Album review : SKILLS – Different Worlds

Frontiers Music [release date: 13.05.22]

Skills … “Supergroups” often deflate our expectations pretty quickly. Good to to be able to say that this bunch of seasoned professionals – Brad (Night Ranger) Gillis, David (Giant) Huff, Billy (Mr Big) Sheehan plus wunderkind vocalist Renan (Electric Mob) Zonta make it work. No difficult dynamics and ego balancing here.

Different Worlds takes a safe road, straddling the centre line of melodic rock, keeping a good clear view of mid eighties American AOR in the rear view mirror.

And so, there’s nothing that singles them out as a band. A handful of songs are sturdy, competently written and well structured melodic rock, hard in some places (Stop The World, Blame It On The Night), (marginally) softer in others (Just When I Needed You, Writings On The Wall).

The rock solid rhythm section keeps it anchored, and Gillis’s just-short-of-showy guitarwork eloquently frames Zonta’s emotive vocals (Zonta has one of those singing voices … a flexible, resilient tenor that can handle most styles of Rock and Metal, but he’s inclined to over emote at times).

A few songs stand head and shoulders above the rest. ‘Escape Machine’, a song plucked from an imaginary Survivor/Journey back catalogue, is brightly illuminated by Gillis’s fills, frills and bluesy arpeggios.

At first, ‘Losing The Track’ seems like a tired old chestbeating protest song … “why do we walk alone…” etc etc. But there are some cool ideas running through its inventive arrangement – the melancholy piano sketches, and a fluctuating keyboard riff behind the vocals … sounding almost cello like – are innovative touches. But it all gets drowned in guitars and drums eventually.

After a sweet if brief acoustic intro to album standout, ‘Show Me The Way’, the guitars crank up into electric action, creating a familiar AOR sense of anticipation in the verse, as the fuse burns down to the chorus.
And while that chorus isn’t as explosive as you might hope, it lights up the sky for a few, fleeting moments. ***

Review by Brian McGowan

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