Frontiers Records (Release date 15.07.22)
Swedish man of many talents Michael Palace is back with his latest recreation of vintage AOR. Like its predecessor ‘Rock and Roll Radio’ 18 months ago he sings and plays all instruments himself, writes and produces everything and his reach even extends to the cover art.
It’s the music that matters though, and on opener ’Fifteen Minutes’ his more than respectable vocals remind me, especially on the verses, of Rick Springfield Michael Morales and Stage Dolls. The chorus is superb while the guitar solo shows a neat change of tempo.
‘Westbound’ is even better, its chorus ‘heading westbound, sunshine all year round’ (hey, a Scandinavian can only dream!) conjuring up images of blazing down the open highway with the top rolled down. Its also very guitar-driven, from the opening melody lines guitar to the Neal Schon-like soloing over the choruses in the closing stage.
Repeat listening brings a recurring comparison- to Night Ranger in their most commercial mid-eighties ‘7 Wishes’ period. particularly on ‘Too Old for This’, ‘Time Crisis’ and ‘World Gone Mad’, the latter showing off his love of guitar arpeggios. On ‘Money Can Kill’ the slashing guitar chords accentuate the impact of the chorus, somewhat similar to Airrace’s ‘Didnt Wanna Lose Ya’ while ‘The Driver’ drops the pace somewhat.
My favourite tracks include ‘Facing the Music’ with a classic keyboard intro and gritty Jamison- esque vocal delivery straight out of the Jim Peterik/Survivor playbook, which he successfully mined jointly with Kent Hilli on the latter’s solo album last year; and ‘Live the Life’ with its Springfield-esque staccato intro and vocals that remind me of The Outfield and Harem Scarem, especially the way they become bigger on the chorus.
What’s not to like? Well the instruments inevitably feel somewhat processed, while a little more variety would not have gone amiss. There’s also a slight dip in quality with the last two songs: ‘Cancel the Flight’, a touch muddled both in arrangement and lyrics though rescued by another excellent guitar solo, and ‘Loneliest Night’, which dips its toe in more contemporary pop arrangements.
After some shifts in style – melodic hard rock on the ‘Master of the Universe’ debut and flirting with a dance-oriented sound on its follow up ‘Binary Music’, Michael Palace seems to have settled on his forte- classic, sun kissed up tempo eighties AOR. It may be a pastiche but the delivery is executed with love and skill and will delight those of us who cut our teeth on that style of music. ****
Review by Andy Nathan
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