Frontiers [Release Date 25.01.19]
Best known as the man who brings Jim Peterik’s songs to life in Pride of Lions, this is Toby Hitchcock’s second solo album. His first way back in 2013 was written by the prolific Erik Martensson who guided the singer in a distinctly heavier direction, but for this release a team of current artists and Frontiers labelmates- including rising talents Marcus Nygren of State of Salazar and Mike Palace – have written and performed very much in a mainstream AOR and melodic rock style, paying homage to the influence of Survivor and other similar bands.
While playing it safe the results are extremely well executed. A stirring keyboard intro heralds an anthemic opener in ‘No Surrender’, while the arrangements on ‘Promise Me’- one of three songs by Brighton’s own Steve Newman, which bears some of his writing hallmarks, give his soaring, rich tones more space to shine.
In contrast, ‘Show Me How To Live’, written by the ubiquitous Alessandro Del Vecchio is an emotionally overwrought piano-based ballad that brings out Toby’s theatrical side and it is easy to see him singing on a reality TV show or a movie soundtrack.
The Frontiers production line is such that certain themes get recycled, and I am sure I heard the introductory riff on ‘Behind The Lies’ on last year’s Kryptonite project, but the way Toby spits out the lyrics of a strong chorus with venom compensates as does a mid-song synth solo. That though was nothing compared to the intro to ‘Fighting For My Life’ which is quite simply a classic slice of AOR.
Comparisons come thick and fast with the banked harmony vocals on ‘Queen Untouchable’ calling to mind Journey and ‘Gift of Flight’ sharing the rather overblown lyrics of Jim Peterik himself. There is perhaps a slight dip in quality later on but the smoothness of ‘Don’t Leave’, with Toby’s voice soaring above a chorus vocal and the pure AOR tones of ‘Someone Like You’ also impressed.
This is not an album for those seeking something new and adventurous but for well crafted songs delivered by one of the best voices in the business, it makes for highly enjoyable mainstream listening. **** 1/2
Review by Andy Nathan
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