Between the release of First Signal’s 2016 album ‘One Step Over The Line’ and 2019’s ‘Line of Fire’, the band’s core members kept themselves very busy. Vocalist Harry Hess recorded another album with his “day job” band, Harem Scarem (2017’s ‘United’); guitarist Michael Palace released his second band album with Palace – the appropriately named ‘Binary’ – and Daniel Flores returned to The Murder of My Sweet, releasing ‘Echoes of the Aftermath’ on Frontiers Records in 2017. In addition during those intervening three years, Flores and Palace scored themselves jobs as invaluable members of the Frontiers “house band”, lending their talents to releases by Toby Hitchcock, Find Me and Code Red. There’s almost been no time for them to sleep.
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?
The Michael Thompson Band’s 1989 album ‘How Long’ is often considered one of the landmark releases of 80s AOR. A near perfect release, its slick pop-rock sound and songs co-written with Mark Spiro captured the ears of a generation of fans. The album became increasingly hard to find on CD until a Frontiers Records reissue made the masterpiece available to all once again in 2007. Such a reissue should have been met with much enthusiasm. However, not only did the reissue sound inferior compared to the master used for the original Geffen release, but it was also sullied by the addition of a few contemporary bonus tracks which only lessened the overall quality. A brand new release the same year – TRW, teaming Thompson with vocalist Mark Williamson and noted session man John Robinson (one time of AOR band Bridge 2 Far) – was enjoyed by some fans, but in terms of sheer quality it just didn’t equal Thompson’s late 80s peak.
Combining the talents of Blanc Faces vocalist Robbie LaBlanc and Chilean multi-instrumentalist Daniel Flores, Find Me are a band that recycle classic 80s rock sounds with love. The musicians were brought together by Frontiers Records’ President Serifino Perugino in 2013 to try and fulfil his dream of creating “the perfect AOR record”. Their debut album ‘Wings of Love’ was an excellent example of the genre, though measured against many of the 80s classics, to call it “perfect” would, perhaps, be a little overzealous. The odd thing is that Perugino had something close to his dream under his nose the whole time with Work of Art’s 2008 debut ‘Artwork’, but nevertheless, he wanted more. The fans loved it, of course; the reviews were almost all positive and Find Me eventually recorded a second album at the end of 2015.
As the next couple of years ticked by, with Flores reconvening The Murder of My Sweet in 2017 and working with Palace in 2018 and no word from LeBlanc, a third Find Me record seemed increasingly unlikely. …And then, at the beginning of 2019, the band announced their big return…much to the delight of most who’d followed them previously.
In 2017, Hear No Evil Recordings released an excellent REO Speedwagon box set entitled ‘The Early Years’. The mid-priced release rounded up the band’s fist seven studio albums and 1977’s double live set ‘Live: You Get What You Play For’ in one handy package, making some of the albums available on CD in the UK for the first time in a long while…and in the case of the unedited version of the live disc, for the first time ever. Given the love that went into that set, it seemed inevitable a similar set covering the band’s next decade – the period that brought them the most commercial success and some massive hits – should follow. Such a box would be an essential release, especially since a few of the albums from that period have become equally hard to find despite selling in huge numbers.