Sunday, March 30, 2014

RUSS DWARF "Wireless"

(c) 2013 Smoothline Entertainment

  1. Keep The Spirit Alive
  2. Stand Tall
  3. I'm Alive
  4. Startin' To Shine
  5. Doesn't Matter
  6. Comin' Through
  7. Dirty Weapons
  8. Look Around
  9. Four Seasons
  10. Driftin' Back
Russ Dwarf--Vocals
Glenn Belcher--Guitars, Sitar, Banjo, Wood
Rob "Zaks" Zakojc--Bass, All Backing Vocals

Additional Musicians:
Kevin Simpson--Guitar
Dan Lear--Guitar
Kevin Reid--Guitar
Cosimo Crupi--Keyboards
Ron "Bumblefoot" Thor--Guitar
Glen Drover--Guitar

I'm not sure why this "stripped" trend started (Tesla's Five Man Acoustic Jam is the accepted starting point), but it appears to be here to stay, and Russ Dwarf is the latest 80's rocker to tackle his back catalog in an acoustic fashion.  The arrangements on most of these songs have been completely reworked, as would seem to be obviously required, and several of the songs are almost not recognizable as the tracks that they originate from.  That being said, there are some excellent performances here, most notably from the lone "Dwarf" on the album, Russ Dwarf, whose vocals take on a gritty quality rather than the high, soaring tone used on the majority of the band's output.  

To be honest, I was pretty worried about this album when I first put it in, because Killer Dwarfs was always a power-chord band for me, and I wasn't really sure how the lack of electric amplification would affect my enjoyment of some of these songs.  And, not surprisingly to me, my fears were somewhat fulfilled with the first couple of tracks here.  I'm definitely not fond of how "Keep The Spirit Alive" comes across, as the song is rather sad-sounding and contemplative to me, which is not what I think of when I hear the original.  "Stand Tall" is not much better, and "I'm Alive" has such a country flavor to it that I barely recognized the song.  It reminded me of the music that Robert Plant has been doing lately with bluegrass musician/singer Alissn Krauss (which, perhaps not coincidentally, I simply can't stomach).  

Things start to progress from there, however, and I'm glad I powered through those first few tracks, because there is some solid material to be found starting with "Doesn't Matter".  I wonder if perhaps the fact that the songs are performed here in chronological fashion based upon their original album releases has something to do with how well these songs lend themselves to this acoustic format, because the later songs definitely hold up better than the earlier material.  The groups progression as songwriters probably has something to so with this, I would guess, as the last 6 tracks, taken from Dirty Weapons and the underappreciated Method To Madness albums, are definitely the best on this collection.

Stand outs for me are definitely "Doesn't Matter", the surprisingly effective "Dirty Weapons", and "Four Seasons", which has some pre-recorded effects thrown into the mix.  I say "Dirty Weapons" is surprising because this rocker is one of my favorites from the band but it is morphed into a bluesy ballad that really works well here, which I wasn't anticipating at all.  The same can be said for "Look Around", and album closer, "Driftin' Back" which receives and extra boost from the talent of Bumblefoot on guitar as well as some accompanying piano work courtesy of Mr. Crupi.  However, for me, the pinnacle of the album is "Comin' Through" has some pretty cool sitar work that give the song something of an dark, Middle Eastern flavor, rather than Great White Northern, feel of the Canadian band's original.  When the music is coupled with a rather angry vocal take by Dwarf, this song is pretty much as good as it gets, as far as these electric-to-acoustic interpretations go, and I'm glad it was included here.

The packaging is a digi-pack with no lyrics and only the bare bones as far as credits and thank you's go.  There are, however, a LOT of black and white photos of Russ Dwarf and the session musicians, which are pretty cool to see, even if they are a bit smallish and sometimes rather odd (a single shoe?  A fortune cookie message?).  

All in all, this is literally a 60/40 album for me, and not one that I am likely to play a lot unless the mood strikes.  That being said, Killer Dwarfs fans would do themselves a favor to give this record a spin, especially to hear the last 6 tracks which really showcase just how good the band became with their songwriting skills. 

Rating: "Rock" this acoustic effort to a 6, making sure to keep an open mind to allow yourself to experience the greatness of several of the performances here. 

