Review by Andy Hawes for MPM
This is one for those of you who love AOR/Melodic Rock which has both feet firmly planted in the classic style and sounds of the late 1970s-mid 1980s.
Tommy DeCarlo has been performing with US rockers Boston since 2007 and, as one would expect from a man who has held down that particular gig, he is a man blessed with truly golden tonsils, a voice which can soar into the stratosphere with nigh-on effortless ease.
This is the second album that DeCarlo has released via Frontiers Music s.r.l. and is a little different from its predecessor, being a direct throwback to the classic sound of Boston and a hundred other classy yet lesser known US acts of the late 1970s-mid 1980s.
It’s actually a bit of a breath of fresh air, as it sounds very different to a lot of the music released on the label. There are no overtly ‘modern’ influences and the production and writing avoid the typical sounds and styles of all the Scandinavian albums that the album releases, so even if that kind of thing is not always your cup of tea, but you are still partial to quality AOR, then I can recommend this album very highly.
The opening pairing of ‘Dancing In The Moonlight’ and ‘Change Our Fate’ set DeCarlo’s stall out very clearly and straight away we are transported back 40 years to a much simpler time when this kind of music ruled the US airwaves. Often, when bands/artists do this and try to replicate the sound and feel of this beloved era, it can fall flat and feel like a tame imitation.
I must admit that I did have a bit of a fear of this when pushing ‘play’ for the first time, but I am very happy to report that this is no cheap imitation! Rather, it is an extremely well-written, beautifully performed and authentically produced pure AOR album. Everything about it screams 1980-1985, with the guitar sounds in particular being just perfectly toned. Hooklines abound, both vocally and in the instrumentation. These opening numbers are both huge, pink, fluffy and saccharine-sweet AOR anthems and are as infectious as a dose of the flu!
‘Beyond Forever’ is a properly old-school AOR mid-tempo ballad, with those classic 80s synth piano tones that those of us of a certain age remember so fondly. Like its two predecessors, it has a huge chorus that stays just the right side of sickly-sweet. It is followed up by the wonderful ‘Life Is Just A Game’ which has Boston written all over it – huge layers of powerchords and harmony guitars and vocal hooks for days. This is one of those tracks that should be in an 80s B-movie in a scene where the hero and his squeeze hurtle down the highway in an open-top Chevy in the summer sun.
‘No Surrender’ is next and you couldn’t get more 80s if you tried. Combining the sort of acoustic guitar strumming you’ll find in Poison’s ‘Every Rose Has Its Thorn’ with classic Tom Scholz styled chorus hooks and staccato powerchord riffing, it’s another of those mid-paced love songs that AOR acts scattergunned the world with back in the day. In lesser hands, this would be dull and predictable, but not here! This is a proper ‘arms in the air and scream that chorus’ track. In fact, if you don’t want to respond like that, you should probably abandon ship and go find a Thrash Metal album to listen to!
Well, we’re five songs in and this is shaping up into a belter of an album! It continues with the perfect AOR of ‘The Game Is On’ which once again plunders ‘The Great Book Of Huge Hooklines’ with another pretty epic chorus. DeCarlo and his writing team have certainly found some kind of AOR hookline motherlode here and they are mining it for all it is worth! The theme rolls effortlessly on with the atmospheric organ/synth intro to the quite stunning ‘This Road Will Lead You,’ which is more classic AOR perfection, the production effortlessly building the dynamics with skilful deployment of guitars and keys and yet another stratospherically brilliant chorus, where huge layers of backing vocals bring an almost angelic quality to proceedings.
‘In The Hands Of Fate’ drops the tempo again, with DeCarlo’s voice taking on a Dennis De Young (Styx) timbre in the verses and there are a few hints of that classic band in the structure of this bombastic harmony-laden pomp ballad.
‘Find The Love’ transports us back to Boston again as the tempo rises in a chugging guitar-led anthem. For a moment while this song played for the first time, I was reminded of the brilliant Orion The Hunter and their sole album from around 1984, and that can only be a good thing! This is followed by the very Boston-like ‘Home Again’ and by now we know exactly where we are with this album.
It is therefore no surprise that the closing two tracks continue the themes so ably maintained throughout thus far. ‘Spread Your Wings and Fly’ revisits a few Styx influences in another huge mid-paced ballad with quite ridiculously layered harmony vocals carrying the monumental chorus away on cotton-candy clouds of wimpdom before the album closes with the more uptempo ‘You And Me’.
Overall, this is very, very good album that pays a genuinely affectionate and authentic tribute to a golden era of music. DeCarlo’s years in Boston have obviously given him an outstanding knowledge and understanding of this kind of music.
My review copy does not indicate who wrote which songs or who produced the album, but hats off to all involved because it is absolutely wonderful. However, be warned: the 80s sound and style will potentially alienate some who will claim that it is dated and offering nothing new.
Well, that may be true in some ways, but so good is the execution of the writing and production that hopefully most listeners will be able to look past that and appreciate the excellence herein.
DeCarlo’s wonderful vocals are worth the price of admission alone and guitarists David Julian, Martin Jepsen Andersen and August Zadra have totally nailed the requisite tones and styles of the time, resisting the urge to throw in a lot of the ‘squiddly-diddly’ that many modern Rock and Metal players use.
So, in closing I’d say that this is the best 80s style AOR album I’ve heard in a very long time and it will be making many appearances in my in-car and in-house playlists going forward. Absolutely brilliant stuff!
Dancing In The Moonlight” Tracklisting:
- Dancing In The Moonlight
- Change Our Fate
- Beyond Forever
- Life Is Just A Game
- No Surrender
- The Game Is On
- The Road Will Lead To You
- In The Hands Of Fate
- Find The Love
- Home To You
- Spread Your Wings And Fly
- You And Me
Tommy DeCarlo – vocals
David Julian – guitars on tracks 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 9, 11, 12
Martin Jepsen Andersen – guitars on tracks 3, 7, 8, 10
Alessandro Del Vecchio – bass, keyboards, backing vocals
Nicholas Papapicco – drums
August Zadra – guitar solo on ‘Dancing In The Moonlight’