Review: Hit The Ground Runnin’ – Control Yourself
Pride & Joy Music (May 19th 2023)
Reviewer: Jason Hopper
Pride & Joy Music have decided to re-release the second album from Hit The Ground Runnin’. The album was originally recorded between 1990 and 1991 before being shelved and then eventually finding distribution with Smash Records back in 2001. Feeling there was a demand over time, Pride & Joy Music updated the release with new cover art and three unreleased songs.
Never having heard the band before, one listen reveals they have an AOR sound comparable to bands like Strangeways and Aviator. Just like those bands, Hit The Ground Runnin’ should have been embraced by the masses but due to marketing issues, distribution, or bad luck just never got their shot. The opening title track shows their potential. A strong riff that gives way to an AOR-nuanced verse and chorus, intercut with a bridge that exudes power. This back and forth creates a nice, dynamic track. Second track ‘Back Again’ has a solid chugging guitar with a chorus that is dominated by a terrific keyboard melody. After the second chorus, the song takes an interesting turn by throwing in an extra bridge that leads to a guitar and drum interplay before the requisite guitar solo. I love when songs take twists like that.
Things keep rolling along with the next track ‘Shanghaid’, one of my favorites from the album. Seems every member of the band gets their moment to shine on this track and the chorus hits all the right buttons: Gang vocals, guitar pick on neck sliding, and prominent power keys. Then there’s the ballad ‘Lost’, an acoustic-based track that gives way to power chords, but once again the MVP is the keyboardist, who performs a nice mix of piano overlaced with keyboards. A true power ballad in every sense and meaning.
It’s at the very next track that I started to notice some production problems. ‘Still Life Lover’ has noticeable crackling and drops in audio that are clearly heard when listening on headphones. It’s less noticeable when listening on a car stereo. Other songs that follow it have better quality which makes one wonder why a song with such substandard quality would be placed in the middle of the album.
That leads me to the biggest critique of the album. Having never heard the original release, I take issue with this part of the press release: “The album features a wide variety of professional high-quality tracks in the Hard Rock, AOR genre”. The production is decent but there are noticeable aspects that relay to the audience they are listening to an album that was originally left unmixed. The album was shelved without being finished, leaving most of the songs sounding like a great demo. It doesn’t make the songs less great, but those expecting an improvement from the previous release are not going to find that here. The alternative versions of ‘Pain’ and ‘Back Again’ added for this release are for hard core collectors only as their production sound is far worse and, in the case of the latter track, practically unlistenable.
Those issues aside, this album was released, and now re-released, based on the strength of these songs. This band had the potential to shoot to the top and get worldwide acclaim had the album been released just a few years prior to the recording. I touched on the first five songs but other tracks like ‘Born To Be With You’ and ‘Surrounded By Fire’ are just as wonderful as the tracks that preceded them. If you have not heard this album, it’s certainly worth your time and money as long as you know what you are in for production-wise, an unfinished album that could have possibly been one of the best albums to represent the early 90s hard rock/AOR sound.
- Control Yourself
- Back Again
- Still Life Lover
- Born To Be With You
- Holding On
- Dirty Girl
- Surrounded By Fire
- Melva Devine
- Pain (Alternative Version)
- Back Again (Lead Guitar Alan Augunas)
Hi Jason! thank you for your fair and detailed review of the album… interesting enough “Still Life Lover” had a professional finished version… the tape was left unwound at the studio back in 1990/1991 and was unfortunately partially erased! this is the backup cassette (the only one in existence). Shame, but that is the only version on this release that isn’t at the same level as the others other than the bonus material! happy you like it.
Get ready for the book… long awaited that will tell the story about this release. Should by May!
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