DORYDRIVE "Here's To You"

(c) 2014 First Launch Records

  1. Radiate
  2. Paramour
  3. Here's To You
  4. Tattooed
  5. Perfect Chemical
  6. When The Lights Burn Out
  7. Take Me
  8. Better Part Of me
  9. Never Easy
  10. Dance Baby Dance
  11. All The Same
  12. Your Gravity
Mathieu Nevittt--Vocals
Joey Zak--Drums
Tom LaBrosse--Guitar
Henry Koller--Guitar
Nicholas Mendini--Bass

Dorydrive is a band that is new to me, but apparently not the modern rock scene.  This is understandable because I fear that satellite radio is starting to become what we all hated about terrestrial radio--a corporate-controlled outlet for flavor-of-the-month bands and not bands that have real talent and would interest music fans.  But, I digress...

This Nashville, TN based 5-piece band is actually on their second record now, although, in all fairness, this new effort, Here's To You, actually includes seven songs from their out-of-print debut.  Again, that's not an issue for me, as I had never heard the band or debut record, and there are still five new tracks here for those who may have been following the band for a while now.  

Upon first listen, there are immediate lines of similarity that can be drawn between Dorydrive and Daughtry, at least to my ears.  The Midwestern-rock style that both bands incorporate is used to great effect here.  Nevitt's vocals have that same impassioned quality to them that Daughtry's do, however Nevitt sings in a slightly higher tenor range that Daughtry, but the approach and delivery is similar without sounding like an intentional rip-off.  But power and emotion are not things that can be copied, and Nevitt has plenty of both, especially when you hear him tackle a mid-tempo rocker like "Paramour", which I challenge anyone to explain to me why it isn't a hit already!  

The feel of this entire record is generally positive and upbeat without the typical whining sentiments so many rock bands seem to incorporate these days.  Never treading into metal territory, this record is chock full of very solidly written modern hard rock, occasionally incorporating production tricks to keep the sound radio ready, such as in the stop-start-stop-start vocal effects used on the record's lead single, "Here's To You", a nice rocker that I imagine the ladies will be dancing along to while holding a beer high in one hand, low-cut jeans swiveling back and forth while the guys stand back and nod approvingly.   

One thing that really helps Dorydrive with their sound and approach is a GREAT guitar tandem in LaBrosse and Koller that drives each of these tracks.  Feeding off of each other, whether playing acoustic, rhythm, or lead guitars, these two set the tone for how each of these songs is going to be interpreted by the listener. Case in point is the chugging guitar of "Paramour" which provides the perfect backdrop for Nevitt's vocals, never overpowering them, but rather enhancing them and giving them more backbone.  The driving rhythm guitar of "Tattooed" moves the song along perfectly, stopping only briefly after the choruses and then leading into a great little guitar solo break that offers a glimpse of the skill that I am willing to bet is put on display in a live setting.  The drum and bass work here is also excellent, with "Dance Baby Dance", "Perfect Chemical", and several other songs incorporating a danceable rhythm to the band's rock stance, again in a vein akin to what Daughtry has used so effectively.  The same can be said of the title track, "Here's To You", which took my brain to Nickelback's "S.E.X.", when I first heard it, incorporating a dance beat, some chug-a-chug riffing, and an electronic current running underneath the track throughout its entirety.    

For the ladies, a couple of nice ballads are thrown into the mix, with the piano-based "When The Lights Burn Out" being the strongest of the two, really allowing Nevitt's voice to take center stage.  "All The Same" is a good song as well, replacing the piano with acoustic guitar, but lacking a bit of the originality of "...Burn Out", as "All The Same" feels, honestly, the same a as a lot of other radio rock ballads, leaving the listener with the inkling that they have heard this exact song before.  

"Never Easy" has a kind of post-grunge feel to the feel of the song, like a lot of the late 90's/early 2000's bands like Three Doors Down and Daughtry became famous with.  Perhaps this should come as no surprise, as the band has toured with bands of this style, such as The Calling, Default, and Our Lady Peace, which offer similar takes to their musical approach.  And you know what, it works for these guys.  "Take Me As I Am" is another one of these styled tracks; a solidly-written mid-tempo guitar rocker that rock stations should be gobbling up, while it is likely that edgier satellite stations like Octane will find too tame to program on a regular basis.  Album closer "Your Gravity" has a similar approach and feel, combining both electric and acoustic guitar to great effect on this U2-ish track which wraps up a very likable record in nice fashion.

