Frontiers Records (Release date 05.11.21)
Jim Peterik’s World Stage project, whether live or in the studio, is characterised by the Survivor founder using the widest array of musical chums to sing his songs. ‘Tigress’ (what is it with his obsession with big cat monikers?) sees him take the concept a step further as all the guest vocalists are women, though with a couple of exceptions they are lesser known or established than the likes of Dennis De Young, Kevin Cronin and Danny Vaughn who have graced previous releases.
Indeed alongside some of the Chicago area musicians that pop up on all his albums, a number of women instrumentalists also play, of which the most famous is former Michael Jackson guitarist Jennifer Batten.
Unfortunately the title track and album opener is a real clunker: the vocals, from Kate French are strained, the use of strings doesn’t really work and the production seems off. ‘Prom Night in Pontiac’ is significantly better with a lot of classic boy-meets-girl heartland American imagery, albeit some of it borrowed from Meatloaf and Bruce Springsteen, and an impressive vocal delivery from Chloe Lowery.
Wales’ own Chez Kane is another of the rising stars to have come to his attention and her ‘A Capella’ features a trademark fine solo from Mike Aquino whose style is instantly recognisable on the few songs he features on.
However the songs are of uneven quality- ‘Living for the Moment’ is undermined by its production and had little to commend it other than a very smart ending, while on ‘Strong Against the Wind’ Kate French again rather lets the side down, though ‘Against the Grain’ shows off the trademark Peterik writing style, a stirring message being delivered above a piano-led melody with the Grace Slick-esque tones of Rosa Larrichiuta adding a bit of variety.
‘Full Moon Crazy’– one of four songs featuring long time collaborator and current Jefferson Starship singer Cathy Richardson- is the type of up tempo song with a southern theme he has written for Lynyrd Skynyrd or 38 Special, while ‘Lazarus Heart’ features one of the biggest names in Janet Gardner and stands comparison with some of the ballads on the first two Vixen albums.
‘Taller’- a grower this – and ‘Dear Life’ have the pleasantly bland feel of country/pop American Idol hopefuls, while as the album wears on there is a preponderance of show-type tunes- ‘Walk Like Royalty’, ‘Brave is Beautiful’ and ‘Best in Us’ – the latter a duet, with historical references ranging from Covid to Ronald Reagan’s famous ‘Mr Gorbachev tear down this wall’ speech.
So it is a relief to hear a couple of cracking, rockier numbers back to back late on- ‘Music in the Aire (sic)’, where for a second time Chloe Lowery sounds remarkably like Melissa Etheridge, and ‘Sin to Believe a Lie’ -with Cathy Richardson, while ‘Stronger at the Broken Places’ has singer Marine Lecoste adding variety with Hammond organ.
The use of multiple vocalists only really tends to work on an album when there is a common concept or theme to the songs, which this really lacks, and as a result its cohesion suffers. In addition at nearly an hour and a quarter in length it gets a bit samey after a while as the women don’t quite seem to have the same variety of tone, range and character as his male collaborators.
They may not be his strongest set of songs but there is as always much to admire (and occasionally to cringe) in his classic song writing style. But though a worthwhile idea, the execution does not match the ambition. *** 3/4
Review by Andy Nathan
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