Bringing together ex Survivor keyboardist and songwriter to the stars Jim Peterik with relatively young singer Toby Hitchcock, Pride of Lions are something of a Marmite band in AOR circles. Among the many – myself included- who drooled over the old school songwriting craft of their first three albums, there are a significant minority who decry them as somewhat kitsch.
Now they return after a five year break with an album that is already again dividing opinion. Toby’s own solo album, written by melodic rock’s rising star Erik Martensson, was one of the best of last year, presenting a challenge for the old master Peterik to rise to. His writing seems to be becoming more grandiose and at times more suited to Broadway musicals, but the title track has all the hallmarks of classic PoL: a big arrangement, Jim’s gravelly tones opening the song before Toby’s soaring, stratospheric voice kicks in and positive, life affirming lyrics.
However the second song in, Delusional, is a complete mess, poorly structured and with rather bizarre lyrics. It is as if the writer of Songwriting for Dummies has produced an illustration of how not to write a killer song. Indeed the first half of the album is a severe disappointment with Tie Down the Wind mundane and Shine on sounding very dated, before things belatedly pick up with the typically grandiose ballad Everything Money Can’t Buy, Toby belting out a big ballad pitched somewhere between Meatloaf and 1980’s Chicago at the top of his lungs.
The rest of the album is much more satisfying, with a mixture of rockers and ballads. Of the former, Coin of the Realm is relatively stripped back by their standards, but the standout cut is Vital Signs, which must have been in the Peterik vaults a while from the days Survivor recorded their classic album of the same name, with its massive hooks washed over with rapid fire guitar breaks.
The ballads Sending My Love and the overwrought Are You the Same Girl, and the more mid-pocket If It Doesn’t Kill Me are all excellent songs on which Toby shines, even if Jim’s Broadway tendencies give them a melodramatic feel which will divide fans over their virtues even more. But Ask Me Yesterday is an urgent rocker, closer to the style of their classic debut album, that ends the album on a more satisfying note.
In short, a cureate’s egg of an album which falls below the consistent excellence of their previous efforts. Some may find the approach dated, but those who appreciate great songwriting, delivered by a passionate voice, will still find plenty to enjoy.
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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)
Power Plays w/c 11 November (Mon-Fri)
MILES NIELSEN AND THE RUSTED HEARTS Hands Up (indie)
THE FARGO RAILROAD COMPANY Something In The Water (indie)
THE DARK ELEMENT If I Had A Heart (Frontiers)
LIBERTY LIES A Thousand People (indie)
DIRTY SHIRLEY Here Comes The King (Frontiers)
CARRY THE CROWN Runaway (indie)
Featured Albums w/c 11 November (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 WORK OF ART Exhibits (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 SIGN X Like A Fire (Pride & Joy Music)
14:00-16:00 JACK BROADBENT Moonshine Blue (Creature Records)
Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)
MAGNUM Sleepwalking (1992)
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