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Album Review : Restless Spirits: Second To None

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Review by Andy Hawes for MPM

Second to None is the second album release by Restless Spirits, led by Lords of Black guitarist Tony Hernando.

He is joined on this album by Journey and Generation Radio drummer Deen Castronovo and vocalists Kent Hilli (Perfect Plan, Giant), Chez Kane, Johnny Gioeli (Hardline, Axel Rudi Pell) and Renan Zonata (Electric Mob).

The sound of this album is classic sounding AOR/Melodic Rock. The use of a range of vocalists does lend this the feel of a project rather than a band, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing and all the vocalists do a sterling job with the material at hand.

There’s absolutely nothing new under the sun going on within Second To None. If you’ve ever listened to any of the AOR/Melodic Rock projects churned out by Frontiers Music on a monthly basis, then you’ll know exactly what to expect from this album.

Whether or not that’s a good thing will largely depend on your perspective but in general, if you’re a fan of this kind of ‘production line AOR’ then you’ll find a lot to enjoy here.

Hernando’s choices of vocalists is bang on the money and they do lift the material with the quality of their delivery. Kent Hilli kicks things off with the hook-laden, though somewhat repetitive, AOR rocker ‘Need A Lil White Lie’ and a superb job he does with it too. The man has the perfect set of lungs for this kind of thing and gives it his all.

UK rocker Chez Kane then steps up to the mic to unleash her formidable vocals on the following three tracks. The first of these, ‘Hey You’ is a formulaic but enjoyable romp through a standard AOR/Melodic Rock track. It is followed by ‘Dreams of the Wild’ which despite one of those oh-so-familiar chord sequences in the verses, does have a rather more interesting chorus.

She finishes her stint on the album with ‘Until the End of Time’ which has a mid-paced groove and a slightly softer production on another rather obvious, but nonetheless enjoyable track.

Renan Zonta steps up for the next two tracks, ‘A Dream To Be Lost In Time’ and ‘And Yet It Breaks’. The former starts off with some rather funky piano and does have a rather different feel to what has gone before. This change of feel is very welcome and does lift the album somewhat.

There is a real hint of Journey and their track ‘Suzanne’ from Raised on Radio in this song, from the drum beat to the phrasing of the guitar solo. It’s different enough from the original to pay homage rather than merely plagiarize though.

The latter continues the emerging theme of very competent but really rather typical Scandinavian AOR/Melodic Rock.

Hardline’s Johnny Gioeli steps up for the next three tracks. His absolutely solid gold vocal performance lifts ‘Too Many’ one step above the ordinary, even though the chorus hook is less obvious than you’d expect and ‘Nothin’ Dirty Here’ continues in the same vein, with Hernando flexing his shred muscle on the very cool guitar solo.

Gioeli completes his contribution with the standard AOR/Melodic Rock ballad ‘Always A Pretender,’ which does exactly what you’d expect it to do.

The album ends with the return of Renan Zonta and Kent Hilli on ‘No Time Wasters’ and ‘Dirty Money’ respectively. Both of these continue with what we’ve seen from the album already, with both vocalists putting all they have into their performances on some very competent AOR/Melodic Rock.

Overall, fans of European AOR/Melodic Rock may well find a lot to enjoy here. It’s all very well played, arranged and sung and is very competent in what it does.

However, it has little to make it stand out from the overcrowded marketplace AOR/Melodic Rock; perhaps its biggest selling point is the guest vocalists who are all absolutely brilliant and do make the tracks their own.

Twenty of thirty years ago, I’d have raved about this album, as it has a lot to commend it. However now, with so much similar music out there, I personally prefer to be rather selective in what I buy and albums have to have something that little bit extra to ‘grab’ me.

If you’re a fan of this kind of thing it’s a definite ‘must listen’ as it may well float your boat, but it does sound a lot like a lot of other stuff that’s out there at the moment. Give it a listen and see what you think.

Second To None” Tracklisting:

  1. Need A Lil’ White Lie ft. Kent Hilli
  2. Hey You ft. Chez Kane
  3. Dreams Of The Wild ft. Chez Kane
  4. Until The End Of Time ft. Chez Kane
  5. A Dream To Be Lost In Time ft. Renan Zonta
  6. And Yet It Breaks ft. Renan Zonta
  7. Too Many ft. Johnny Gioeli
  8. Nothin’ Dirty Here ft. Johnny Gioeli
  9. Always A Pretender ft. Johnny Gioeli
  10. No Time Wasters ft. Renan Zonta
  11. Dirty Money ft. Kent Hilli

Johnny Gioeli – Vocals on Track 7, 8, 9
Kent Hilli – Vocals on Track 1, 11
Chez Kane – Vocals on Track 2, 3, 4
Renan Zonta – Vocals on Track 5, 6, 10
Tony Hernando – Guitars, Bass, Keyboards, Background Vocals
Victor Diez – Piano, Keyboards
Matt De Vallejo – Drums



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