Thursday, November 20, 2014

Rated X Album Review

It used to be artists, with few exceptions, were identified primarily for one specific band. Rarely, if ever, did they stray from that band. Occasionally, artists, for any number of reasons, would step outside to do a solo record or come together with other established musicians outside the bands for which they were known. These groups were often called supergroups due to each of the members’ high level of individual accomplishment. Today, the musical landscape has changed dramatically in this regard. It’s not uncommon for artists to be involved in two or more projects or bands at the same time. Many of these projects come and go so quickly that they never even do a live date together. No sooner does the album drop than some of the members are off to promoting the next project. This is not only a quantity issue. Quality suffers as well. These albums are commonly feel rushed and limited production-wise by tight budgets. They result is often a few gems lost within a whole lot of mediocre. Among all this confusion and dilution, there is occasionally a band that comes a long that is a reminder of an earlier time, a time when supergroup meant something. Rated X is one of those bands.

The idea for Rated X was born with Frontiers Records President, Serefino Perugino, who approached Joe Lynn Turner (Rainbow, Deep Purple, Yngwie Malmsteen) about creating a group of A-list musicians to create a top notch hard rock record. Frontiers label-mate Carmine Appice (Vanilla Fudge, Ozzy Osbourne, Blue Murder, King Kobra) was the first to come aboard, followed by fretless bassist extraordinaire, Tony Franklin (The Firm, Blue Murder, Kenny Wayne Shepherd). Turner and the reunited classic Blue Murder rhythm section, was rounded out by Joe Lynn Turner's guitarist and KISS collaborator, Karl Cochran. KISS fans know Cochran as the guy who co-wrote Into the Void with Ace Frehley for the Psycho Circus album and also served as Ace's touring bassist for a time. The sound of Rated X can be best described as what you'd get if Joe Lynn Turner were to have joined Blue Murder. Catchy melodies, huge choruses, pounding drums and killer guitar riffs. There's also plenty of opportunity for Tony Franklin to lay down plenty of tasty fretless bass melodies. Use of keyboards and more complex instrumental sections, at times, give the songs a classic Deep Purple/Rainbow feel.

Rated X track listing:

"Get Back My Crown": Strong opener. Great riff. Classic Turner sound with very Deep Purple/Rainbow keyboard solo. A tip of he hat to the great Jon Lord. Cochran shines right out of the gate.

"This Is Who I Am": One of two songs released with the pre-order. The chorus makes this song. Dare you to not be singing along before it's over. The rhythm sections, particularly Appice, drives this one.

"Fire And Ice": Franking shines on this one, The fretless bass takes the lead on the intro. Another classic Joe Lynn Turner chorus. Hook for days. Cool Zeppelin-like interlude leading to the guitar solo.

"I Don’t Cry No More": Turner's Malmsteen meets Rainbow. The solo section stands out on this one. The keyboard and guitar trade licks before kicking into a harmony solo.

"Lhasa": 7 minutes long and Blue Murder all the way. Could have been called Valley of the Kings Part II". At least it would appear intentional as "Valley of the Kings" is referenced in the first line of the song. The interlude section which features Franklin and Appice is the highlight on this one.

"Devil In Disguise": This track is just okay. Not a terrible song, but average relative to the high bar set by the rest of the record. To me nothing really stands out above the rest here. Maybe it will grow on me over time.

"You Are The Music": If there's a weak point on the record, this is it. I have high expectations for a Joe Lynn Turner ballad and this one just falls short. Musically, it's not all that bad, but lyrically it's lost on me.

"Peace Of Mind": The record starts to get back on track after somewhat lackluster offerings in tracks 6 and 7. Definitely better than "Devil In Disguise" and a hint of things to come. This track features a cool bass solo.

"Maybe Tonight": Strong mid-tempo rocker. Turner's melodic AOR rock side is on full display on this one, especially the chorus. Closest to a Turner solo track as anything on the record. Nice use of piano on the intro.

"On The Way To Paradise": Straight ahead  rocker. Great track. Main riff and extended solo/bridge section reminds of Turner's Rainbow days. Cochran drives this one.

"Our Love Is Not Over": Finally! The classic Joe Lynn Turner ballad I was hoping for with track 7. Worth the wait. Cochran channels his inner Gary Moore on this one. Get that lighter out.

"Stranger In Us All": The second song released early with the pre-order. Strong finish to the record. Franklin's fretless shines again in the solo section. Another reminder of what a monster Tony Franklin is.

For those unaware, Karl Cochran suffered a serious stroke in April, 2014. He beat the odds and is now facing a long road to recovery. Please help support Karl by checking out this record and, if you dig it, please purchase up a copy. Its available on CD and digitally from Amazon and iTunes.

Below is the video for "This is Who I Am"

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