Supergroup power trios are becoming increasingly common, and to my ears these combinations are making some of the best records I'm hearing - now we have Jack Blades of Night Ranger, Doug Aldrich (ex-Whitesnake), and Journey's Deen Castronova on drums and fabulous lead vocals gathering under the aegis of Frontiers Records as the Revolution Saints. They've made a great record, but in order to take it beyond sales that will occur between now and Christmas they will have to take it to the streets.
Revolution Saints attack with extreme ferocity, I'll give them that. To a degree, this is Deen Castronova's record - mind you Aldrich, and Blades are right there with him, but after singing a few songs on Neal Schon's So U album earlier this year, he's stepped up to take on a full album as not just a great drummer, but also as an equally adept vocalist. He's good enough to sing for any melodic rock band on the planet, and here he's going for the throat.
If you dig melodic hard rock bands in the vein of Journey, and Night Ranger, but you wish they'd turn the rock up just a bit, this will be just the band and the record for you. Everyone has brought their 'A' game, the instrumentation hits as hard as the vocals, and at the end of the day we have a surefire winner.
Revolution Saints - OK, you've made a great record, now go out and play it.
|Photo by Jeff Allen @Orion's Eye|
'Back On My Trail' comes out swinging and sets the tone for the record - it's classic melodic hard rock fueled by Aldrich's supercharged guitar, Castronova's big beat drumming, and Blades throbbing undercurrent. These guys sound like they have been champing at the bit to make this record, and wherever it began, you can be assured that everyone involved bought in heavily. I love that this is Castronova's band as much as anyones, because he's playing the drums like it's his audition into heaven - listen to the details, he's playing fast, furious, and with no shortage of brilliants fills, flams, and thrills.
Doug Aldrich is another guy who sounds very comfortable in this format - after a great twelve year run as David Coverdale's right hand man, and some very cool records with Burning Rain (who are out on tour next month here in America), he's now got a band that delivers on his full promise. 'Turn Back Time' is the album's first single, and it's like it's 1980 all over again, and I mean that in the best possible way. Irresistible melodies, and hooks from now until then make this into a great mission statement, and when Aldrich goes into his solo, it's off to the races. Great harmonies, Castronova is just insane on both vocals and drums, and we have a hit on our hands.
I get it, I really do - it's great to have the guys from Journey on this record, and Arnel Pineda takes the lead vocal on 'You're Not Alone', but I'll be real honest here and say I'd prefer Castronova or Blades taking the lead. Marketing be damned - I'm hearing this practice more and more, and quite frankly, I do not dig it. It's a great track, don't get me wrong, but it sends the wrong message - maybe it increases sales, but this just didn't happen on debut albums in the golden era. And it shouldn't be happening now.
A great plucking guitar figure announces the arrival of 'Locked Out Of Paradise', and it's back to where it should all be. Where has Castronova's vocals been all these years? He's state of the art, and so is the band. I'm thrilled by the fact that I'm hearing so many moments in which these guys lock in as serious musos. I hear a lot of albums (too damned many, to be honest), and what separates this from a lot of good efforts is the fact that these guys sound like they're a band, and not just three hotshots making a one-off.
Neal Schon shows up for a go on 'Way To The Sun', and Neal is always welcome. I get his appearance. Necessary? well, no, but his presence in no way detracts - the guy gets some stick, but to my ears he's amongst our finest, and he's been on fire these last few years. This is the ballad - acoustic guitars that sound appropriately British (Yeah - Zep, The Who, and Traffic always kicked America's ass when it came to tracking wooden guitars). Sure, there's plenty of electricity on tap, and Schon's solo is appropriately melodic, stinging, fast, and yes, Journey-esque.
'Dream On' is the perfect melodic hard rock track. It's busting with energy, it's pretty, the playing is tough as nails, and it's message is uplifting and positive. A big winner.
'Don't Walk Away' is another ballad with producer Allesandro Del Vecchio playing some very familiar piano stylings, but soon enough the guitars arrive, and Castronova's huge drum fills support the soaring vocals appropriately. Aldrich sounds extremely comfortable in this format, and I think this is his finest work yet, especially on the solos - he owns his real estate on this record.
|Photo by Jeff Allen @Orion's Eye|
'Strangers To This Life' is a a mid-tempo rocker, that features some very cool start and stop rhythms and playing that keeps things from becoming to same-y. These guys have been making records for decades, and you can hear that they have been steeped in the stylings, and the great thing is that they are hitting it as if this were their first rodeo.
Jack Blades does a great job on this record, presenting himself as a selfless team player and not as the frontman of one of hard rock's longest running shows with Night Ranger. 'Better World' is a great example of this, and I would have loved to see the looks on these fellows faces when they heard the first playback of this album.
Heavy rock jumps out of the speakers on 'To Mend A Broken Heart', and it's tracks like this that has me thinking that this material would play so well onstage. Aldrich has always been a master of the heavy twist, and he's playing like he's got a definite reason to show why he may have given up such a great job as he had with Mr. Coverdale. When he and Deen Castronova go toe to toe on the solo section there are some definite fireworks.
'In The Name Of The Father' wraps things up, and it's a stately piece of melodic rock if there ever was. Castronova is equally majestic on vocals and drums, Aldrich plays a blinder of a soaring solo, and Blades is with them every step of the way. A melodic rock classic.
There you have it. Revolution Saints - a great record, and let's hope it's a great band. Take it to the streets, fellas - that's where the war will be won.