2018 was a very busy year for Johnny Gioeli. He released two well received discs in both his solo album and a collaboration with Deen Castronovo, but also found time to work on a new Hardline record. At a time where the respected rock singer appeared to be in strong voice, he was perhaps wise to take advantage of this burst of creativity, but has releasing three albums in a little under a year spread those talents a little too thinly?
Take two two key members of the original Hardline, the guitarist from Italian melodic rock band Hungryheart and a bunch of strong chorus driven songs and you have a more than reasonable recipe for AOR success. Johnny Gioeli’s delivery can sometimes err on the side of being too bombastic, but in comparison to some of his peers, he still possesses a voice that holds up and when teamed with Hardline/Journey drummer Deen Castronovo, he sounds better than ever. It’s that sense of drive that gives this release most of its strength. After just one full listen, it’s obvious ‘Set The World On Fire’ has no real filler material; it’s dozen rockers so often play like a greatest hits of the best bits from the Frontiers Records catalogue from 2011-2016 and for that alone, so many AOR buffs will consider it an essential addition to their ever growing collections. It’s unlikely to be at all far reaching beyond those whom already consider themselves fans of the musicians involved, but in many ways, to expect more would be kind of beside the point. For what it does – at least in terms of songwriting and performance – this is a great record.
Back in the early 90s, the Gioeli Brothers (vocalist Johnny and guitarist Joey) attracted the attention of Journey guitarist Neal Schon. After drafting in Bad English drummer Deen Castronovo and forming Hardline, the band’s debut album ‘Double Eclipse’ was well received by the melodic rock community. It took a full decade until a follow up belatedly appeared and another eight years for the third Hardline album to materialise. You could say that Hardline make Metallica and Guns N’ Roses appear rather prolific. 2016’s ‘Human Nature’ – the band’s fifth studio album – reinstates guitarist Josh Ramos, absent for 2012 offering ‘Danger Zone’. This is something that will undoubtedly please fans, but it does mean that Hardline have featured a different line up on each release. There are some that have long thought that, in this repect, the band are basically Johnny Gioli and whomever he can find at the time of recording – and they’d probably be right – but if Johnny says it’s Hardline, then Hardline it is.
The record company office, sometime early 2014. Approximately 2:47pm, European time. A couple of hours of brainstorming for new ideas has reached a typical impasse. A man in his mid fifties with thinning hair paces up and down anxiously. Without anything fresh to put forth, he calls for assistance. Taking a phone from the pocket of his thirty year old stonewashed jeans, he pokes at the keypad.
“Is that Del Vecchio?” he asks, somewhat expectantly, “we need your help… Do you have any new songs? Bueno. Do you have connections to any European female vocalists we’ve not yet recorded? You do? Stupendo!”…