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Friday, November 30, 2012

Dare – ‘Calm Before The Storm 2 – Re-recorded’ album review

Dare – ‘Calm Before The Storm 2 - Re-recorded’ album review

Released on: Legend Records. Release date: Available now
For those that didn’t know …
After Thin Lizzy parted ways back in the mid ‘80’s, keyboard player Darren Wharton, who had featured on the last three Lizzy albums, decided to put his own band together and call it Dare.
In 1988 the band released the absolutely excellent ‘Out of the Silence’ (1988) chock full of fantastic AOR magic, indeed a far cry from Thin Lizzy, but clearly Lizzy had rubbed off on Wharton, as the Celtic influence often shone through in Dare’s music.
The band had also featured the extremely talented guitarist, Vinny Burns (Asia, Burns/Blue), who also recorded the significantly heavier release by Dare, ‘Blood From Stone,’ (1990) which the band recorded after being criticized in some quarters for being too wimpy.
Fans then perhaps seemed a little confused, as they also figured the band must be too, by releasing two very different albums back to back, which direction to follow?
I have to say I love both, although I recall the vinyl copy of ‘Blood from Stone’ that I got at the time, didn’t seem to have been pressed right – Or mixed right? – as my copy seemed to sound completely distorted when I tried to play it back, even the replacement I got at the time sounded the same … Ah well …
Burns left soon after that to join Asia, Wharton continued with other musicians briefly, before rejoining ex-Thin Lizzy members in 1994 to tour with John Sykes now fronting the band. Darren Wharton didn’t stay too long with that lineup though and after sometime – 1998 – he released the third Dare album, ‘Calm Before The Storm.’
It seemed to be more or less looking to capture what the band had achieved on ‘Out of the Silence,’ although perhaps a little too much on the softer side.
He did play a while longer with Lizzy guys, until around 2000, when he was no longer willing to be a part of it ... At that time ...
Subsequent Dare albums were released, ‘Belief’ (2001), ‘Beneath The Shining Water’ (2004), the live ‘Power of Nature’ (2005) and then ‘Arc of the Dawn’ in 2009.
That brings us full circle to the latest reissue if you will, which is a re-recorded version of ‘Calm Before The Storm 2.’
Many fans had been hoping there would be a re-recorded version of ‘Out of the Silence’ Which had long been talked about, since it had been originally recorded so long ago now and ‘Calm Before The Storm’ unless it was going to be beefed up, many thought was there any point?
The original was good, slick, smooth AOR, great songs and was fine in the Dare catalogue, kind of the downside to Dare’s output though was that after ‘Calm Before The Storm’ came ‘Belief’ and then ‘Beneath The Shining Water,’ both nice albums but seemingly perhaps like re-writes of ‘C.B.T.S.’ IMHO.
 I don’t know if I would say it’s really not been worth it, as it’s a little richer in overall production, the guitars are up some in the mix too and some songs are sung a little different or are a little shorter and refreshing to hear again after all this time.
Although there are two bonus tracks here, that were not on the original UK release and the running order has changed a little, sadly Darren has also chosen to take off the Thin Lizzy classic track, ‘Still In Love With You’ on this new version. Shame …
‘Walk on The Water,’ is a great track to open the album with, great stuff, classic Dare material and Darren still sings it so smoothly, if a little different in some spots.
Likewise, ‘Someday’ next is another winner in my book and in fact, there’s some pretty tasty guitar work here, brought a little more up in the mix but on 'C.B.T.S. 2' the track is about thirty seconds shorter, but with so much layering on the Dare albums, it sometimes seems a little too easy to not think that it still rocks. Good stuff in my books!
Title track ‘Calm Before the Storm’ is so rich, really like all of the tracks on here, but it gives the impression of power ballad after power ballad. You do at times just kind of wish for a little more of the mix of songs that ‘Out of the Silence’ had or some more of the edge of ‘Blood From Stone.’
Don’t get me wrong, sure there are soaring guitar solos throughout, but they seem at times to be a little too much in the overall mix and they don’t get enough of centre stage if you ask me.
On this latest version of the album, the song has without doubt been cleaned up, chopped down from over eight minutes originally to just over six and a half here.
