Review: Michael Riesenbeck – II

folder

Michael Riesenbeck – II

(December 2014)

Reviewer: Peter Scallan

One of the more enjoyable aspects of being a part-time music journalist is getting exposed to artists that would otherwise pass you by. In all honesty I had never heard of Michael Riesenbeck, but subsequently found out that he is a Dutch guitarist and has been about for quite some time. The album is a collection of songs featuring various singers most of whom I have also never heard of, except for Tony Mills of Shy, which also peaked my interest. So, down to business!

First up is School Daze which kicks in with a Bad Company style opening before turning into an 80’s style AOR song a la 80s Kansas, especially the lead vocals from Rick Rici, although the chorus is more bluesy. Cold Is The Night follows and continues in the 80s AOR vein and the Kansas comparison with lead vocals provided by Danny Danzi. The song chugs along nicely but there is a rather manic breakdown with drums and keyboards in the middle. Next up is Road to Nowhere which is driven by a slightly funky bass and drum pattern and another vocalist in the shape of Bryan Woolley. The song is very reminiscent of Pat Travers 80s input circa Crash and Burn/Radioactive, especially the phased guitar sound. However, there is a ‘rap’ style breakdown, which for me just doesn’t work. Groove Machine is the first of two instrumentals which also very reminiscent of Pat Travers as above. It is a pretty decent instrumental but unlike the title, it doesn’t really groove! Rick Rici returns for Lost In You which opens with the chorus and a great hookline. The 80s guitar and keyboards sounds just reinforce the AOR feeling, although some of the breakdowns hint at more progressive leanings. Tony Mills takes over the vocal duties for the piano-driven ballad Passions, which for me is the highlight of the album. It also has a nice acoustic guitar solo. Mills also gets to show how effective he can be in the lower ranges.

Selena introduces another vocalist, namely Phil Vincent. This song for me only works in parts with the chorus hook line being strong as is the middle eight, but the rest kind of lets the song down a little. Vocal duties change again as Serge Naberman takes over on another Kansas-like song in terms of the structure, keyboards and vocals called Walk Away. The song really bounces along with some jazzy progressions and a change of pace for the chorus. Rough Edges is next and is a pacey poppy rocker opening and could be from a 70s Journey album with Franky Dee sounding a little Steve Perry in places. Jostling for position as my favourite song on the album with passion, is Truly Blue. This is a slow burning melodic blues number with superb soulful vocals from Marco van der Aar and builds nicely through the song. Wandering Spirit is the other instrumental lasting over six minutes. I am not a great fan of instrumentals unless there are short and snappy or really dynamic and this is neither for me. The Show is the final song and is pacey stomper with Phil Vincent returning for vocal duties. The song fairly motors and has a catchy chorus which I don’t think is featured enough. The song also has some nice changes and accents, and although the end is a little too long, it brings the album to a suitable close.

I didn’t know quite what to expect from this album as the cover art looks a little home-spun, but I was pleasantly surprised. While the sound in places is a little dry, and the songs themselves are a little bit eclectic, I really enjoyed the album. If you like 70s/80s AOR then this is well worth a spin or two!