The packaging is a pretty basic tri-fold insert, complete with lyrics, credits, and thank-you's, and a single group photo.  Of course, the only photo anyone is likely to be looking at is the back cover featuring some deliberately torn jeans and a well-placed tattoo of the band's logo!  

If you like your personal soundtrack to include some real, raw, Midwestern rock to its sound, Dorydrive is one of the better bands I have heard in some time.  Again, there won't be any headbanging going on, but there will be a lot of toe-tapping and steering-wheel drumming when Here's To You is given a spin.  Unafraid to play what they like and what they are skilled at, even if it isn't what corporate radio thinks you want to hear, Dorydrive needs to stay the course, in my opinion, as they will gain a solid fanbase by being who they are and not who others think they should be.  

Rating:  Rock this to a very listenable, very summer-ready 6.5.  

Saturday, March 22, 2014

MADYSIN HATTER "Pretty Little Fool"

(c) 2012 Independent Release

  1. Lightning Strikes Twice
  2. Rocky Road
  3. Pretty Little Fool
  4. Gypsy Rock
Madisyn Hatter--Vocals
Bob Lanzetti--Guitars
Brad Williams--Guitars
Michael League--Bass
Justin Stanton--Keys
Cooper Heffley--Drums

Madysin Hatter is one of those names that kind of popped up thanks to social media; she became a follower on Twitter, in fact, and contacted me about reviewing this, her latest EP.  Never being one to say no to new music, I told her to send it to me and I would give it a listen.  Honestly, not expecting much, I was pleasantly surprised with this 4-track release almost immediately upon popping it in and pushing play.

Kicking off with some distorted guitars, "Lightning Strikes Twice" delivers a thick, heavy 70's classic rock groove that resonates throughout the track.  As soon as Hatter's higher end vocals slither in, the package is completed, with this song reminding me a bit of Stevie Nicks in both phrasing and tone, especially when the vocals are delivered in layers, mixed with a bit of Joan Jett as far as sass goes.    

"Rocky Road" continues in it's retro-rock stylings, with the Nicks reference being equally as strong here on this slower number.  Haunting vocally, the music remains solidly in a bottom-end heavy 70's groove with a really strong guitar section leading into the second chorus, although I am unsure whether it is Lanzetti or Williams who pulls off this section (or both).  

The title track finds Hatter picking the pace back up and also adding a bit of 80's sweetness to her vocals, but the 70's vibe continues in the music, with the keys finding themselves a bit more prevalent here.  The powerful bass work of League leads the way here (as it does on all 4 tracks), and the production is obviously designed to place an emphasis on this retro quality that the band pulls off remarkably well.  

The EP's closer, "Gypsy Rock", is my favorite track, as Hatter slips back into her Nicks tone vocally, and the band adds a bit of edge and attitude to the music.  Of course, the "gypsy" reference lends itself to the Nicks comparison, but the comparison doesn't end there, as the entire band has a strong handle on this type of sound.  I dare say that Fleetwood Mac, along with several other 70's classic rockers from Foreigner to Frampton to The Runaways to The Stones, could be found on the iPods or in the CD players of all the band's members.  I say with no reservations that Hatter and her band have a considerable amount of talent for this style of music, and this closing rocker leaves the listener a bit off-put that 16 minutes has passed and things are already at a close!  Give me just one more like this, please!

Packaging is simple, but at least its in an ACTUAL JEWEL CASE, which is a bonus for me!  There are three photos of Hatter, along with band and writing credits, but little else, which is to be expected on an independent release.  The music is what matters for most of the acts (and rightly so), so if an extra few dollars can be spent in the studio rather than at the printer, its hard to fault an artist for going the music route.

While not Earth-shattering, this is a solid independent release, and I would definitely be interested to hear what the talented Ms. Hatter comes up with next.  I really appreciate the 70's classic rock feel that has been cultivated here, as it is refreshing to hear a band just be who they are without trying to fit the flavor of the day.  I have a feeling this would be a cool act to catch live, as I imagine the entire band has a good time doing this type of music, which they obviously love.  I will tracking down her previous EP release as well.

