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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Newman – 'Under Southern Skies' album review

Newman – Under Southern Skies album review
Released on: AOR Heaven. Release date: September 2011

For those that don't know it, this is the eigth or you could almost say ninth studio album from UK melodic rock experts Newman.
With eight full blown sudio releases and then the double album set 'Decade' that captured the 'Best of' Newman on the first disc and a second disc of almost all previously unheard of Newman songs, plus three different versions of previously released material.
Steve Newman, the mastermind behind the band of his own name, has been a fan of prime melodic rock for years and years and finally in 1998, he secured a deal with Point Music, to release the first ever Newman release, of classy material. Each subsequent album has more than proved that the material Steve Newman has written, performed on, sung, mixed, produced or co-produced, has just got better and better!

The latest album from the man that does it all or most of it anyway, ‘Under Southern Skies’ opens with ‘Killing Me,’ which kicks off with a guitar melody riff, that just seems different in its approach and many Newman fans may be a little surprised by Steve choice of opener. That said it won’t disappoint Newman fans, as it has much to grab you that you’re already familiar with. Big harmonies, hook lines, guitar / keyboard driven sound and stylish playing. It’s as strong as ever and yes, the guitar playing goes from strength to strength and the songs from Newman get better and better.
Many fans of the Newman ‘brand’ will already be familiar with how influenced Steve is by the likes of Journey, Toto, Night Ranger, Steve Vai, etc and when you hear ‘If He Loves You’ that will all become so very apparent. Just listen to the chorus on this track and the production sound that Steve has achieved here. I mean seriously, stop and listen to the full sound and all the different parts you can hear being played, I mean talk about multi track recording! I absolutely love the harmonizing guitar solo on this track too.
Steve has pulled in Shaun Bessant, from the live Newman band, to help out with the solo here.
Nice work indeed.
Other than Shaun playing on ‘If He Loves You,’ the rest of the album features the long time partnership of simply Steve Newman (Guitars, Keyboards, Bass and Vocals) and Rob McEwen on drums. As I mentioned before, Steve handles all recording aspects once more, mixing, production, mastering and does so, so well! Clever bugger! LOL!
‘Under Southern Skies’ is simply such a strong song, certainly for me Steve Newman’s strongest song in years. The track builds so well from the start and if the verse seems kind of basic, it’s solid, well presented and once more so layered with a mix that is so well balanced, it’s great.
Newman has the ability to write, produce and musically create a track that captures so many influences and style, as he does throughout this album, capturing a sound that is showing so much maturity. Class!

With next track ‘Strength to Carry On,’ it’s classic Newman power ballad like style, with Steve throwing in some of his Vai influences for sure with his soloing. Very solid ...

OK Steve, ‘Ghost in the Night’ reeks of Toto! You like that mate?! LOL!
Seriously, musically it brings to mind choruses from some of Toto’s best work and just the musical creativity overall.
It’s a mid paced piece of AOR bliss that old fans of the band will be very happy with for sure.

‘Without Warning’ starts with an almost ballad like beginning and then a rocking riff and then loads of melody as the song grows.
I think Mr. Newman has really found an almost perfect blend of keyboards with guitar, in his own style.

It’s funny you know, because if I stop to think of so much material I’ve been listening too lately, I’ve heard under produced stuff, some mixes that are just not quite there, then absolutely killer over the top production that would be hard for anyone else to come close to, but the balance in the mix and overall album production here, I really think the man has got it nailed!
There’s edginess, ballads, loads of melody, hook lines everywhere, big choruses, great playing throughout, it’s so well done.
With ‘She’s Gone’ it’s an upbeat number, but then it’s almost a ballad, but it not and it’s again so full of melody … I mean, how does he get this sound / song balance?
A question I ask myself and a question another musician recently posed to me too. Incredible!
‘Fire with Fire,’ starts with an almost Steely Dan / Toto type blend, but of course it’s pure Newman power ballad territory, with a slight almost funk sound. Kind of like something you’d hear from say another of Steve’s hero’s in Steve Lukather, smooth!
What do you want me to tell you about ‘Save No Prisoners’ …? Journey meets Toto - Yes, again! -for overall sound and song style, I would say harking back to say Steve’s ‘One Step Closer’ song style that so many enjoyed. This should once again please Newman fans. It works for me!
‘Wish You Were Here’ is a very moving song with a clever tempo, slower to mid paced and killer guitar solo, that gave me goose bumps!  Nicely done Steve!
Album closer is ‘Monserrat’ which is seriously the albums’ epic here, clocking in at over seven minutes long.
It covers so many different styles in one track and he’s seriously outdone himself here, the song is great, the guitar work, just class!
Steve Newman, how you do this sometimes simply stuns me, as I’m sure it does many others …
Yes Steve and I have a friendship that goes back many, many years … - Remember when we folded the band, because we couldn’t find a singer?! Too funny! You should’ve started doing it years back mate!
I can remember Steve playing me some early samples of his work for this album and he always wanted me to be honest, some then sounded killer, some I thought were some way off what I’d heard previously from Newman, but with this album Newman has achieved a certain greatness, really, kind of that ‘next’ step. Good job, for sure!
Those who will see this material played live at Firefest next month, you are very lucky people, enjoy!
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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