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Album Review : Palace: One 4 The Road

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Review by Andy Hawes for MPM

Michael Palace is one talented individual! Literally every note that is heard within the grooves of this, his fourth solo album, is played or sung by the man himself.

That’s no mean feat given the quality of the performances therein. In lesser hands, this might well result in a quite self-indulgent end product, but not here.

Palace is used to working with a wide range of artists within the AOR/Melodic Rock genres (including Harem Scarem’s Harry Hess on the First Signal project, ex-Yngwie Malmsteen vocalist Goran Edman’s Cry of Dawn project, Houston, Find Me and Murder of My Sweet amongst others) so it’s clear that his very ‘solo’ approach to his solo albums is not anything to do with ego or a desire for his own way.

No, it’s much more about him exploring his very obvious love for the genre and using his creativity in a very personal way. And for that, one has to give him credit.

Sound-wise, this album explores a range of very typical Scandinavian AOR/melodic Rock styles from very 80s sounding classic AOR to more modern power-pop AOR stylings.

There is a lot of guitar on here, with keyboards being used sparingly and in a supporting role and generally this works pretty well, as it’s very clear that Palace knows his way around a fretboard! It also means that the sound rocks along nicely.

And that’s perhaps the problem with the album. It’s just very ‘nice’ and quite ‘polite’. The song-writing is very solid with some real gems lurking amongst the running order; the guitar playing does exactly what you’d expect, with some very lovely soloing scattered amongst the tracks; the vocals are also very solid, but despite the width of Palace’s range and good technical control, they are a little unspectacular and somewhat lacking in identity.

The tracks that work the best are the ones where there is a little more space and variety in the production and arrangements and these are generally the ones that are perhaps a little softer in their approach to AOR. Opener ‘Fifteen Minutes’ is the perfect example of this with lots of clean chiming guitars and more audible keyboards in the mix.

Utilising very ‘typical’ AOR chord sequences gives this song a delicious familiarity and infectiousness, but clever use of additional passing chords and melodic changes gives the song that something else that many of its contemporaries might not have.

‘Westbound’ is the best of the more rocky tracks with a wonderful stop-start guitar riff and colossally infectious chorus. It also has a bucketload of energy and some quite stunning lead guitars.

‘The Driver’ starts off with clean, chiming guitar arpeggios and a melody that climbs up through Palace’s vocal range before the classic AOR chorus hits. The slow mid-paced tempo really suits the openness of the melody melodies and there is more than a hint of recent Stage Dolls within the overall sound. It’s a really lovely AOR ballad and a real standout on the album.

‘Facing the Music’ has that classic 80s AOR sound and style, with keyboards, clean guitar chimes and harmonised lead lines complementing the harder guitars and the classic melodies. ‘World Gone Mad’ ups the ante on the melody front, with an excellent vocal arrangement and another Stage Dolls influenced song structure.

‘Living The Life’ has an entirely different feel – almost modern Power Pop – with influences from bands such as Paramore in the down-tuned guitar sound and the drumming. There’s even a hefty bit of Harem Scarem in the solo section, which is very well done. The whole track is very melodic and the more up-to-date approach to the arrangement works extremely well.

Closer ‘Loneliest Night’ uses a host of very modern and almost Dance Music style keyboards in the rather atmospheric intro and first verse before a very modern AOR styled chorus. There is great use of dynamics in this track with much more space in the arrangement. It’s a very cool track indeed.

Overall, One 4 The Road is a tricky album to review. It’s abundantly clear that Michael Palace is a man blessed with a metric tonne of talent and there’s absolutely nothing to dislike anywhere within this album.

The songs are all good examples of AOR/Melodic Rock and truth to tell, if I’d heard this twenty years ago I’d probably have been frothing all over it and I suspect that many AOR fans will already be doing just that. However, it’s being released in a climate where solid gold classics like the latest offerings from Treat, Crossing Rubicon, Sunstorm and Generation Radio are competing with one’s attention and I fear that One 4 The Road just might get a little lost in such esteemed company as it just lacks that extra special ‘something’.

However, please don’t be put off by this; to my ears it is still a very solid, well written, superbly played and well sung modern AOR album. If you are a fan of Scandinavian AOR, First Signal, Stage Dolls or Michael Palace’s previous solo offerings, you should definitely check this out as there’ll be a lot within it that you might really enjoy.

One 4 The Road” Tracklisting:

  1. Fifteen Minutes
  2. Westbound
  3. Too Old For This
  4. Money Can Kill
  5. The Driver
  6. Time Crisis
  7. Facing The Music
  8. World Gone Mad
  9. Living The Life
  10. Cancel The Flight
  11. Loneliest Night

LINE-UP:
Michael Palace – All Instruments, Songwriting, & Production

https://www.facebook.com/palacesweden/

https://www.instagram.com/mike.palace/

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