Despite stints as vocalist with Kansas, Giant and Louisiana based melodic rock outfit Le Roux, Terry Brock will, to most people, be best known as the vocalist with Strangeways, the AOR band with whom he recorded two excellent albums – 1987’s ‘Native Sons’ and 1989’s ‘Walk In The Fire’. In 2003, Brock released ‘Back To Eden’, a solo album on Frontiers Records. Including material co-written by Survivor’s Jim Peterik, the album featured some great moments; however, as good as the songs were, the demo quality of the recording let the side down somewhat.
Early in 2010, the announcement came that Brock would be reuniting with Strangeways, which was good news for AOR fans across the globe. While fans anticipated the arrival of the proposed 2010 Strangeways “comeback” disc, Terry Brock paved the way with the release of his second solo album, ‘Diamond Blue’.
Teaming up once again with Frontiers Records, Brock’s second album is far stronger than his debut. This is not least due to ‘Diamond Blue’ actually having half-decent production values – there’s a lot to be said for releasing something which sounds finished, as opposed to polished demos (something so many small melodic rock labels seem to fall into). Take Brock and an album which sounds like a finished product, and then add City Boy/Steelhouse Lane man Mike Slamer on guitar and you have the right ingredients for a fantastic melodic rock disc.
Essentially, ‘Diamond Blue’ won’t give you any great surprises if you’re already a Terry Brock or classic Strangeways fan, but you likely wouldn’t have wanted it to… The title track, which opens proceedings, captures the brilliance of the Brock/Slamer team in an instant. Brock’s soulful vocal is the perfect foil for Slamer’s mid-paced riffery, which at first uses a couple of chords which appear slightly edgy, but he soon settles down. Good use of harmonies beefs up an already solid chorus – it’s the kind of stuff these guys have been doing for years and, by now, could do in their sleep. The same could be said for ‘It’s You’; while not as immediate as the opening number, it’s mid-paced riff and lead guitar harmony have the makings of absolutely classic AOR.
‘Jessie’s Gone’ (a title which, naturally, makes me think of Rick Springfield’s ‘Jessie’s Girl’) is special in that it was co-written with Strangeways man Ian Stewart. While it’s chorus isn’t quite as strong as I’d hoped for (just a little bit too simplistic), a detailed pre-chorus is proof enough that Brock and Stewart still have their old magic. Combine that with a decent punch on the verses and a superb Slamer solo it’s another of the album’s stand out cuts. ‘No More Mr Nice Guy’ is heavier – giving Mike Slamer more opportunity to rock out – and while the lyrics are a quite silly, Brock delivers them with conviction – ever the absolute professional.
‘Broken’ is interesting in that the opening riff promises something quite heavy. This doesn’t last, as the riff gives way to a gentle mid-paced rocker, allowing Brock to use the softer edge of his voice during the verses. Its chorus, which makes full use of harmony vocals and the harder edge of Brock’s range, is faultless in its delivery. ‘Face In The Crowd’ provides the album with something a little more uptempo than Brock and Slamer’s usual approach, built around an acoustic jangle. Slamer contrasts this with some excellent electric counter harmonies (including a cracking solo). Brock, meanwhile, demonstrates that he’s vocally at ease with whatever is thrown his way.
The end of the album tails off a little for me. ‘Too Young’ falls foul of 80s rock “she’s jailbait” style lyrics; I could tell you that Slamer’s hard rock guitar riff packs a decent enough punch, but once Tezzer starts singing about the 16 year old who could be 30, the cringe-factor is just that little too high. While ‘A Soldier Falls’ is certainly heartfelt, its pro-American anti-war stance is so unsubtle it becomes hard to swallow and ‘Face The Night’ – the ballad which closes the disc – has too much of a saccharine factor to make it stand up with the album’s best moments. Minor complaints though, especially when you consider how superb the rest of the songs on this album are.
Despite my misgivings of the last few tracks, ‘Diamond Blue’ is one of the best melodic rock releases of 2010. Fantastic vocals, the inclusion of the god-like Mike Slamer and decent production for a small label make Brock’s second solo venture a winner. If you’re a fan of solid AOR, get this as soon as you can.