‘Crown of Thorns’ sounds like it really wants to rock a little harder and not be quite so slick, although again it is perfectly smooth AOR, heavy on keyboards on this one, like every track and the guitar blends into the mix without really projecting.
All the lead breaks are at the same level at the rhythm guitar, which although they’ve been brought up a little more in the mix and very nice, it still – to me - is lacking a little punch.
‘Precious’ is the first of the bonus tracks and it fits as if it were always there. While it’s mid to up tempo in pace, it still feels like it could use some more ‘rock’ but then with a title like ‘Precious’ perhaps I’m misguided in my desire.
  To ‘Silence Of Your Head’ and the song keeps up with everything else here as well as being cut down by a full minute off the songs original length, there’s also another tasty guitar solo here too.
OK, getting down to brass tacks and yes, there is still more of the album to discuss, BUT …, if truth be known, without doubt the overall production and mix is better than the original and if you are an owner of the original, then you’ll know where I’m coming from …
I don’t want to be critical, I really don’t as I’ve shouted the praises of this band to so many people who have sadly missed out on knowing their material previously and Darren Wharton is one of nicest people you could wish to meet. It’s just that …
I think if Vinny Burns had been brought in on here, it could’ve been rocked up a little, when re-recorded, but then Vinny didn’t play on the original either so ….
Andrew Moore who replaced Vinny back in the day and Richard Dews who is on this new one are both very good players and Richard sounds good here, I just think Vinny had a little more edge to his playing.
I really do love the music Darren writes and has written or contributed to, I mean on top of Dare’s great material just look what he contributed to Thin Lizzy as the last three albums with Phil Lynott show.
Who can knock the killer ‘Angel of Death’ from ‘Renegade’ or his contributions to the final Lizzy album ‘Thunder and Lightning,’ where Darren co-wrote four of the nine tracks, including the excellent ‘The Sun Goes Down?!’
I’m getting off track here, clearly ....!
Seriously, there is nothing wrong or even mediocre about any of the songs on ‘Calm Before The Storm’ version one or two and again they’re all great songs. It’s really just about what you or I or anyone would expect someone or a band to do different, if you’re going to completely re-record something?
What are / would you be expecting to get and why would any artist spend all that time and money doing it, unless you were going to make significant changes, which I guess they have to some degree.
Perhaps I’m just making more of this than I need to, anyone hearing this album for the first time that is a lover of class AOR will most likely simply love it! So, back to the review!
‘Rescue Me’ next is almost a minute shorter than the original version but no less enjoyable, great, lush harmonies both musically and vocally. Nicely done mid-paced AOR number, good job guys!

There’s more of a power ballad style to ‘Ashes’ next and again, all these tracks really do just ooze class and really Darren Wharton has this down to a fine art.
‘Rising Sun’ is another again written in power ballad style and is very slick indeed, of course right?!
Here’s ‘Cold Wind Will Blow’ which is the second of the previously not released tracks – It was actually previously available as a bonus track on the European special edition originally, but I never had that one. – and yes, it follows the same kind of pattern as the two previous tracks. Perhaps just even a little more laid back, until the guitar solo which rips initially with raunchy style then eases back a little.
Nice one again!

 ‘Deliverance’ closes the album and while it’s still laid back, it’s a song where the power chords are more emphasized than the previous few tracks and the guitar solo is just sweet, great flurry on the final track to wrap things up here.
I think in summary, I’ve said so much about how I think this could’ve been a little different, since it has been completely re-recorded, but it’s still a class album to hear redone.
Anyone hearing it for the first time, who enjoys smooth, slick AOR, will love it!
Don't forget also, if you want to see Darren playing live, he's still out for a little while longer with Thin Lizzy right now, but that will soon be over, as the band have announced they will no longer tour or release the album they have been recording together under that name.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Official artist releated weblinks: - Ed's note: Not sure how valid this is today?

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