Review: Hartmann – 15 Pearls And Gems
Pride & Joy Music (April 17th 2020)
Reviewer: David Pearce
Hartmann are a band formed 15 years ago by Oliver Hartmann, a leading light in the German rock scene. As well as Hartmann, he has been the singer for rock band Avantasia and lead singer for Echoes, a Pink Floyd tribute band.
To celebrate their 15th anniversary, Hartmann , consisting of Oliver himself on vocals and guitar, guitarist Mario Reck, bass player Armin Donderer and drummer Markus Kullmann have released ‘15 Pearls and Gems‘. The first five tracks were written for the album, the next five are cover versions and the final five are live versions of favourite songs from their career.
‘Can’t Stop this Train‘ opens on a Quo style double guitar riff and draws the listener in immediately. Hartmann’s quality as a rock vocalist is clear immediately, with a deep, powerful voice that sails along on a sea of guitars instead of trying to battle through them. ‘Walking on a Thin Line‘ is a song with more than a hint of the Scorpions in places and a vocal that once again shows the quality of Hartmann’s growling bass and his mastery of a lead vocalist’s job.
‘How does it Feel?‘ is a simply gorgeous power ballad that will no doubt be accompanied by the lights from thousands of phones at any concert. ‘You Will Make It‘ heads into heavier rock territory with a Def Leppard style driving guitar and percussion that pushes the song along throughout. ‘Glow‘, the final original track, starts with a Bon Jovi style guitar riff that sets up a hair metal chorus that any of the original groups would have been proud of.
The five covers start with ‘When the Rain Begins to Fall‘, an 80’s track that achieved classic status in Germany, that features Ina Morgan from Hartmann’s other group Avantasia. Their duet is fantastic with their voices blending perfectly together and, although it is probably unfamiliar to most non German rock fans, it is clear why this Europe style song became so popular.
‘Street Café‘ is a song originally performed by Icehouse, and it allows Hartmann to show off their incredibly tight playing style as all four musicians hit their straps at the same time. It is a great track to listen to, and one of my favourites on the album. Next up is ‘I Go to Extremes‘ from Billy Joel’s Storm Front album. I love Billy Joel, I love the track and I love the cover which ramps up the volume and does it justice from the first note. It’s fantastic!
‘Uninvited‘ is a very unexpected choice for a cover as the original was by Alanis Morissette. In the event Hartmann makes it his own. It’s a very clever choice as it doesn’t invite comparison with the original and the second line ‘I am flattered by your fascination with me’ subtly flags up the approach that this quintet of songs is taking. ‘Fire and Water‘ goes back 50 years, believe it or not, for the final cover with a song originally recorded by Free, most famous in the UK for the song All Right Now. It completes an absolutely superb set of songs that see Hartmann add something to every one they tackle.
Finally, the five live tracks, all recorded at Colossaal Aschaffenburg start with ‘The Sun’s Still Rising‘. It is an 80’s style soft rock track that benefits from great guitar work and demonstrates how good Hartmann’s voice is live. What if I is a really good live track that gives the new listener a clear idea of why they have been so popular for so long. ‘Don’t Give up your Dream‘ is a call to arms for any group especially during the tough times, which musicians all over the world would no doubt echo at the moment. It’s my favourite of the live versions, beautifully written and played with real conviction.
‘Brothers‘ covers similar territory, lyrically to the similarly titled Brothers in Arms by Dire Straits and has a vocal of real sincerity and power that just makes the song fly. The final track ‘Out in the Cold‘ concludes a really superb album that is, as the title promised, ‘15 Pearls and Gems‘.
I have never come across Hartmann before, but now that I have I just want to find out what I have been missing.