Frontiers [Release Date 26.08.16]
No relation (sadly) to the footballing pride of South London, Palace is the eponymous project of poodle-haired Swedish singer Michael.
I remember his band Big Time showing promise when they supported Houston in London in 2014, but having cut his teeth as a writer and guitarist on several recent Frontiers releases, he is now leading his own band- although of the three bandmates pictured, only guitarist Rick Digorio contributes to the album with a few solos, with another prolific labelmate Daniel Flores supporting Michael with all instrumentation.
This is an album with a big production which pays suitable homage to the great days of the eighties when melodic rock filled arenas. It begins with a stunning opener in the title track which could easily have been the soundtrack to a blockbuster Hollywood adventure film of the time, and will go down as one of the anthems of the year. ‘Cool Running’, with a great guitar solo reminding me of John Norum in his original Europe tenure, is a bit more laid back but no less impressive, as is the moodier ‘Man Behind The Gun’.
Eighties-style keyboards add colour at every turn and the wall of sound is made even bigger by backing vocals. However Michael’s rich, booming voice stands comparison with other Coverdale-inspired Scandis – from Joey Tempest to Stefan Berggren and Matti Alfonzetti – and gives the music a bluesy edge to prevent it descending into fluffiness. The album is up-tempo though ‘Part Of Me’ is a stately semi-ballad with a great mid-song synth solo.
On the downside, on occasions the hooks sound promising but tail off (such as on the Giuffria-esque ‘No Exit’) while there is a noticeable dip in quality in the middle section of the album.
But it picks up later on with the pure AOR choruses of ‘She Said It’s Over’ and the Toto-like strains of ‘Stranger’s Eyes’. ‘Young Wild And Free’ is an uptempo closer with loads of keyboards and another it would be easy to see gracing an eighties movie, perhaps this time a teen flick starring the Brat Pack.
While a bit of an uneven album this confirms Michael Palace’s promise as a star to watch in melodic rock circles and, like his footballing namesakes, Frontiers Records could soon be left feeling ‘glad all over’. ****
Review by Andy Nathan
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