Review: Rob Moratti – Renaissance

AOR Heaven (21 June 2019)

Reviewer: David Pearce

Rob Moratti has been lead singer for Saga and the Final Frontier and has been a favourite of Japanese music lovers in particular.

His new album ‘Renaissance‘ sees Moratti going solo and this proves to be a good move as he starts with the West Coast sound of ‘You Are The One‘. While the guitars are crunching away Moratti’s voice sails above them with ease channelling diverse styles and sounding like a mix between the Eagles and Joe Elliott of Def Leppard. He has a truly superb range and makes this opener a real convertible with the top down driving track!

Let Me Be The One‘ starts with an 80s synth before settling in to a smooth rock ballad that just oozes class. ‘Best of Me‘ sounds like classic REO Speedwagon and builds a gorgeous wall of sound featuring Moratti’s amazing vocals and a beautiful piano led tune.

Lift You Up‘ is another driving song that features a really strong chorus that sets off the verses very well.  ‘Hold on to Love‘ has a hint of the classic 80s group Huey Lewis and the News in the music and becomes a track that the listener can sing along to very quickly.

I Let You In‘ like ‘Let Me Be the One’ sounds like a bona fide rock classic pretty much straight away. ‘It’s Time to Let Go‘ has another great piano backing that reminds me of the best of Bruce Hornsby and the Range.

Mandy Come Home‘ starts with the most understated introduction on the album before moving into Europe territory with driving guitars and a Joey Tempest style vocal. ‘I Don’t Want to Wait Forever‘ sounds like the best of Paul Carrack and the tune has more than a hint of Silent Running in the verses. It is definitely my favourite track on the album and really should get some serious airplay.

The final track on this uniformly excellent album is ‘It Hurts to be in Love‘ which once again strolls confidently into Europe’s catalogue and is not found wanting in any way.

This is the album of a singer with a great voice, great range and great confidence. With the help of an experienced, versatile and incredibly talented set of musicians Rob Moratti has crafted a classic set of songs that demand to be listened to.

Review: Hollowstar – Hollowstar

Hollowstar (May 3rd 2019)

Reviewer: David Pearce

Hollowstar’s self-titled debut album explodes out of the speakers with the driving guitars of ‘Take It All’, which sets out their stall as the next wave in UK heavy rock.

By using the two lead guitars of Phil Haines and Tom Collett, they hit the listener with a wall of noise that reminds me of the early 80s pioneers of the dual lead guitar sound Judas Priest. The drums of Jack Bonson are integral to supporting the sound in the same way as Rick Allen of Def Leppard does a lot of the heavy lifting in their songs.

Finally we get to Joe Bonson’s towering vocals. He has a set of pipes very similar to Neville MacDonald of the short lived, but brilliant 90s band Skin. He is able to handle the whole range of a heavy rock singer’s art with seeming ease.

Let You Down‘ is a classic rock track that doesn’t just slavishly copy the genre but brings something new to it and serves notice that these guys can really invigorate the sound and bring it to a new audience. ‘Invincible‘ sees Jack Bonson delivering smooth vocals that demonstrate how easily he can hold the listener in the palm of his hands.

Live performances from Hollowstar are going to be a real event as they move on to bigger and bigger venues. ‘Think of Me‘ is a heavy rock love song in which the lyrics are genuinely heartfelt and all the more impactful for being unexpected. ‘Money‘ starts with an expert guitar riff that sees it act as percussion just as much as it acts as the basis for the tune. It is a bravura piece of playing that shows the sheer talent of the band.

All I Gotta Say‘ is a song about a bad end to a relationship that strikes a note of defiance that will no doubt resonate with many a listener! When you listen to this album the second or third time really focus on the lyrics because Hollowstar take as much time on them as they do on the music, which is by no means universal.

Good Man Gone‘ is another great example of the tightness of the band where all four components just blend together to create rock alchemy. Overrated is definitely something they are not, but Hollowstar have fun with the title and the song will probably become a live favourite with the refrain ‘I know I’ve got the mind of a warrior‘ just asking for a full throated singalong.

Down by the Water‘ is a track that has a hint of Paradise City in the guitar riff and it’s so good that Slash himself would probably be quite happy with the comparison. This incredibly good debut album finishes with ‘Sinner‘, an Aerosmith style full on rocker that leaves you wanting more as every final track should.

Make no mistake there’s real substance to Hollowstar!

Review: Nitrate – Open Wide

AOR Heaven (June 21st 2019)

Reviewer: David Pearce

Nitrate are a five piece rock band who hark back to the days of Def Leppard and Bon Jovi, two groups who still fill stadiums more than 30 years on from their breakthrough albums. There is always room for new bands to update the sound of 80s rock particularly when they are as good as Nitrate.

The new album ‘Open Wide‘ starts with the Bon Jovi style track ‘You Want It, You Got It‘ featuring Philip Lindstrand’s vocals which demonstrate a great range and style together with the lead guitar of Marcus Thurston.

Night Time City‘ demonstrates the smoother side of Lindstrand’s vocals backed by Nick Hogg’s excellent bass work and Pete Newdeck on drums as the song builds into an anthemic Europe style belter. ‘Only a Heartache Away‘ is the kind of rock ballad that Nitrate proved so adept at on their debut album with Def Leppard style lyrics and Rob Wylde’s excellent keyboard work providing a solid base for LIndstrand as he turns in another polished performance.

The driving guitars of ‘Heart Go Wild‘ put me in mind of Judas Priest as Nitrate go into heavier territory to great effect. It will definitely be a live favourite whenever it is played. ‘I Don’t Want To Live‘ is a no frills rock track with a great guitar solo.

Never Surrender‘ has an anthemic chorus that will be sung back to Nitrate by the crowd at every concert. ‘Heartbreak Suicide‘ shows the tightness of the group as each instrument complements the others creating a layer of sound that gives Lindstrand’s vocals a solid base. Musically, it is my favourite track on the album as it’s sound is so brilliantly put together.

In the Night‘ is another gorgeous ballad with a brilliant vocal performance that puts me in mind of the superb Joey Tempest. ‘Bad Girls‘ has a Whitesnake vibe to it from the title and lyrics to the guitar work and it’s a good fun track that will be another live favourite.

Shot In The Dark‘ is a song with Thurston’s great guitar work and Newdeck’s drums once more to the fore as they drive the song along. The final track ‘Waiting On You‘ ends the album on a high quality song that seems to draw together a number of their influences to great effect. Along with ‘Heartbreak Suicide‘ it is arguably the best encapsulation of the Nitrate sound and finishes a strong set of 11 tracks with real style.

Although Nitrate have not strayed beyond the template of their excellent first album, they have developed their sound, and proved beyond doubt that they are the rightful inheritors of the 80s rock mantle.