Saturday, November 7, 2020

ROOM EXPERIENCE "Another Time And Place"


(c) 2020 Art Of Melody

  1. Hear Another Song
  2. Wild Heart
  3. Disappointed
  4. Strangers In The Night
  5. The Distance
  6. Shout
  7. Another Time and Place
  8. The Miles That Make a Road
  9. The Night Goes On
  10. A Thousand Lies
  11. Your Voice Inside
  12. The Distance (European Bonus w/Gianluca Firmo on lead vocals)
David Readman--Lead and Backing Vocals
Gianluca Firmo--Keyboards, Backing Vocals, Lead Vocals on 12
"Dave Rox" Barbieri--Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Steve De Biasi--Guitars
Simon Dredo--Bass
Pierpaulo "Zorro" Monti--Drums, Percussion

Full disclosure, I have had this album for some time now, and I always put it on the back burner for one reason:  the band has TWO keyboard players.  TWO.  Anyone who reads this blog with any regularity knows I am rather averse to keyboards being used as anything more than a strong supporting player in any band, so when I saw that Room Experience had two keyboard players, I had a hard time bringing myself to give Another Time And Place a chance. And all of this was in spite of the fact that I knew David Readman was the lead vocalist!  But, I finally forced myself to pop the disc in and now I am kicking myself for not doing so earlier.

Room Experience is a studio project featuring members of multiple European melodic rock and AOR bands that has actually been together for some time.  In fact, Another Time And Place is actually the second release from the band, although I have yet to track down and hear the debut.  Centering largely around the smooth, melodic style of De Biasi on guitars and the powerful tenor of Readman, Room Experience focuses a lot of attention on strong songs and has spent a good deal of time crafting this album.  In fact, the process of writing and assembling this album started in 2017, and for the most part it really shows that the musicians here were highly focused on getting the most out of each of these tracks, with a really strong mix and even-handed production giving every instrument the chance to shine here.

The album kicks off with one of the best rockers on the project, "Hear Another Song".  De Biasi's guitars have a nice 80s tinged edge to them, and Readman comes right out of the gate doing what Readman always does, commanding the listener's attention with his amazing voice.  Had Readman been in an MTV band in the 80s and early 90s, he would be a household name for fans of that era.  As it is, unless you are a fan of his killer band Pink Cream 69 (which I am!), or have caught him in his numerous, underrated acts such as Voodoo Circle, Anderson/Laine/Readman, Adagio, or his solo work, you likely know the voice, but not the man.  If you find yourself enjoying his work here, I highly suggest you seek out Readman's other projects; you won't be disappointed!

As good as "Hear Another Song" is, "Wild Heart" is even better and my second favorite track on the record.  De Biasi absolutely goes off on a couple of incredible solo runs, and Readman's vocals absolutely dominate this uptempo rocker.  I was a tad concerned about this track when it started off with some keyboard elements that just really aren't my thing, but De Biasi's guitar quickly screams to life and rescues this great song.  The backing vocals are top notch here (as they are throughout the record) and the keys do as they should and provide support for the song rather than trying to dominate it.  Oh, and Dredo's bass gets a fun little spotlight shone on it coming out of the first chorus run, which is a nice touch.  Overall, a great representation of what this band can do.

Things continue in fine fashion as Di Biasi's guitar wails away to kick off "Disappointed", teasing at a more aggressive style for this song, before settling into a catchy melodic rocker that falls very much in line with the rest of the album here.  Once again, Di Biasi's guitar work here is superb, especially on his solo flashes, and I think it might be hard to argue his guitar work doesn't carry this project every bit as much as Readman's vocal prowess.  The guy really delivers every chance he gets, and his work on this short rocker is a great example of that.

"Strangers In The Night" is a song that I feel would have been huge in the 80s.  The production here is, of course, ore polished than it likely would have been in 1988, but this song has that same melodic approach that bands like Europe used to such great effect on their most popular, commercial sounding work.  Again, De Biasi absolutely goes off on his solo run here, and Readman explores a higher level of his range on the last couple of runs through the chorus here, which is really cool to hear.  He never gets uncomfortable and isn't dropping a falsetto bomb on the listener, but he pushes himself and delivers in a big way.  Definitely my favorite track here and one that I hit repeat on multiple times.  Love this song and this style that the band absolutely nails!        

One track that I repeatedly try to get myself to like is "The Distance", but I just can't do it.  And I get repeated chances to do it because the song is on the album twice, once with Readman on lead vocals, and then a final time as a European bonus track with Gianluca Firmo on lead vocals.  While Firmo acquits himself nicely as a singer, he isn't Readman, but it doesn't really matter because neither man can salvage this track for me.  The keyboards sound like something out of a 70s porn flick (not that I would watch such a thing, but come on...we ALL know the sound I'm referring to!), and the song itself is just too overwrought and really sounds bogged down.  The guitar solo is strong and it's not abhorrent to listen to, it just never goes anywhere for me.  In true transparency, I skip this song from time-to-time when it pops up.  "The Miles That Make The Road" is a far superior slower-tempo track with even better guitars and FAR better keyboard work from Firmo, with a catchy melody and a sing along chorus.

Without hitting on every single track here (though, I guess I did hit most of them), I think a couple more do deserve mention.   "Shout", which picks up the tempo and lightens the mood substantially from "The Distance" is a fun track with some excellent guitar work.  While "Shout" isn't necessarily the cream of the crop here, but it accentuates the band's strengths which are, of course, the powerhouse vocals of Readman and some great guitar work, accompanied by nicely placed keys, a solid bass line, and rock-steady drumming.  Not flashy, but smooth and well-executed, this is AOR-tinged melodic rock that just about every fan that I know of this style will appreciate.

I also really enjoy "The Night Goes On", which finds De Biasi dropping a cool bluesy lick into on the intro, before building into a more straight ahead melodic rocker that has some of the best vocals from Readman on the album.  Again, definitely an 80s influenced style here with a Bon Jovi feel, "The Night Goes On" is easily in the top half of this generally really strong album. Check the track out below:

I also really, really enjoy the rocker "A Thousand Lies" with its classic 80s guitar tone and songwriting style that, once again, I think would have propelled this band to relatively big things in 1989.  Once again, the influence of a band like Europe, or even Bon Jovi, is impossible to ignore, but at no time does "A Thousand Lies" come off as a ripoff track.  And, yet again, De Biasi proves himself to be an excellent guitar player with both his rhythm work and his solos, with his fingers flying at a rapid pace throughout this track.  

Rating:  Aside from a couple of lesser ballads, this is a great example of melodic rock in 2020 and a really strong effort overall.  Fans of melodic hard rock, AOR, and "Westcoast" melodic rock should seek this out and crank it to 7.5!

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