Night" which is also the name of the band. Kind of like "Bad Company" by Bad Company. Other bands have had songs that are thematic to their name and existence. The meat of FN's sound is a canvas of harmonies intermingled with clear pounding drums, a clear thumping bass line and crisp, sprightly guitar lines and leads.

"Breaking My Heart" appears to be the first single being marketed by the band and it has the right mix of mid tempo emotion coupled with pure vocal bliss. The influences aren't obvious on this record but manifest themselves in bits and pieces. You hear a subdued Bon Jovi, the vocal instincts of Def Leppard and the moodiness of Russ Ballard and Golden Earring. The choruses are complete musical thoughts and allow the songs to hold tightly to their catch phrases. "Let Me Show My Love To You" is a heavenly slice of AOR magic that is moody, mystical and edgy as it blends more big harmonies. For those involved in AOR internet radio, this band is going to give you a lot to work with.

"Stop Dragging Me Around" combines catchy guitar hooks and more 80's hairband vocals. "Dangerous" is slightly more straight forward in it's approach but never wavers from the band's core vocal sound. First Night has a melodic payoff in each song. A build up to something that will floor you once you hear the entire hook. "Can't Keep Losing" is a semi-ballad with touches of west coast rock coupled with the band's made in Estonia sound. "That Ain't Love" is a tad darker as it tells a story of frustrated love. Kristjan Aasamae's drum sound on this record is a driving force and gives every track an added punch. "Night Is Calling Me" is a slow burning moonlight cruising tune with another instantly brain friendly melody.

"Going Down" is a song that gathers all the aforementioned musical characteristics and adds a hint of traditional rock. Each song has it's own personality while at the same time establishing the band's lush sound. "Love Is On The Run" continues the perfect streak of songs. Hooks, hooks and more hooks. It's hard to fathom how these guys came up with this many good songs. "Out of The Fire" borders on power pop with more of what you've liked so far if you've been listening since the "Intro". "I'm Loving You", track #13 is as persuasive as any of the other songs on this collection. In fact it's got some great mid-tempo guitar tension that blows up into a killer chorus. This was one of my favorite tracks on the album.

"Endless Night" closes out an exhausting workout for lovers of AOR. It's hard to decide what I like most about First Night. Is it the big vocals and harmonies? Is it the breadth and width of all of this material with no filler songs? Is it the uncluttered, beat driven production? Is it the guitar playing and world class soloing on every track? After careful thought, it's probably all of the above! This band has created their own sound and in the process put Tallinn, Estonia on the rock and roll map. So far my album of 2019.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

The Little River Band @ Barbara B. Mann Center 2-15-19

The Little River Band continued their 44 year legacy with a crisp yet lucid performance on Friday night at the near sold out Barbara B Mann Center in balmy Fort Myers Florida. The weather has been near perfect, and the band's
set was similar. Elder statesman Wayne Nelson was in fine form as he crooned all the notable hits from a remarkably deep well of selections to choose from. However this isn't your dad's LRB. The band puts a new spin on most of their catalog. This includes longer guitar intros and new arrangements. The band opened with their first FM radio favorite, "It's A Long Way There". From that point they only strayed away briefly from their greatest hits CD. The two surprise tracks were both from the band's last studio album, "Cuts Like A Diamond". The audience responded warmly and enthusiastically to the two non hits. The rest of the 90 minute set was all about the good times and memories this band represents. The supporting cast of musicians in this group are all "A"- list players. All and all a perfect night of music in a beautiful part of the world.