AOR Heaven [Release date 02.12.13]
Having reviewed – somewhat disparingly I know (A slamming of Slama?) – Frederic Slama’s last offering (LA Temptation) and those of his protégées Chasing Violets – could this latest album redeem the “veteran” LA-based French-born producer? In a word, not really.
Anyone who has listened to those previous offerings will detect that Slama’s songwriting is highly derivative – of his own music. When you graft on work-a-day, homogenous guitar solos from chief collaborator Tommy Denander there really isn’t much to commend. And what the hell is Robin Beck doing here?
Throughout this album I am reminded of ‘Chasing Violets’ – a wonderful vision maybe, but vocally bereft – all the same hooks are present and correct here. And all the same songs as well. Why does Slama persist in using songs that he’s given to the French girls? Well perhaps it’s because they are sung better by other people. You’ll find duplicates of ‘The Main Attraction’, ‘Web Of Lies’, ‘Secrets In The Shadows’ and ‘Voices In The Wind’.
Don’t get me started on the re-purposing of the Chasing Violets backing tracks. This is AOR Karaoke on a semi-industrial scale. And when those tracks aren’t being recycled the overall mixing is revealing, the vocal and instrumentation frequently sounds disjointed.
With the use of different vocalists (including Goran Edman and Jeff Scott Soto) this could be – in theory – a benchmark album for the state of the genre in 2013. It might be that still, but for all the wrong reasons.
But what the album reveals is a sheer redundancy of ideas and a predictable songwriting pattern. If you like Slama’s style and template you will like this album but even when compared to the almost production line nature of AOR/melodic rock in general these days it doesn’t stack up.
I am probably missing the point completely but shouldn’t artists be pushing the AOR boundaries rather than merely recreating a golden age of late-1980s, early 1990s? Of course if you can’t get enough of that era, Slama and his crew will tick all your boxes.
Much is made that this is a ‘harder’ album than previously. Well, er, no. It’s just more of the same. And it’s definitely not up there with the likes of Foreigner, Journey or even Giant, to which the fawning press release refers.
Can I hark back to a really good melodic rock project put together by Schenker-collaborator Michael Voss – ‘Voices Of Rock’ (available as two separate volumes) – which also used different vocalists, including Edman and Beck? The main difference is a variety (and quality) in the songwriting, an urgency and dare I say passion, and better production values. Seek it out.
Slama’s projects always sound like they are a complete pastiche, almost cabaret, a sort of sanitized version of the AOR genre for the modern X-Factor addled generation. Slama and his protégées will no doubt be the toast of HRH AOR next March. **1/2
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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