Review: Valentine – Demos From The Attic
20th Century Music (August 2021)
Reviewer: Jason Hopper
Valentine “return” with a set of demo tracks recorded after their first album in anticipation for a second album that would never materialize. Yes, I’m aware they did technically release a second album as the band Open Skyz, but this was to be the second official Valentine release. Open Skyz featured songs that were not part of these demo sessions.
First things first. Yes, these are demos and sound like demos, similar to ones that you hear from bands while searching for deep cuts on YouTube. If that type of quality is something that you don’t mind, you will find a collection that will make you scratch your head and wonder why these songs have been sitting in storage for so long. What an array of tunes!
Opening track ‘Alone Tonight’ completely blew me away! This song is as good as their best stuff off of the debut. A track so sonically pleasing that I had to immediately play it several times before I completed listening to the whole album. Other songs reminiscent of the debut include the heavy drum thumpin’ ‘Grind the Axe’, high octane rocker ‘All Night’, and melodic first single ‘Sandy’. It’s easy to see why that song was selected as the first single. It encapsulates what this band was capable of delivering, showing they had so much more to offer had they been given the opportunity.
Then there are the ballads. Although there are technically four ballads amongst the fourteen tracks, three of the four are more mid-tempo in nature. ‘Take Some Time’, ‘Never Gonna Let You Go’, and ‘The Light Shines Through’ are all good tunes, but not on par with ‘Tears In The Night’ and ‘Never Said It Was Gonna Be Easy’ off of their debut. The track that comes the closest, and the one true ballad, is ‘Calling’. An acoustic and keyboard ditty, Hugo’s vocals soar on this one and is very reminiscent of tracks off of his solo albums. The full band kicking in for an outro guitar solo adds a nice touch. A great way to end such a soulful song.
A few experimental (but not too experimental) tracks shake things up as the band was trying out different styles slightly out of their comfort zone. ‘On My Way Back Home’ is an acoustic-based country-tinged rocker. Heavily influenced by Cinderella’s ‘Coming Home’ and sounding suspiciously like Danger Danger’s ‘Comin Home’, it is nonetheless a great track. ‘I’m Still Standing’ is on the verge of being heavy metal and is hands down the heaviest song ever performed by Valentine. It doesn’t start out that way, but just wait until you get past the 30 second mark. This song is to Valentine what ‘Inside Out’ is to Warrant. Finally, there’s my favorite experimental track, second single ‘Heart of the City’. A great atmospheric rocker with some great bass work from Gerard Zappa, holding down a solid rhythm that sets the mood slightly dark and foreboding. I love the interplay between him and guitarist Adam Holland, especially on the outro as Gerard lays down the beat while Adam wails with a closing solo.
While all the songs have a demo quality to them, some tracks sound more “demo” than others. ‘This Love’ has a noticeable drop in quality and warbles occur from tape warped by age. Unfortunately, this type of low quality is just not enjoyable and will not be revisited by me, despite it being a decent track. This should have been kept off the album
There’s been some debate here in the offices of Rockposer Dot Com! about the quality of the recordings and if the sub-par recording should be held against it. My position is the band does not try to hide that these songs are truly “demos from the attic”. I’ve heard better demos, but I have heard others that to my ears are grating, screechy, and intolerable. My expectations for the sound quality were low, so that certainly helped prepare my mindset about what I expected to hear. What I didn’t expect was such great tunes! With the exception of one track, I was not bothered by the quality. A big contributor to that is the strength of these songs. As much as I love the debut, there are without a doubt some better songs on this album. The only question I have is…why were none of these used on their comeback 2008 album? While that album was decent, the material here is far superior and it’s a shame that these songs never had a chance to be reborn.