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Friday, September 10, 2010

First Signal (Feat. Harry Hess) album review

First Signal (Feat. Harry Hess) – Debut album
Released on: Frontiers records. Release Date: August 2010

I was really a late starter on learning to appreciate Canadian act Harem Scarem’s music, for whatever reason – Which still evades me today?! – and yet I really enjoy what I’ve grown to know of it today.

I know the band went through some different phases from being a hook laden classic melodic rocking act, to a few releases that took slight left turns to perhaps throw a few fans off.
In 2006 the band released 'Human Nature' and announced that the tour in support of it would be their last but still promised one more studio album, which came in the shape of the slightly darker album ‘Hope’ in 2008. Will they reunite, who knows?

Anyway, this is their lead vocalist Harry Hess’ side project so let’s move swiftly on here!

Opening with the excellent ‘This City’, Harry Hess and First Signal are going for the proverbial jugular!
What a great catchy, hook laden track. It’s punchy, melodic, not too poppy, but certainly not soft and it really does have it all!
Michael Klein’s guitars are great; with of course class vocals from the former Harem Scarem frontman.

‘When You Believe’ next it follows the exact same path, perhaps a tad less punchy but not by a lot, I mean … Wow!
This album is a Frontiers records project’ release though it seems, with – it seems - no input on the song writing from Mr. Hess whatsoever, although the plan I understand, was for Harry Hess and – Favored Frontiers - producer Dennis Ward (Pink Cream 69) to try and recreate the classic Harem Scarem sound of their early albums.
It really is an album that should appeal to fans of let’s say (IMHO), Journey, Toto, Heart, Def Leppard with a modern sounding edge and really anyone who appreciates classy melodic rock.
Various songwriters were brought in to help and it seems to have really worked well.

In ‘Part of Me’ – Incidentally co-written by Richard Marx - it starts a little funky and with an initial vocal that almost brings to mind, Pretty Maids ‘Little Drops of Heaven’ - In it's phrasing - but then it grows into following the same path of the previous two tracks. It has some nice changes in it too. Class!

Incredibly smooth is possibly a good description of next track, the power ballad ‘(Miss you like) Crazy’ which conjures up perhaps Journey meets Chicago type quality.
One thing I will stress though is that Harry Hess is not trying to be Steve Perry, if you’re thinking that where my Journey comparisons lie, far from it. It’s the musical quality I’m talking about and the soaring guitar sounds.
‘Crazy’ really is a sweet – as in cool! – track that should please AOR fans anywhere.

‘Goodbye to the Good Times’ has a slightly funkier verse, before the bridge changes all of that and then the chorus takes the song to yet another level. Hess applies a more gravelly almost blues type vocal in places, but overall a tasty mid paced number.
Again, some very slick guitar lead work from Michael Klein in the solo.

Title track ‘First Signal’ is next, which while still being in the same class as the aforementioned tracks, perhaps lacks just a few of the hooks already heard on the previous five tracks. The chorus is still catchy enough and the musicianship throughout continues. So, on that note how about a little credit to the other players onboard here then?!

AOR gypsy, Eric Ragno – Well, his name seems to be popping up all over the place these days! - provides the slick keyboards on display here. Producer Dennis Ward also provides bass, additional guitar work and backing vocals too, so he proves he’s pretty special too! Chris Schmidt handles the solid drum work throughout and former Harem Scarum mate of Harry’s, Darren Smith provides some much appreciated backing vocals here too.

‘Feels like Love This Time,’ – Co-written by Mark Baker with James Christian (House of Lords) - sounds a little like something Jeff Paris could’ve written and the song rises and takes a few steps back in places throughout. Yes, yet another great track!

I really love ‘Into the Night’ and it almost brings the bands Dare or even Honeymoon Suite to mind here and there. Yeah, it’s kind of a pop rocker with a steady mid pace.

‘When November Falls’ sounds a little like a Richard Marx track and yes, it’s his co-write too and it’s a slow to mid paced number. Smooth.

A little edgier and punchy is next track ‘Yesterday’s Rain,’ with it’s punchy chord structure through the verses and a big chorus. Michael Klein impresses again! We should be hearing more of this guy, his playing is excellent!
Album closer is the chug along, pop rocker ‘Naked Desire’ and Harry almost gives a vocal along the lines of Paul Stanley in his phrasing and I mean no disrespect there either.

I really enjoy this album and I pop this little beauty in the player on and off a number of times, you really should check it out!

Rating: 4 out of 5

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