Frontiers Records [Release date 04.12.20]
Michael Palace, a man with multiple performing and writing credits to his name, is now onto the third album from his own project. 2016’s ‘Master of the Universe’ was mainstream melodic hard rock, but is follow up ‘Binary Music’ saw a surprise change of musical emphasis, lighter in feel with pop and even some dance influences added to the mix. ‘Rock and Roll Music’ sees some further stylistic shifts, though probably closer in spirit to its predecessor than to the debut.
Palace is truly a cottage industry, a solo effort in nearly everything from production to album cover and booklet design. The songs, all written or co-written by Michael, are strong; his vocals, while lacking a distinguishing characteristic, have the perfect pitch and tone for the music. And he supplies almost all the instrumentation with the exception of one guitar solo, though the downside of that is that it has a highly processed, programmed feel than can lack a bit of meat for the more heavily inclined.
With an intro where he sings ‘ she’s got the fire’ over a burst of synths, the title track is a quintessentially eighties slice of pop rock, albeit with a short but sweet guitar solo, that could have come from the pen of Huey Lewis and the News or Eddie Money.
It’s fun but throwaway, but then followed by a couple of more substantial numbers that are nothing short of outstanding- ‘Castaway’ is full of West Coast-isms that run the gamut from Toto to contemporary Unruly Child, and ‘Way Up Here’ with superb melodic hooks and a sweet solo outdoes even Houston for AOR fluffiness. The vocal arrangements on both are particularly impressive with a perfect mix of lead and backing vocals.
On ‘Cold Ones’ the eighties vibe is further enhanced by a sax break before the guitar solo, and it suffers only from being sandwiched between the above mentioned pair and ‘Eleonora’, a semi ballad with lush atmospherics and a vocal arrangement that call to mind Chicago and Starship’s hit making eighties years. It is his good fortune that his partner’s name has enough syllables to be elongated to fill the chorus perfectly.
The two rockiest numbers, which show off Michael’s guitar shredding prowess, are probably the kitsch but fun ’Hot Steel’, with its (presumably tongue in cheek) lyric ‘Hot Steel, Metal Sex Appeal’ and ‘She’s So Original’, this time the eighties feel of the chorus calling to mind ‘7 Wishes’-era Night Ranger.
They sandwich a pair in ‘My Gray Cloud’ and ‘Origin of Love’ which return more to a hi-tech style, and are less immediate though the latter boasts a lush chorus and quirky guitar solo. However for me, with the best tracks front loaded, the album does run out of steam a little and on both ‘Strictly by the Rules’ and ‘When It’s Over’ the West Coast vibes stray too close for my liking to the funk pop world of Level 42 and Go West, complete with programmed bass.
Nevertheless It’s incredible how this Lithuanian-born Swede has captured a sound so redolent of eighties California it demands to be listened to with the top rolled down cruising down a palm tree-lined boulevard.
The style of musical delivery may not be to everyone’s taste, but for me this lovingly created album suits Michael Palace really well and confirms he is something of a renaissance man among the Scandi melodic rock community. ****
Review by Andy Nathan
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Featured Albums w/c 18 October 2021 (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 TAO Prophecy (Tarot Label Media)
12:00-13:00 LEVERAGE Above The Beyond (Frontiers)
14:00-16:00 JOE TILSTON Tightrope (Our Records)
Power Plays w/c 18 October 2021 (Mon-Fri)
ABOVE SNAKES Nothing To Lose (indie)
FRANKIE AND THE WITCH FINGERS Cookin’ (Greenway Records)
LEADFINGER The Fall Of Rome (Golden Robot)
FEMEGADES Stealing Numbers (Regent Street Records)
TIGERSIDE Any Contact (indie)
INDYA Love Like Champagne (indie)
EDGE OF DESTINY Forsaken (indie)
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