Review by Andy Hawes for MPM
Released on 9th July, ‘Changes’ is the third solo offering from Pride of Lions frontman Toby Hitchcock. Fans of Hitchcock’s previous solo work or of Pride of Lions will already be familiar with his incredible soaring tenor voice.
It’s a voice tailor-made for AOR/Melodic Rock and this is exactly the sort of territory occupied by the material on ‘Changes’.
For this album, Frontiers Records have paired Hitchcock with their stock producer Alessandro Del Vecchio who has written and produced the album as well as playing bass and keyboards and singing backing vocals.
It’s fair to say that Del Vecchio knows exactly what he’s doing with this kind of project and if you’re a fan of the sort of AOR/Melodic Rock that Frontiers churns out at an alarming rate then this album will in all likelihood be right up your alley.
AOR has always had a pretty wide spectrum of sounds and styles and this album sits near the harder ‘Melodic Rock’ end of that spectrum. Guitars take centre stage on most of tracks, although they rock along in a fairly polite fashion, with the keyboards being very much a supporting instrument adding colour to the tracks.
On most of the tracks, Del Vecchio avoids too many of the most obvious AOR clichés but still manages to create a set of songs that sounds warmly familiar.
Hitchcock’s voice is the very obvious centre-point and it’s fair to say that he does a mighty fine job throughout, using his range to great effect from an impassioned lower register to full-on high register firepower when the song calls for it.
There is a definite ‘European’ sound to this album, which is down to the writing, the song structures and the production. Lyrically, the album also avoids too many of the obvious clichés, thereby giving it a little more depth than the average AOR/melodic Rock release.
It’s full of delicate hooklines that, while not always being so obvious on first listen, do worm their way into your head on repeated listens as well as some more instantly memorable ones. It’s a tricky balance to achieve – AOR tends to be quite instant, with hooks that explode into your head immediately, but the payoff is sometimes that such albums lack longevity.
This album is different; the hooks aren’t always quite as immediate so the key question is whether or not that will increase its longevity over many repeated listens.
Standout tracks include the awesome uptempo opener ‘Forward’ which begins with subtle keyboards before the crunching guitars kick in. There are some huge vocal hooks in this one with a massive harmonised chorus.
‘Before I Met You’ has a chorus that reminds me of the best of Pride of Lions’ material, but with slightly heavier guitars. Title track ‘Changes’ is another cracker – well-written and with layers of big guitars and a suitably huge chorus.
Similarly uptempo, ‘Say No More’ is probably one of the purest AOR moments on the album with a colossal chorus hook, massive vocals and great guitar solo.
Run Away Again (From Love)’ is a huge and theatrical sounding mid-paced ballad with some fabulous guitar and keyboard interplay. Hitchcock’s vocals are particularly fine on this one with another massive chorus hook and highly emotive delivery.
The guitar playout on this track is excellent, with plenty of Journey-esque melodies. ‘Two Hearts On The Run’ is massive AOR, with huge swathes of keyboard dominating the verses under chugging guitars and with yet another absolutely massive chorus.
On the Edge of Falling’ has a huge chorus that sounds like primetime Journey (just listen to the backing vocals and you’ll see what I mean!)
Overall, this album is as good as any similar sounding albums released by Frontiers over the past few years and truth to tell it’s better than many of them. If you’re a fan of the sort of modern European-sounding AOR that the label releases then you’ll probably absolutely love this album.
If you’re already a Toby Hitchcock fan via Pride of Lions or his earlier solo work, you’ll certainly love it. However, if you’re not usually into AOR this is unlikely to change your mind, although its avoidance of the biggest clichés often prevalent in the genre might well make exploring it worth your while.
- Before I Met You (Xano Esena)
- Tonight Again
- Garden Of Eden
- Don’t Say Goodbye
- Say No More
- Run Away Again (From Love)
- Two Hearts On The Run
- On The Edge Of Falling
- Losing You
Toby Hitchcock – Vocals
Martin Jepsen Andersen – Guitars
Alessandro Del Vecchio – Bass, keyboards, backing vocals
Nicholas Papapicco – Drums