Twelve years into their career, Vega continue to fly the flag for UK melodic rock. On their seventh album, ‘Anarchy and Unity’, long serving members Nick Workman (vocals), Tom Martin (bass), Marcus Thurston (guitar) and James Martin (keys) are joined by two new faces, but fans can be assured that the fairly dramatic shift in line-up really hasn’t caused too much of a shift in their overall sound. ‘Anarchy’ includes a couple of songs that are a little heavier than expected, but by and large, the bulk of the material builds upon the melodic rock/classic rock sound that Vega have forged since their early days, with the best tracks continuing to be a fine showcase for Workman’s voice, and the whole band’s abilities to hammer home a superb chorus or six.
Enuff Z’Nuff have never been shy of digging up old recordings in the name of a new release. The band began their “patchwork” approach to making albums as far back as 1996 when their sixth release ‘Peach Fuzz’ was constructed from material that wasn’t considered suitable for their 1994 album ‘Tweaked’ and then fleshed out with a couple of b-sides from 1991. In the case of that album, the old-for-new approach could be easily forgiven, since all of the material was first rate. ‘Peach Fuzz’, against the odds, rivals 1991’s ‘Strength’ as EZ’N’s finest hour.
Cruzh’s self titled debut album (released by Frontiers Records in 2016) included a few great choruses and a couple of impressive Def Leppard-isms, but there wasn’t always much about its blend of AOR and melodic rock that stood out in a good way. The song writing was fine without ever being outstanding, but an over reliant on shiny vocal filters and a over-compressed production job basically killed any spark the material could have had. Nevertheless, the album received really strong praise from some online sources – proof that some AOR/melodic rock blogs will heap praise on anything within their remit in a desperate attempt to keep the 80s dream alive – and that seemed to be enough for the record label to keep Cruzh on their books.
Unlike a lot of “legacy acts”, Night Ranger are one of those bands that can normally be relied upon for a decent album. Granted, they’ve rarely hit the heights of ‘Dawn Patrol’ and ‘Midnight Madness’ – the one-two punch that kick started their career back in the 80s – but the majority of the band’s best records are driven by great playing and strong song writing. Even the supposedly “non canon” ‘Feeding Off The Mojo’ (lacking founder Jack Blades and featuring a hastily put together band featuring Gary Moon) was home to a few classic tunes, and ‘Somewhere In California’ (their Frontiers Records release from 2011) showcased a band with lots more to give. In fact, it’s only really 1998’s ‘Seven’ – a heavier, Blades dominated work – that missed the mark. As albums go, it was fine enough on it’s own merits, but the slightly more aggressive tones just didn’t always feel like Night Ranger.
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.