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Album Review : Generation Radio: Generation Radio

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Review by Andy Hawes for MPM

If, like me, you worship at the altar of wimphem; if stacked layers of angelic vocal harmonies and 80s style keyboards, achingly beautiful melodies and love-lorn lyrics are your bag; if you think that Journey sometimes rock out a little too much and that Chicago, REO Speedwagon, etc, are the pinnacle of the music world, then open your ears because a brand new band has emerged from the USA that will (ever so politely) rock your world!

Generation Radio are the culprits and they have just unleashed their debut album onto the world. Comprising ex-Chicago bassist/vocalist Jason Scheff, current Journey drummer Deen Castronovo, ex-Rascal Flatts multi-instrumentalist Jay DeMarcus and Nashville session guitar gods Tom Yankton and Chris Rodriguez, Generation Radio are making a bold claim for the number one pink and fluffy AOR wimp-fest of the year, if not the decade!

Coming on like a truly glorious mixture of all of the bands mentioned above, Generation Radio are absolutely not afraid to pile on the schmaltz and to revel in all of the hyper-melodic and over-emotive slush that makes the softest AOR so appealing to its fans.

This is not an album to appeal to Hard Rock fans or Metalheads: it is aimed squarely at the Yacht Rock brigade and by Jove does it hit that particular spot! All of the band members have not only staggering instrumental chops, but they could all be lead vocalists in their own right and this results in some colossally over-the-top vocal harmony orchestration and achingly beautiful lead vocals.

Opening with first single ‘Why Are You Calling Me Now?’ Generation Radio settle into an early mid-paced groove on the sort of AOR that only the true greats can get away with. There’s absolutely nothing even remotely original in the sound or style here, but such is the pedigree of these guys that they can turn a corporate rock foray such as this into an anthem of earth-shattering intensity.

Melody is the key here, as is the production and arrangement and, while there is a metric tonne of the former, it is the latter where the band shine as they know exactly where to pile in everything including the kitchen sink and exactly where to pull it all back and allow it to breathe.

Things continue in a similar vein with ‘Angels’, where guitar and keyboards combine to quite delicious effect and the shared lead vocals work like a charm.

Subtle slide guitar shows the Modern Country influence that at least half the band have, but this is no Nashville love affair: rather, it sounds like an open-topped ride down a coast-road highway in California in July and those layered harmonies are enough to reduce a grown man to tears.

‘All Night To Get There’ is a cover of a track that first appeared on Rascal Flatts’ 2010 album Nothing Like This. Rascal Flatts always had a Rock/AOR side lurking beneath their schmaltzy Modern Nashville Country sound and the song now sounds even better than the quite brilliant original version.

‘I Hope You Find It’ shows Jason Scheff in very familiar territory as Generation Radio go all Chicago on us on a track that has been previously covered by Cher and Miley Cyrus but don’t hold that against it. In Generation Radio’s hands it is a Chicago-esque ballad of superlative excellence, with stunning orchestration and a quite marvellous lead vocal, dripping with honey-sweet emotion and an uplifting lyric.

Things then take a rather unexpected turn with some rather furious chugging guitar riffing and proper powerhouse lead vocals! The frantic drumming and angsty, screamy vocals are something of a departure, but once again the melody quotient is very high with a quite ridiculous chorus hook propelling the song forward.

The song contains some properly shredding guitar too! It’s probably the weakest song on the album as its Hard Rock approach feels just a tad forced, but I bet it shreds live!

Next up is the second single ‘Lights Go Out In Paradise’. I reviewed the single release for Metal Planet when it was first released and I still think it’s one of the best AOR tracks of the year if not the decade. Deen Castronovo takes the lead vocal here and the Steve Perry-isms kick in big style on this absolute gem of a song.

If the chorus to this one doesn’t have you envisaging Castronovo standing on a sun-drenched mountaintop in the American Midwest, arms spread wide to the world belting out the hookline then you’ve probably not paid enough attention to AOR videos in the past! It really is about as ‘West Coast USA’ as they come and begs to be played at full volume from an open-topped Chevy roaring down Sunset Boulevard. Awesome stuff!

‘Don’t Go’ returns us to the kind of over-soppy, hyper-fluffy ballad that Chicago and Rascal Flatts always excelled in and that you’d expect to hear Christopher Cross or Michael McDonald singing. But once again, in these guys’ hands it’s just absolutely brilliant. Yes, it’s a soppy love song, but come on – we’ve all been in love and we’ve all felt this way about someone at some point in our lives. Why not celebrate that, eh?

‘Smoking’ ups the rock quotient a little with a chugging guitar riff and some more superlative vocals. Yeah, lyrically it’s very cliched – this is the kind of thing that 80s rock bands built their careers on after all – but it’s a cool rocker and the addition of talkbox guitar (a la Peter Frampton and Richie Sambora) is bang on the money.

‘Anything But Us’ has a clear Nashville influence. I can easily hear any of the current crop of Modern Country acts doing this, but then a lot of Modern Country is rock in disguise and this is another cool slow to mid-paced track with another superb chorus and quite delightful open production.

‘Waiting On Your Sunshine’ is another slightly more guitar-led track and the melodies and chords structures are slightly less predictable here than in some of the other tracks. It’s another classy middle-of-the-road West Coast AOR track with hints of latter day Little River Band in its sound and style.

Generation Radio return to the ballads with album closer ‘Finally Get It Right’. This is another of those tracks that combines the very soppiest of Chicago and Rascal Flatts influences and piles on the saccharine by the bucketload. Truth to tell, I’d have preferred a more uptempo closing number, but given what has gone before what was I really expecting?

Look, I’m the first to admit that this album will have some limits to its appeal with readers of the Metal Planet site. It really is the very wimpiest and woolliest of West Coast AOR albums and as such, do please approach with extreme caution if the thought of a mix of Chicago, Rascal Flatts and Journey’s softer moments fills you with dread.

However, if your tastes run to a goodly bit of classic Yacht Rock and if you are fully in touch with your soppy side, if angelic vocals, subdued guitars and layers of keyboards float your boat then I would urge you to order this album pronto! It’s an excellent example of its type and the pedigree of the band members make it so.

There are many AOR albums out there that will probably hold more appeal to the more generic Rock fan, but for those of us who love the softer side of the genre this is pretty much essential listening! It will certainly be on my playlist for a very long time.

And now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and lay down in clouds of pink and fluffy cotton wool and absorb the wondrous Soft Rock magnificence yet again. I may be gone some time…

Generation Radio” Tracklisting:

  1. Why Are You Calling Me Now?
  2. Angels
  3. All Night To Get There
  4. I Hope You Find It
  5. Time To Let It Go
  6. Lights Go Out In Paradise
  7. Don’t Go
  8. Smoking
  9. Anything But Us
  10. Waiting On Your Sunshine
  11. Finally Got It Right

Jay DeMarcus
Jason Scheff
Deen Castronovo
Tom Yankton
Chris Rodriguez

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