After returning from a four year break, Hardline managed to hit upon a rich vein of melodic hard rock with their 2016 album ‘Human Nature’. Although the band’s sound had toughened up a little since their early days, in Johnny Gioeli – at this point the only original member – they still possessed a first rate vocalist – and the record demonstrated a very consistent approach to song writing. 2018’s follow-up ‘Life’ offered more of the same – even a little tougher in places – and was well received by the fans, and even though it wasn’t quite as enjoyable as its predecessor – or Gioeli’s side project with Deen Castronovo – there was plenty to suggest more musical mileage in Hardline yet.
A much-loved figure on the AOR/melodic rock scene, Toby Hitchcock has previously applied his talents to some very theatrical releases by Pride of Lions, where he is a huge vocal foil to Jim Peterik’s overwhelming desire to be rock’s answer to a hybrid of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Greg Wells. The relentless bombast of those albums can be an acquired taste, but the critical responses to their work has often been positive. Toby’s first solo album (2011’s ‘Mercury’s Down’) carried a similarly huge love it or hate it sound but, thankfully, by the time of 2019’s ‘Reckoning’, his on/off solo career had found itself in a more melodic place. By pulling back some of the vocal histrionics and focusing on more of an AOR-centric sound, Hitchcock had finally released an album that could appeal to a broader cross section of a rock loving audience.
It seems unbelievable that we’re now half way through the year, but here we are. We discovered and shared a truckload of new music during the first quarter, half expecting things to fizzle out as we moved towards the northern hemisphere summer, but it really wasn’t the case. If anything, the year’s second quarter was every bit as strong.
When Dennis DeYoung decided to retire, he hit upon the idea of one final, grand release that would recount his fifty years in the business with an autobiographical slant. Since Dennis rarely thought on a small scale and had always been blessed with a very theatrical voice, the idea of him taking his last curtain call with something resembling a musical about his life didn’t seem that silly. In fact, a big idea got even bigger with Jim Peterik’s help, and the planned final album had to be split into two volumes.
For a lot of melodic rock fans, Robin McAuley is a man who’ll need no introduction. He first came to fame as a member of Grand Prix during the New Wave of British Heavy Metal in the early 80s, before scoring a sizeable UK and US chart hit as a member of Far Corporation. In more recent years, he’s recorded solo works and emerged as frontman with Black Swan, a supergroup featuring ex-Whitesnake/Winger guitarist Reb Beach and Dokken bassist Jeff Pilson. Most people, of course, will know Robin through his long association with Michael Schenker. The German guitarist was so taken with the vocalist’s abilities, the Michael Schenker Group was rebranded the McAuley-Schenker Group for two excellent albums in the late 80s/early 90s, and when Schenker needed a roll-call of famous friends for his Michael Schenker Fest in the twenty first century, Robin was there, front and centre.