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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Mecca – Undeniable album review

Mecca – 'Undeniable' album review
Released on: Frontiers records. Release date: Available now

This is a funny one, as this album was actually made available over in Europe around the middle of last year, yet was not released here in the US until just last month, weird?

Led by the masterful lead vocals of Joe Vana, the second Mecca album ‘Undeniable’ is exactly that, undeniably good, certainly for the most part. Excellent in places, different in one spot and  …, well you read it for yourself!

Joe on the first Mecca album in 2002 had pulled in some strong players from the world of AOR with the likes of former Toto player’s in silky smooth vocalist Fergie Frederiksen and David Hungate (Bass) former Survivor founder and friend, Jim Peterik (World Stage, Pride of Lions) to create a very special record.

Come forward ten years and finally a new Mecca release is upon us! I say finally, because apparently this album’s beginnings kicked off around 2005, when vocalist Joe called upon Swedish guitarist by the name of Christian Wolff to help Joe write new material before he then called upon another Swede, in much travelled player Tommy Denander to help as well.

The result is clearly a very classy album, but …. I am still mystified by a certain something and that is, in the press release for this, the Mecca ‘band’ was identified with another six players alongside Joe.
That’s not what’s confusing … What is, is the list of players that apparently are on here too!

  The Mecca band alongside Joe is apparently: Joey Vana (Guitars – Joe’s son), Brian Moritz (Keyboards), Paul Pisciotto (Synthesizers), Wally Hustin (Bass), Rick Vitek (Drums) and Mark Alano (Guitars).

Add to that other players listed in the press release Tony Levin (Bass), Pat Mastellotto (Drums) and Eric Ragno (Keyboards) alongside both the aforementioned Wolffe and Denander, so a complete mass of musical talent.

Sadly, with most review albums these days, they come as a download with no sleeve notes, so it’s anyones guess who plays where and on what??!

The opening track ‘Perfect World’ is so like Toto / Steve Lukather it’s uncanny, it is just so …um, perfect! Lush layering of classy musical interludes, this is pure class …, even if the phrasing in the chorus throws me, ‘In a Perfected World …’ Per-fect-ed World???
Killer guitar solo by the way.

Another sampling sound opens track two ‘Closing Time’ that reeks of prime time Mr. Mister meets Toto which is prime time slick pop rock, brilliant vocals from Joe, which continues with the poppy AOR come power ballad majestic ‘Ten Lifetimes.’
So rich a sound overall and once more, sweet guitar work, right out of the Steve Lukather guitarists manual!

‘Life’s Too Short’ starts in very funky manner and then … No, not rap?!!! Why?!!?
A sub-rap vocal kicks in briefly, then's into the main songline. Fortunately the rap line is pretty brief before the melodies kick in and then …, not again …??!
Yes, there’s more … Don’t like it at all.
Shame, real shame as the rest of the song is perfectly executed.

Oh dear, I was enjoying the intro to ‘I Know,’ then I realized as the verse got going it reminded me of something – Tell me you don’t think it sounds like Time of My Life by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes? I think it certainly has elements of 'that' tune there for sure! – fortunately the chorus takes it in a different direction, but then the verse reeks of it again, even with Joe's uplifting vocals.
It does then take a classy Toto like direction, which is pure magic. Nice playing guys!

‘Did It For Love’ is the albums clear big old AOR power ballad and a fine example it is too.

Once more the Toto sound is more than present in ‘From The Start,’ although Joe almost hits Sting like phrasings in places.
Nice track that then captures some of those staggering type rock moments, that Mr. Mister seemed to enjoy.

‘Deceptive Cadence’ up next brings something different, with its piano, bass and string driven sound, that then picks up towards the end with a musical diversion. Interesting track.

A pretty basic hard rocking guitar riff drives ‘W2W’ next, clearly avoiding the softly, softly touch here, as the guitar rips up a class solo in the brief rocker.

  Album title track ‘Undeniable’ is a twisting and turning Toto like slow to mid paced track, that consists of light and dark type effects throughout. Some nice gentle keyboard touches before steady, then gritty guitar leads into another nice solo, before the track stops abruptly.

To close the album is the gentle ‘As I Walk Alone.’ It’s a piano and vocal track, with some strings here and there and even a hauntingly good guitar solo.

So, will this album set the world on fire? Probably not, but there’s clearly a lot of prime time AOR on show here, played by craftsman and sung so well.
Some of the sampling intros became a little predictable; the rap element – To me – really wasn’t needed and kind of spoilt that track for me. Overall though it’s not too bad at all, generally an enjoyable album.

Rating: 4 out of 5

 Sadly, there is no official Mecca website or for that matter, one for Joe.
There is an old MySpace site for Mecca, created sometime ago, but not update since 2009:

Album link at the label Frontiers here:

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