TOBY HITCHCOCK – Reckoning

Toby Hitchcock first came to prominence in the early 2000s as frontman with Pride of Lions, a melodic rock band masterminded by Survivor legend Jim Peterik. With a combination of big performances and old style AOR hooks, the band found an instant fan base within the AOR community, despite treading a very familiar musical path. Outside of that band, Hitchcock has also achieved cult success with an on/off solo career and, if anything, his 2011 solo debut ‘Mercury’s Down’ featured performances that were even more bombastic.

His second solo album – 2019’s ‘Reckoning’ – offers fans exactly what they want, in that its eleven tracks couple some huge melodic rock sounds with an even bigger vocal. For those who love Toby, the album is probably everything they could ever wish for…and more. For the many who find his approach too big, it might be another album that fails to convince at first, but it’s worth persevering with since most of the material knocks spots off 2011’s ‘Mercury’s Down’.

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GIOELI-CASTRONOVO – Set The World On Fire

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.

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ALCATRAZZ – Parole Denied: Tokyo 2017

When the Graham Bonnet Band’s 2017 tour reached Japan, something unexpected happened. In addition to the standard band shows promoting the then current album ‘The Book‘, three more shows took place where bassist Beth-Ami Heavenstone stood aside and ex-Alcatrazz man Gary Shea performed. Those shows, performed under the Alcatrazz name, celebrated that band’s short career with its many hits and misses. Almost as an important a time in Bonnet’s past as his all too short-lived tenure with Rainbow, Alcatrazz remain a much loved band – especially in Japan – so it was only right the shows were recorded for later release.

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STATE OF SALAZAR – Superhero

When they unleashed their debut ‘All The Way’ in 2014, Scandinavian melodic rockers State of Salazar released one of the year’s best albums. With some great choruses and tunes that often paid a massive homage to the mighty Toto, the band hit upon a classic retro style that really tapped into the Swedes’ knack for a melody. The next couple of years came and went. The more time passed, the more it felt like there would never be a follow up.

A four year silence was finally broken in September 2018. First, the band announced they’d be appearing at the Frontiers Rock Sweden festival with label mates Eclipse and Crazy Lixx, but better still, a digital single ‘If You Wait For Me’ appeared on YouTube. Not only were State of Salazar back, but it seemed they were about to make a real impact within the AOR community.

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IMPELLITTERI – The Nature Of The Beast

Impelliteri’s tenth studio album ‘Venom‘ was a funny record. Not intentionally so, unfortunately, but lyrically it was so clichéd, it managed to make Judas Priest seem like they could be nominated for an Ivor Novello award at any given moment. Funnier still was Chris Impellitteri’s thinking behind the release: he supposedly wanted to “…create a metal record that would appeal to everyone… Even women”, apparently. Here was a man so stuck within a universe centred around 1984, he failed to even see how a lot of women were active on the metal scene at the time of its release. The very idea that some of them were even in bands might’ve just made his little head explode.

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