Review by Andy Hawes for MPM
Back in the early 1990s, a band called Kiss of the Gypsy burst onto the UK Rock scene playing a very cool mix of AOR and bluesy Melodic Hard Rock.
I was lucky enough to catch them live supporting the mighty Winger (on their In The Heart Of The Young tour) in, of all places, Peterborough in the East Midlands. They made a good impression on me and the rest of the audience that day with their high-octane British melodic Rock sound.
Fast forward three decades and the Kiss of the Gypsy frontman Tony Mitchell has released another new album, the quite splendid Hot Endless Summer Nights. It’s not his first solo album – a bit of research revealing at least three others over the past few years, but as soon as the opening (and title) track hits the speakers, it becomes immediately apparent that Mr Mitchell has continued his solo career in 2021 in the same vein as Kiss of the Gypsy with a big Melodic Rock sound.
Hot Endless Summer Nights’ has one of those classic AOR introductions with huge keyboards and thunderous guitar power chords before bursting into a hefty and classy piece of Melodic Rock with the requisite big chorus. It’s a cool opening track and a good statement of intent.
‘Can’t Fight It’ follows, and has an even bigger sound, more guitar-oriented than the opener, with loads of highly melodic and shredding lead guitars and another annoyingly catchy chorus. So far, so good!
‘Blame it On The Rock N Roll’ is up next and is the (possibly autobiographical) tale of a young man living his life with Rock in his heart and soul. It’s got a huge sound, with massive guitars throughout and massed gang vocals on the bridge and chorus hookiines.
It also has a completely brilliant curve-ball midway through where it suddenly goes all ‘Beatle-esque’ with a piano and vocal middle 8 before the massive power chords kick back in. It’s very clever, very unexpected on first listen (sorry to spoil the surprise!) and really lifts the track out of the ordinary.
‘Strong Enough’ takes the foot off the gas a little, offering a lovely and highly infectious mid-paced early 90s AOR-style ballad grounded in acoustic guitars and keyboards. It’s a bit of a standout and is as good as pretty much anything similar being peddled by any of the plethora of AOR/Melodic Rock acts out there at the moment.
Mitchell’s band kicks back into a slightly harder mode on the uptempo ‘Drowning In A Sea of Paradise’, but there are plenty of cool AOR keyboards in the mix to balance the chugging guitars and the chorus is as melodic as they come.
The AOR theme continues with ‘Caught In The Headlights’ which has a nice atmospheric keyboard introduction and another classic AOR song structure. It’s a nice change of pace and that’s one thing about this album: although it has a very obvious AOR/Melodic Rock structure, the track ordering does provide a bit of variation and it certainly isn’t one-paced.
‘Neon Sky’ follows and has a very nifty bit of hi-tech keyboard work going on under the big guitars. It’s another very cool piece of AOR-tinged Melodic Rock and those keyboards give it a slightly different feel – not so different that it feels out of place, but again, it has that subtle variation which shows that Mitchell isn’t content with just sticking to one blueprint in his writing.
This is also demonstrated in the following track, ‘Leave The World Behind’ which throws some delightful saxophone into the mix on another classy piece of AOR: another little curveball that adds to the quality of the release.
Up next is ‘Turn Back Time’ which is another lovely piece of mid-paced Melodic Rock with a distinct nod to Def Leppard’s ‘Hysteria’ in the rhythm guitar figure. The use of slightly cleaner guitar arpeggios in this track provides another subtle variation on the overall theme while still retaining a cohesive flow to the whole album.
The album hits the home straight with ‘With You In A Heartbeat’ which for some reason reminds me of cult late 80s AOR icons Diving For Pearls in that it’s not quite got the typical approaches to AOR production – the sequenced bass and layered keyboards combining with the guitars to create another highly infectious and driving track.
The power is kept high as Mitchell’s band take us into the chugging Melodic Rock of ‘Faithless’ which contains some nifty use of Arabian guitar scales of type so beloved of 1970s Rainbow. The keyboards in this track are also very reminiscent of Tony Carey’s work on Rainbow’s classic Rising album and the huge guitar solo could easily be lifted from that classic album (albeit with a bit more shred in the playing).
The album ends on a slightly similar note with the monstrous Melodic Hard Rock sound of ‘Calling Mother Nature’ which once again shows a clear Rainbow influence and more of that Arabian scale stuff going on with the riffs and structures. There is a load of light and shade in this ‘stop-start’ hard rocker. It’s not quite the way I expected the album to end, but nonetheless it’s a very cool track.
Overall, this album is a very, very classy piece of work. Mitchell may not have the smoothest AOR voice, but truth to tell that really works in his favour here as he has a bit of grit in his delivery throughout and he doesn’t sound just like every other singer out there.
His performance is absolutely superb throughout and his band also put in sterling work; the lead guitars of Midnite City’s Miles Meakin being particularly strong, with aching melody one minute and shredding power the next. The songwriting is strong and varied and the production, as noted already above, is quite varied yet completely cohesive throughout.
The only potential problem here is that there is an awful lot of this kind of stuff out there and there might be a slight danger that this album might get lost, given that it’s being released on a slightly smaller record label.
This would be a real shame as it’s an absolutely cracking record. Fans of classic AOR/Melodic Hard Rock should make sure to check this out immediately when it’s released on 26.11.21 on AOR Heaven Records.