Review: John Diva and the Rockets of Love – The Big Easy

Review: John Diva and the Rockets of Love – The Big Easy

Steamhammer / SPV (March 17th, 2023)

Reviewer Jason Hopper

If you’re like me and have never heard this band’s name before, you’re probably thinking this is a parody bar band. Like me, you’d be wrong. This U.S./German rock band has made it their mission to recapture the vibe of 80s hard rock bands, releasing two well-received albums a few years ago. They continue their mission with new album ‘The Big Easy’.

After a pointless intro that I guess will serve at their audio opener at shows, the album opens with the title track, a groove-based rocker that goes for a more AOR chorus by lowering the guitar and pumping up the keys. The back-and-forth contrast between the heavy verses and lighter chorus make for an effective combo and a great opener. ‘God Made Radio’ is next and it’s a solid but unremarkable track. A competently performed yet standard riff that sounds like it would be more exciting when performed live. There’s a certain spark missing in this recording and the song does no favors when, before the guitar solo, it starts rattling off other rock songs and lyrics, rhyming them together as a tribute. Never found it to be particularly clever

While the first two tracks get the job done, the one that really perked up my ears was ‘Runaway Train’. It starts mid-tempo and then picks up the pace getting to the chorus, which kicks the song into gear with a melody that’s airy and fun to drive and sing along to. One small gripe, there’s a missing call and response that would have made the track great for a live setting. It’s an unwritten rule that every time a singer says “Hey!”, there must be a background chorus of “Heyyyyy!” that needs to directly follow it. I kept adding the “Heyyyyy!” myself with every subsequent replay.

I really enjoyed the tempo change and minor key approach to Track 4’s ‘Thunder’. The lower levels make the song sound a bit heavier and dirtier. The background vocals sprinkled throughout the song (repeating the title followed by some humming) add to the thickness. Trust me, it sounds better than I have it written here.

I won’t review every individual track, but I certainly could as they all have different things to offer. The rest of the album’s songs are all varied and great. You got the upbeat melodic sing-along ‘Believe’; the ballad ‘Hit and Run’, which surprisingly does not come off as cliché. It’s heartfelt, sorrowful, moving, and the biggest surprise on the album. ‘Boys Don’t Play With Dolls’ adds some horns to the mix of this rockin’, slightly bluesy track, which elevates the song and makes it stand out from the others. Finally, the album concludes with the percussion-based track ‘Wild at Heart’. The instrumentation is minimal, except for the drums and vocals, which drive the song. While the guitar and bass take a back seat, what they do add matters greatly and adds to the overall power. A superb way to end the album.

It seems obvious to state this band is not breaking any new ground, but this is undeniably a fun little party rock album that will put a smile on your face. The shame here is that I think this band would get more recognition with a better name. I’m being frank here when I say their name and album cover do not entice me in any way to check out their music. If it was not up for review, I would have never bothered to listen. Now that I have, I implore you not to make that mistake. There’s some wonderful 80s inspired rock to be had here and if you love the 80s like I do, you’ll want to check these songs out.

Track Listing:

  1. California Rhapsody (Intro)
  2. The Big Easy
  3. God Made Radio
  4. Runaway Train
  5. Thunder
  6. Believe
  7. Back In the Days
  8. Hit and Run
  9. Boys Don’t Play with Dolls
  10. The Limit is the Sky
  11. Capri Style
  12. Wild at Heart