BLUE ÖYSTER CULT – iHeart Radio Theater N.Y.C. 2012

In 2012, Blue Öyster Cult released ‘The Columbia Albums Collection’, a seventeen disc set rounding up their output for the label between 1973 and 1988. It was a set that was worth picking up even for those that owned some of the albums previously, as it also included a couple of discs of rarities. For a limited time, owners could even access four previously unreleased live shows via the BÖC website, which was a definite sweetener for those who’d bought ‘Agents of Fortune’, ‘Spectres’ and ‘Some Enchanted Evening’ a couple of times over already.

To promote the box set, the band held a one-off concert in New York. Finally released as ‘Iheart Radio 2012’ in the summer of 2020, when heard retrospectively, it isn’t a perfect set by any means, though it has enough to recommend it. Capturing the band in front of a select audience of 200 fans, the recording could have had a similarly flat atmosphere to ‘Agents of Fortune – 2016’ (released via Frontiers Records in early 2020), but due to not being tied to such a rigid setlist, founders Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser and Eric Bloom, along with bassist Kasim Sulton, guitarist Richie Castallano and drummer Jules Radino, sound much less like a band going through the motions (no pun intended).

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JEFF SCOTT SOTO – Loud & Live In Milan

By the end of 2019, Jeff Scott Soto had celebrated thirty five years in the music business. One of melodic rock’s most gifted vocalists, in that time he’s released six solo albums and over thirty more as a full-time frontman with a band. Obviously, you’d expect such an extensive career to take in a live album or two already, but by the spring of 2020, Jeff had no fewer than seven live albums to his credit (three with Talisman and four solo), so in that regard, fans have been more than well served. With three of those already covering his output for Frontiers Records admirably, there’s initially a feeling that 2020’s ‘Loud & Live In Milan’ might just be surplus to requirements…

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The Great 80s Project: 1986

With debut albums from Crowded House and The Housemartins standing alongside massive hits from Madonna, a-ha and Red Box, 1986 would already have a strong enough grounding to challenge 1984 as one of the decade’s finest years for music. With Huey Lewis’s ‘Fore!’ challenging 1983’s as his masterpiece, a strong AOR debut from Robert Tepper and Jackson Browne’s ‘Lives In The Balance’ channelling a very commercial sound, it was also very much a year for great Transatlantic AOR and sounds that now seem so entrenched within that decade, you can’t help but love them.

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DENNIS DEYOUNG – 96 East: Volume 1

Beloved by many within the melodic rock community, Dennis De Young is someone worthy of being called a legend. His years spent recording with pomp rock legends Styx gave the world a handful of classic albums. His on/off solo career also brought big success in the US, with his 1983 album ‘Desert Moon’ being highly praised. He even wrote a musical based on The Hunchback of Notre Dame. In terms of a career, after fifty years, he’s pretty much done it all.

All good things must come to an end and with his ’26 East’, Dennis closes his half-century in the spotlight the best way he knows how. Few would have the balls to say goodbye with a double volume of autobiographical material (except, perhaps, Neal Morse), but DeYoung makes such an indulgent concept seem like a fitting epitaph.

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FM – Synchronized

When FM released their ninth studio album ‘Heroes & Villains’ in 2015, it kicked off a second golden age for the band. An album loaded with great songs, it showed Steve Overland and friends in their best shape since the late 80s. A re-recorded version of their classic ‘Indiscreet’ released the following year presented a really muscular sound and proved that re-recording old work does occasionally work out for the best and 2018’s ‘Atomic Generation’ – although sticking somewhat to a well-established formula – suggested their knack for a catchy chorus was as sharp as ever. In addition, vocalist Steve Overland found time to record an enjoyable solo album in 2016 and an absolute cracker of a disc with his side project Lonerider in 2019. At a time when so many of the older “legacy” AOR acts either sounded long past their best or were going through the motions, FM seemed to spend a half-decade going from strength to strength.

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