There’s no doubt that AOR has been enjoying a revival in recent years, epitomised perhaps by the revival of the band FM, a dedicated UK-based print magazine, and a forthcoming UK festival. And of course Firefest goes from strength to strength.
AOR has also been a much maligned genre over the years. Once we get over pointing at slightly unusual haircuts, the music – when forensically examined – is frequently cheesy and uninventive.
But I would add another ‘gripe’. There seems now to be a production line mentality to a lot of AOR: in the main, the bands don’t really exist except in the studio and the music revolves around a hardcore of known ‘sessioners’. One can’t help thinking that many of these albums are vanity projects, either for the artist or for the label. Who actually buys these things?
Which brings us to Frederic Slama and ‘LA Temptation’ where he has assembled a cast of AOR’s finest including Michael Landau, Paul Shortino and Bruce Gaitsch. Slama has made something of a name for himself since circa 2000 chiefly for assembling groups of session players. And Tommy Denander is getting as conspicuous now on these albums as a barcode.
It’s a shame though that having written and produced the French duo Chasing Violets’ album (reviewed here) Slama pinches seven of those songs for his own use. And more than that, in most cases he’s re-used the backing tracks. This is almost AOR Karaoke.
It does allow us at least to contrast and compare the opening two songs. Whilst Philip Bardowell arguably makes a decent fist of ‘No Margin For Error’ Goran Edman sounds surprisingly out of sorts on ‘Above Suspicion’. It’s dix points for the French ladies then.
But, before you ask, the rest of the album represents the worst aspects of session lording and cheesy songwriting. It takes a good vocalist to rescue an average tune and the likes of Chris Ousey (From LA To Paris), James Christian (A Heartbeat Away) do a sterling job. Although as a song ‘A Heartbeat Away’ is all over the place. Paul Sabu instils a bit more darkness with ‘Out On The Streets’ but by then, it’s all beyond redemption.
Have I missed something? Is this - the collaborative, fully interchangeable album - the way forward for AOR? Thank God we have the likes of Serpentine, Reckless Love, Vega…and FM. Half a star has been docked for re-using backing tracks and undermining a previously released album by nice-looking French ladies.
Review by David Randall
David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.
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