Perhaps one of the most lauded, yet criminally ignored, AOR albums of all time is ‘Native Sons’ from Scottish band Strangeways. Yes, you read that right… Scottish. For a genre steeped in the American dream, it’s bizarre that one of its most magical moments was produced by a few jocks. They had some transatlantic help on ‘Native Sons’ from one Terry Brock, a vocalist to rival the maestro himself, Steve Perry, for emotionally supercharged vocals. ‘So Far Away’ could easily feature on either of Journey’s behemoth albums, ‘Escape’ or ‘Frontiers’, and not look out of place. Fast forward a few decades and Brock steps into Dann Huff’s shoes for Giant’s album ‘Promise Land’, where he meets up with Winger guitarist John Roth and the rest, as they say, is history. Roth Brock Project is the first collaboration between them, and on this evidence, hopefully it won’t be the last.
Melodic, guitar-driven rock, with a healthy dash of AOR is the order of the day from Roth Brock Project. It rolls back the decades, and thankfully, it seems to be free of the “world is doomed” subject matter that is creeping into every songwriter’s psyche. Yes, the world is a fucked up place right now, but what’s wrong with some good old fashioned escapism? ‘Young Gun’ is the staple rocking opening track that sets the scene. Make no mistake, this is melodic territory, so if clean vocals and cleaner guitars scare you, look away now. ‘What’s It To Ya’ is a cautionary tale for musicians. Is that person with you because of who you are, or because you’re in a band? At times it strays a little too close to Warrant territory for me, but the guitar breaks from Roth more than make up that. Any grumbles are quickly forgotten as soon as ‘Young Again’ starts up. Sweet baby Jesus and the orphans! (© Brian Potter, Phoenix Nights) this is AOR perfection! A song that anyone of a certain age can identify with, it deals with the ageing process and the search to find that thing to make us feel “Young Again”. It has a galloping drum beat to help motor the song along, and some amazing riffs from Roth, but it’s the vocals from Brock that make the song soar. The chorus is sheer manna from heaven as Brock takes off. It begs to be cranked up way past it’s bedtime.
‘If That’s What It Takes’ seems to be coming from personal experience, someone putting their foot in it during a phone call from the road and having to deal with the aftermath now that the gig is over. Again, it turns back the clock to a time when melodic rock ruled the airwaves and every video featured an angst-ridden vocalist singing to the wall in a hotel room. Again, it’s perfection. ‘Distant Voices’, and ‘Never Givin’ Up’ are the big power ballads on the album. With a softer vibe, they follow the tried and trusted pattern of what a power ballad should be, and Brock nails them both. ‘We Are’, and ‘Fighter’ are all Roth though, as his guitars give the songs their bite. ‘My City’ is another slice of AOR heaven, on a song that, had it been recorded by anyone other than Americans, it wouldn’t have worked. We Brits simply don’t get emotional about where we come from in the same way as our cousins across the Atlantic do.