Melodic Rock Round-up: March 2012

Dave Ling on new releases from Michael Thompson Band, Coastland Ride, Lillian Axe, Sonic Station and Sunstorm

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Michael Thompson Band: Future Past

Released on Geffen and featuring Toto’s Bobby Kimball, John Elefante of Kansas and future Mr Big drummer Pat Torpey, the elegant, hi-tech strains of the Michael Thompson Band’s How Long album became a gene classic. Its single Can’t Miss was a minor hit, although Thompson never found fame of his own, instead becoming the go-to session guitarist for an A-list of stars that includes Michael Jackson, Rod Stewart, Madonna and Celine Dion. 23 years on, he’s revived the MTB name. The absence of Moon Calhoun is a sizeable handicap, but replacement Larry King has a warm, powerful and appealing voice, best utilised on High Times, a reworked Can’t Miss and the uplifting title track. King also sings the lighter-waving ballad When You Love Someone with sufficient passion and gusto to fill a virtual arena. The commercial failure of How Long still ranks among AOR’s great mysteries. How many copies of Future Past will be shifted remains equally uncertain, though it represents an emphatic validation of Michael Thompson’s talent. (810)

Coastland Ride: On Top Of The World

No matter that Coastland Ride spent eight years gestating this successor to a debut album that’s also been recently re-issued. On Top Of The World represents an irresistible jaunt to America’s West Coast. Although interpreted with the chirpy warmth that often only seems to emanate from a Swedish larynx, Second Chance and Wait are plain irresistible. (710)

Lillian Axe: XI: The Days Before Tomorrow

Despite the introduction of yet another lead singer, Lillian Axe retain their signature sound. Newcomer Brian Jones is no Ron Taylor, but still founded upon the guitar heroics of Steve Blaze and blessed with songs, immediate hooklines and bags of atmosphere, these New Orleans-based veterans have at least cheered up since 2009’s Sad Day On Planet Earth. (810)

Sonic Station: Sonic Station

A meeting with Lee Ritenour turned Swedish guitarist, composer and producer Alexander Kronbrink onto the West Coast strains of Steely Dan and Chicago. His project Sonic Station also dips its toes into smooth jazz, AOR and pop. Regrettably though, despite highlights like Gonna Show The Way, Kronbrink’s tactic of employing four singers fails to fend off familiarity and, ultimately, boredom. (410)

Sunstorm: Emotional Fire

This enjoyable third album from Joe Lynn Turner’s melodic hard rock project sees the much-travelled former Rainbow frontman revisiting material penned for or recorded with Michael Bolton (The Hunger’s Gina) and Cher (Emotional Fire), swelled by compositions created on his behalf by up and coming writers Sören Kronkvist, Daniel Palmqvist and Vega’s Tom and James Martin. (710)