Rating:  If you are into the arena rock classics of the 70's, I suspect you are going to find a LOT to like on this all-too-short EP.  Rock this at a solid 6.5, with the short length of the project being the main detractor here.  


(c) 2013 Smoothline Entertainment Group

  1. Lonely Road
  2. Solid Ground
  3. Sky Is Falling
  4. Adalina
  5. Psycho Circus
  6. Start @ One
  7. Down In Hollywood
  8. Walk On By
  9. The Crowd
Darrell "Dwarf" Millar--Drums, Vocals
Gerry "Cod Dwarf" Finn--Guitars, Vocals
Ronald "Bad Ronbo Dwarf" Mayer--Bass, Vocals
Russ "Dwarf" Graham--Vocals

Additional Musicians
John "Skully" Macintosh--Keys
Fred Duvall--Vocals
Cosimo Corpi--Keys, Vocals

The Killer Dwarfs return with a brand new, 20 year-old album!  Yes, in what would seem to be an "everything gets to Canada several years late" joke, Canadian rockers, Killer Dwarfs have regrouped to release an album that was originally slated to be put out in 1993, but was shelved when the hard rock/hair metal scene was victimized by the mighty grunge machine (remember, the same thing happened with Tora Tora's Revolution Day album...).  It should come as no surprise, then, that this album sounds like it could be played right alongside Dirty Weapons or Stand Tall, as it was SUPPOSED to be released in that same time frame.

Despite the lag in time, the band did not lag in the technology department, as the master tapes were digitized and given some updating in the production department, so the album has a crisp sound and has been re-mixed to meet the same sonic qualities of releases of today.  

Again, not surprisingly, the band sounds very much like they did back in the day, with Russ's instantly recognizable, high-end tenor layered over the top of a solid rhythm section and understated, polished-yet-never-flash guitar work.  The songs are solid and flow well from one to the next and are obviously not left-overs or B-sides from previous albums, as nothing here is throw away.  "Lonely Road" is a nice, uptempo rocker, as is "Solid Ground", both incorporating a relatively smooth guitar sound with little in the way of an edge.  Had the entire album been in this vein it would have been a nice record, but nothing overly remarkable.  However, there are several cuts that have more bite to them, such as "Psycho Circus" (not the KISS tune of the same name) which is a an edgy rocker with a simple, yet catchy riff and chorus, while the title track, "Start @ One" slows things down just a notch to mid-tempo range, but really showcasing the bass work of Ronald "Bad Ronbo Dwarf" Mayer.  Again, solid songs, but neither of these tracks, however, hold a candle to the two real show-stealers on this album:  

"Sky Is Falling" has a grittier edge to the guitars with an undeniably infectious riff that runs throughout the track, giving it a melodic sensibility that, coupled with the stellar layered vocals, will likely draw comparisons to a band like older King's X.  "Down In Hollywood" is a sassy number that allows Russ to work more of a vocal range than his normal, just-short-of-Geddy Lee-high tenor, and again features some excellent guitar work from Gerry Finn.  From the rollicking opening riff to the locked-in-step bass and drum work, this is the type of song that drove the album Dirty Weapons to cult status, if not huge commercial success.  If and when the Dwarfs decide to record an album of all new material, I hope that two or three more songs of this style and caliber are included, as this the Killer Dwarfs style that I love so much!

"The Crowd" is a nice rock ballad with some strong vocal harmonies, especially on the bridge and chorus, and I really enjoy the haunting vocal approach Russ employs on "Adalina", especially during the chorus and bridge.  This mid-tempo track is another of the top three or four songs on this album, and  musically the song has a Dokken-ish quality to it.  "Walk On By" is a decent song, but drags just a bit and may be a tad long at over 5 minutes.

The packaging is extremely generic: a one fold digipack with no lyrics or pictures, and only minimal information and credits, but at least it's not a slipcase!  This has become something of the norm for small label and independent releases, so it's getting to the point that I don't even really notice these things any longer, or at least I don't get as offended by them.

