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Melodic Rock Round-up: January 2011

Dave Ling on new releases from Houston, Degreed, Vega, Faithealer and Jeff Scott Soto

Houston: Houston

Among the many fine traditions followed by this duo from Sweden is the naming of one’s band after a US place name (if was good enough for Boston, Kansas, Hawaii and Alaska, then why not?). A few notes of its opening track Pride quickly reassure us that Houston still believe in doing everything the old way. Dancing keys? Check! Low-slung, chugging guitars? Check! Stratosphere-scraping vocals? Check again. Inspired by Journey, Foreigner, Survivor and Giant, this is an album that could easily have battled for racking space with Bon Jovi and Dokken during the big-haired mid-80s. The attention to detail is such that the listener feels compelled to check whether its creators – Hampus ‘Hank’ Erix and Freddie Allen, plus a cast of Scandinavian co-conspirators that includes the ubiquitous Tommy Denander on guitar – are attempting some cruel Steel Panther-esque parody or hoax. Thankfully, Hold On and Give Me Back My Feelings confirm Houston’s authenticity. This UK edition adds two newly recorded bonus tracks. (810)

Degreed: Life, Love, Loss

”An album without a filler in sight,” says the biography. Pull the other one, mate. But hold on a minute: this is terrific stuff. Offering snappy choruses, pulsating rhythms and the smooth yet assured lead vocals of Robin Ericsson, Sweden’s Degreed are right up there with the best modern melodic hard rock acts around, justifying the lofty claims of their promo material. (810)

Vega: Kiss Of Life

Pooling the voice of former Kick mouthpiece Nick Workman and the songwriting nous of guitarist Tom Martin and his keyboardist sibling James (who have penned tunes for House Of Lords and Ted Poley among others), Vega get off on the right foot with this sometimes U2-flavoured, yet rousingly proficient, introductory disc. (710)

Faithealer: Welcome To The Edge Of The World

A new alliance between ex-Balance Of Power/Pride keyboard player Ivan Gunn and singer/instrumentalist Jason Marks (Forever, S.I.N.), Britain’s Faithealer are taking the music back to its roots with stirring choruses, towering vocals and top-class playing._ WTTEOTW_ is an exquisite debut from an outfit of vast potential. (810)

Jeff Scott Soto: Live At The Firefest

Recorded at Nottingham Rock City in 2009, this audio/DVD set offers several tracks from Beautiful Mess – a brave but doomed attempt at gaining crossover success. Regrettably, it also contains other spurious detritus – covers of Kung Fu Fighting, Ice Ice Baby, Stayin’ Alive and a barrage of solos – that Soto insists upon padding out his set with. (610)