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!

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