All in all, this is a solid record and a nice return for a band that I had been missing for quite some time.  To be honest, I think this disc will do more for the band NOW that it would have 20 years ago, as it isn't quite up to the level of their biggest two albums, Dirty Weapons and Stand Tall, but it is a great "comeback" record...without truly being one.

The band will be hitting the road for select dates throughout North America this year, so if you get the chance to catch them live, I would highly encourage you to do so.  The band will be one of the featured acts at Skull Fest 2 in October.

Rating:  Crank this at a 7 and let's hope the band continues to move forward, because there is a lot to like here, even if it isn't the best the band has released in their long history.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

ROYAL BLISS "Chasing The Sun"

(c) 2014 Air Castle Records

  1. Welcome
  2. Cry Sister
  3. Rock You All Night Long
  4. Dreamer
  5. It Haunts Me
  6. Drink My Stupid Away
  7. Alive To See
  8. Impossible
  9. Turn Me On
  10. Home
Neal Middleton--Lead Vocals
Taylor Richards--Guitars, Backing Vocals
Dwayne Crawford--Bass Guitar
Jake Smith--Drums
Additional Musicians
Matt Winegar--Guitars, Backing Vocals, Keyboards, Synth, Programming, Bass Guitar on "Home"

Salt Lake City-based Royal Bliss returns with their first new album in two years with the much least by me...Chasing The Sun.  This album musically and lyrically is a direct follow-up to their amazing record Waiting Out The Storm.  Heck, even the title is a follow-up on this Kickstarter-funded project, so things are definitely headed in the right direction.

From the very first note to the very last, it is evident that Royal Bliss has found the sound and style that suits them best, and it works in every way on this record as much as it did the last.  Kicking off with the scorching rocker, "Welcome", the band finds themselves in top form.  Middleton's vocals, as is always the case, really set the band apart from a lot of the radio schlock rock that abounds today, and he is in complete control of this track from the second he cuts loose.  However, it is on the second track and lead single, "Cry Sister" that the band really nails things.  Building momentum from the lead-in bass line from now-permanent member Dwayne Crawford, "Cry Sister" is an incredibly addictive slice of modern hard rock with an infectious chorus and a powerful rhythm section that I think is one of the understated strengths of the band.  Were it not for another song, which I will get to in a moment, this would be my favorite track on the album and one that should be lighting up request lines and filling up rock radio playlists across the country. 

Two more solid numbers follow in the sparse rocker, "Rock You All Night Long", and the more experimental sounding, quasi-ballad, "Dreamer" which features some keyboard/synth work that accentuates, but never dominates, the song.  "It Haunts Me" kicks things back up a notch, before my personal favorite track, "Drink My Stupid Away" steals the record.  Don't let the title of the song fool you, as this is not some rollicking party anthem...not at all.  "Drink..." is an insightful ballad that to me feels like the lyrical follow-up to "Crazy" from Waiting Out The Storm, with Middleton contemplating his loneliness.  Featuring some very nice piano work, a great melody, and truly emotional lyrics, "Drink..." may be the best song this band has ever done, and that is saying a lot, as their catalog is chock-full of great tunes.  This song, alone, is worth seeking out this album.  Shell out the $1.29 or whatever on iTunes to download it if you need further proof of the greatness of this song.

From here, "Alive To See" rips things wide open again with a huge guitar riff and the most aggressive music on the disc. The U2-ish, "Impossible" follows up, and while not my favorite track, it is certainly an interesting one that has never tempted me to hit the skip button.  It is definitely different from the majority of the work here, but I am betting that it is a great mood-setter in a live setting that could lead into either a rocker or a ballad.  "Turn Me On" is another up-tempo rocker with a bit of a nasty side and, although it never gets filthy or raunchy as far as lyrics go, the title alone leaves little doubt as to the subject matter here.  There is a particularly tasty guitar solo on this track, as well as some good-time piano rocking along, adding more proof that this is a band of musical depth not common in the modern rock world.

