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Album Review : Tokyo Motor Fist: Lions

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New on Frontiers records, ‘Lions’ is the second album by the melodic hard rock ‘supergroup’ Tokyo Motor Fist, comprising vocalist Ted Poley (ex Danger-Danger), Guitarist/keyboard player/backing vocalist Steve Brown (ex-Trixter), bassist Greg Smith (Rainbow, Joe Lynn Turner, Tyketto, Billy Joel) and legendary drummer Chuck Burgi (Rainbow, Billy Joel, Joe Lynn Turner, Meatloaf, Balance, Michael Bolton.)

This is a great example of what happens when Frontiers records get the ‘nostalgia thing’ right. Unashamedly retro, with a gloriously throwback late 80s/early 90s melodic hard rock sound, this album conjures up visions of cruising down LA boulevards, big-hair, big guitars and a time when life was somehow a lot simpler.

It’s feel-good, fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously. Lyrically, a lot of it is the standard melodic hard rock fare, so several love songs. Nothing too taxing for the listener, but something we can all relate to, right? There are exceptions to this, however, such as the superb title track ‘Lions’ which is a positive message about surviving the hard times and ‘Monster In Me’ which appears to be about finding the dark side of one’s personality.

‘Decadence on 10th Street’ is also a departure from the usual themes, being about what sounds like a kick-ass rock night-club.

Steve brown is the star of the show here. He deals with all the guitars and keyboards (bar a keyboard solo by ex-Styx keyboardist Dennis DeYoung on the title track) and produces the whole thing.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z91aRp7g4ys&w=560&h=315]

He does a superb job, helped by ex-Danger Danger bass player Bruno Ravell, whose mix lends the album a clarity that was slightly lacking on the debut. Brown also writes pretty much everything and the man sure knows his way around a melodic hard rock song structure and knows how to deliver hooks so colossally strong that you could easily hang your Marshall stack from them.

Mention must also be made of Ted Poley’s lead vocals. He puts in a stellar performance on this album and doesn’t sound that much different to how he did 30 years ago on Danger Danger’s first two records. His voice is tailor-made for this kind of stuff and blends superbly well with Steve Brown’s vocals in all the layered harmonies and gang vocals.

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The opening four tracks are as good as any you’ll hear on an album of this ilk in 2020 or in any other year come to that. Gloriously anthemic and singalong, with huge, chunky guitars, melodic-shred solos, layered harmony vocals and pounding rhythm section, they rock like it’s 1989 all over again.

Think classic Danger Danger and Trixter and you’ll obviously be in the correct ball-park – I kinda want to use the term ‘bubblegum’ but without the negative connotations that term usually brings. When I listen to this stuff, I just wanna turn it up loud, grin like an idiot, scream along and punch the air while air-guitaring round the living room. That’s the overall vibe that carries on pretty much throughout the album.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sa1oSlCeL50&w=560&h=315]

To be truthful, it’s hard to pick standout cuts on ‘Lions’, although, if pressed, I’d probably go with ‘Around Midnight’, which has a definite ‘power-pop’ vibe mixed with the classic melodic rock production, simply because the whole thing is filled with hook after hook, with a truly glorious chorus.

‘Sedona’ also stands out because of a stunning Mark Rivera saxophone solo, which somewhat surprisingly, doesn’t sound out of place and gives a moment of contrast to the rest of the album.

But in some ways singling these tracks out is doing an injustice to the rest of them. The whole record is a superb example of the genre. There’s nothing new or original going on here and that’s exactly the point, but when it’s done this well, what else is there to do but rock likes it’s 1989 all over again! Cracking stuff!

Tracklist:

  1. Youngblood
  2. Monster In Me
  3. Around Midnight
  4. Mean It
  5. Lions
  6. Decadence on 10th Street
  7. Dream Your Heart Out
  8. Blow Your Mind
  9. Sedona
  10. Look Into Me
  • Winner Takes All

Review by Andy Hawes for MPM

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