Frontiers [Release Date 14.09.18]

While FM have come back better and more consistently diverse than ever, notably with this year’s ‘Atomic Generation’, many of the AOR purists among their fanbase still hanker for a repeat of their 1986 debut ‘Indiscreet’.

Incomparable vocalist Steve Overland, who keeps up a punishing schedule of projects both within and outside the band, has done his best to oblige with this new collaboration with Robert Sall, guitarist and songwriter with Work of Art and a member of W.E.T. So it is also something to keep fans of WOA’s lush, Toto-inspired sounds occupied ahead of the band returning from a lengthy period on ice with a promised fourth album.

In fact under half the songs are Overland/Sall collaborations with the Englishman teaming for the rest with, you guessed it, producer,supplier of the album’s prominent keyboards and Frontiers Records prolific go-to man Alessandro Del Vecchio. However the album stands together cohesively as a whole.

The chosen moniker for the project is hardly appropriate as rather than breaking new ground, the album’s vibe is a backward looking one, albeit with some more modern recording techniques. As ‘Over My Shoulder’ opens with a keyboard intro giving way to a smooth guitar melody from Robert and those honeyed tones kick in, in my mind I was back in 1985.

‘Will It Make You Love Me’ has something of a tougher riff and is a little more guitar driven, while ‘18 Till I Die’ is a marvellously up-tempo romp with wistful nostalgia and keyboards straight from ‘American Girls’,  spoiled only by the fact that Bryan Adams got there first with the metaphor of the chorus. Indeed the lyrics are a relative weak point with the chorus of the otherwise excellent ‘Only Time Will Tell’ limply rhyming with ‘wishing well’.

Whether the ballads – ‘Tonight’, or the heartfelt choruses of ‘Something Worth Fighting For ’ or more up-tempo songs like ‘Standing Up For Love’ with its rousing chorus, ‘The Sound Of A Broken Heart’  with one hook after another, and the bubbly ‘Days Of Our Lives’, all are lifted to the spectacular by the emotion Britain’s greatest ever AOR vocalist brings to them.

‘The First Time’ is naggingly familiar, as if an early FM B side, while the debut Airrace album was another reference point that sprang to mind.

In putting the voice and lead instruments front and centre, something of a band feel is lost at times in a generic production. This is ironic given the one debit against ‘Indiscreet’ was always its tinny production, leading to the current FM eventually re-recording it.

That quibble aside, this album certainly succeeded in its mission and the ‘pink and fluffy brigade’, of whom I count myself a card-carrying member, will need some extra strong pants.  ****

Review by Andy Nathan

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