The album closes with the insightful, personal "Home", which, if you read the words, really feels like it completes a sort of lyrical trilogy along with "Crazy" and "Drink My Stupid Away", as it again talks about loneliness and being away from loved ones and the reason why the band does what it does.  The track also doesn't shy away from taking a swipe at the music industry and name-dropping Johnny Cash all at the same time, which is always a good thing in my book!  With lyrics such as "Yeah, so many people seem so fake, and the reason why they play, it ain't the same, cause they don't write their songs, just hit the tracks and play along...", can there be any doubt that Middleton disapproves of the current music scene?  No, I don't think so...

I'm not sure what the packaging is like on the market version of the album, as I actually received a promo copy with a plain white cover and all of the lyrics in a fold-out digipack.  (I snagged the actual album cover photo from the Internet for the picture above).  If this is how the package is left for the regular release, it is not my favorite format, but it is certainly better than the slip-covers a lot of bands seem to be going to, and the inclusion of the lyrics and song-writing credits is always a bonus for me.

It's too early to tell if this album will surpass Waiting Out The Storm for me, but I can guarantee you that I will give it every chance to supplant that album which has not left my CD changer in close to a year!  That being said, Chasing The Sun is an amazing piece of hard rock MUSIC with a soulful singer, actual guitar solos, great melodies, and some insanely catchy hooks.  Check back with me in a year and I'm willing to bet that this album will still be in rotation for me, right alongside its predecessor!  Oh, and if you get the chance, you really should check these guys out live, as Royal Bliss put on an energetic show that is hard to beat, especially in a smaller, more personal setting.

Rating:  Every bit the crankable 9 the previous album was!  Just a great, great record that I find myself liking more with each listen.

Monday, March 3, 2014

JOHNNY LIMA "My Revolution"

(c) 2014 Independent Release

  1. My Revolution
  2. Happily Ever After You
  3. You're The Drug I Wanna Get High On
  4. Fill You Up
  5. Blame It On Love
  6. I Can't Love You Anymore
  7. Couldn't Be The One
  8. Tell Me Lies
  9. Nowhere Left To Go
  10. Dirty Girls
  11. Show Them Who You Are 
  12. Into The Light
  13. Deeper Into You
  14. Maybe You're Right, Maybe It's Wrong
  15. Naturally Beautiful

Johnny Lima--All instruments

Guest appearances:
Julian Angel--Lead Guitar on 3
Christian Wolff--Lead Guitar on 2, 6, 7, 9, 11, 15
Craig Launer--Lead guitar on 1, 4, 5, 9, 10

If you wanna play a quick game, do this.  Put on a pair of headphones...and a blindfold...and then have a friend cue up a couple of tracks from My Revolution.  Now...give it a minute.  Yep, you hear it, right?  This is a new Def Leppard record, right?  Wait!  No!  Its new Bon Jovi music from the New Jersey or Keep The Faith era, right?  Nope and nope...but close!  Well, kinda...  

To say that Johnny Lima channels his inner Jon Bon Jovi on this, his first album in five years, would be an understatement, but there is a bit more here than just Bon Jovi.  At times you get the feeling that Def Leppard's Hysteria album was playing in the background when Lima was writing some of this material, as that band's influence is all over this record as well, whether intentional or not.  Heck, the backing vocals at times sound IDENTICAL to the layering and style Leppard was using 25 years ago!  This combination is both a good thing and a bad thing because, at least for my money, it is these Bon Jovi-meets-Def Leppard moments that Lima is at his best; when he steps outside his comfort zone, the results are a bit less satisfying.  I will get to those moments in a bit.

First the good.  Lima knows how to write and pull-off a big arena song filled with hooks!  There can be no doubt of that.  Starting from the very first track, Lima proves he is at his best when he is backed by some big, layered guitars, pounding drums, and powerful backing vocals.  Add in a touch of keyboard for effect and layering, and a track like "My Revolution", along with the vocal approach Lima uses on this song really lends itself to the Def Leppard comparison, and the song works well.  "Happily Ever After You" is another uptempo rocker that focuses more completely on the guitar parts and uses the keyboards much more sparingly.  

Then things start to take a turn for the worse...but not because of the music.  In fact, I really like the music on the next song, "You're The Drug I Wanna Get High On".  The anthemic approach remains solidly in place, the complimentary keyboards return, and the Def Leppard approach to backing vocals is in HIGH gear here...but the lyrics get a bit dumbed-down, which is a bummer.  Sorry, but talking about how much weed you've smoked and comparing that high to the high of being with a woman is pretty uninspired.  "Fill You Up" got me really worried, as its another track that leaves me wanting as far as the lyrics go, but I was also not liking what I was hearing musically, especially with the weird electronic sounds utilized on this number.  What the hell?  If I sounded like I was complaining about the Bon Jovi/Def Leppard influences, I wasn't!  I promise!  Bring them back, please!!!

Thankfully, Lima doesn't stay in that experimental range very long and returns with probably the best Bon Jovi vocal impersonation I have ever heard on "Blame It On Love"!  The music is an mid-tempo, poppy-rocker with a big, sing along chorus that is just as catchy and infectious as the best material the New Jersey boys have put out in a couple of decades!  Lima stays right there in that Bon Jovi-styled pocket with the big ballad "I Can't Love You Anymore".  Lighters will be in the air and people will be swaying back and forth if Lima performs this track live as it is a monster of a power ballad that would have been Top Ten material 20 years ago!  Easily one of the best ballads I have heard in a long time, with a great guitar solo, emotional lyrical content, and a musical quality not heard in the rock world these days.  Excellent work here!

"Couldn't Be The One" comes back down to earth a bit, but it is still a solid Bon Jovi-flavored mid-tempo number in the vein of a lot of that band's album tracks from the 90's.  To be honest, however, I'd take an album full of songs like this over half the crap that gets recorded today, so while not the best song on the album, its definitely not a skipper.

The album takes a kind of weird turn on "Nowhere Left To Go", as this rocker starts off with a keyboard intro that sounds to me like it was lifted almost note-for-note from Yngwie Malmsteen's track "Judas".  That keyboard piece is featured throughout the song and is a constant distraction for me despite the fact that this is, again, a very good song with an excellent guitar solo, nice vocal phrasing, and solid lyrics.  Were it not for that quirky keyboard thing, I think this may be one of my favorite tracks on the album, and who knows...maybe I'll get over it in time.  

"Dirty Girls" is a song that really doesn't click for me at all and is the first song that I would label as blatant filler material since the just lyrically bad "You're The Drug...", although I still wouldn't necessarily reach for the skip button.  Fortunately this is just a blip on the musical radar, as Lima returns to form with "Nowhere Left To Go", another JBJ-esque rocker.  

Ballad number two follows in the form of "Maybe You're Right, Maybe It's Wrong" which is a fine example of what I hate about most of the recent Bon Jovi ballads.  Bloated, boring, plodding, piano-heavy tracks do absolutely nothing for me, and I have an image of Lima sitting at his piano...crying...on a cold, rainy day...after the love of his life left him....and writing this song.  Ugh...SKIP!!!!

"Into The Light" is more mid-tempo, keyboard infused melodic rock, and is not a bad number, but not one of the sparkling moments of the record, either.  "Deeper Into You" picks up the pace musically, but, again, it still isn't on par with the best songs on this album.  

"Show Them Who You Are" swoops in and saves the last quarter of this album with a huge, fist-in-the-air attitude-infused rock anthem that restores my faith in this disc.  "Naturally Beautiful" closes things out with a decent melodic rocker that is once again heavy on the late-90's/early 2000's Bon Jovi influence. 

Now, I've seen about three different track listings for this album, so I am not 100% certain that my track listing is the "correct" one, although mine did come from Lima's press agent, so I'm guessing it's right.  I have read that this 15 track version is the Limited Edition version that features 4 songs not on the standard 11-song pressing.  If that is the case, I am hoping that songs like "Maybe You're Right" and "Dirty Girls" are among the songs left off, because if so, this is a borderline great hard-rock record!  It's just a few songs too long, which I have found is frequently the case with fan-funded projects; the artist records everything he has because he isn't sure if/when he will be able to get back into the studio.  My guess is that was the case here with Lima because a couple of these songs just don't live up to the standards of the rest of the album.

Rating:  Excellent in several spots, and above average for a lot of  the record.  A couple of songs really needed to find the cutting room floor, but overall, I would recommend cranking this to a solid 7.5.  Hopefully Lima doesn't wait 5 more years to release another album!