In the nineties, melodic rock was going through an interesting phase. People with narrow musical tastes tell you the “scene had been killed by grunge” (yes, that old chestnut – how boring AOR fans can be), but the fact is, with AOR and melodic rock being driven to independent labels, between 1993 and 1999 the scene actually produced some of its best music since 1989. Labels like Now & Then released unmissable discs by Crown of Thorns, Cannata, Ten and Shotgun Symphony; Long Island gave the world the second – and best – Heartland album, and further out on the fringes, labels like Z Records, Megarock and Empire some great albums too, including releases by Mark Spiro, Snakes In Paradise and Jekyll & Hyde. Regardless of what some people might claim, the scene was far from dead…it had just migrated.
Over the years, dUg Pinnick has put his name to some fantastic albums. His long career with King’s X has afforded him a legendary status. Likewise, guitarist George Lynch has performed on some great material. Even at times when Dokken’s material didn’t hit the mark back in the 80s, Lynch’s lead guitar work was almost always terrific. In theory, a union between the two should have created hard rock gold, but unfortunately, the first two albums released by KXM – their supergroup with KoЯn’s Ray Luzier – were patchy affairs. 2017’s ‘Scatterbrain’ was an improvement on the 2014 debut, but still fell a little short in direct comparison to anything by King’s X at their very best. The bulk of this third album – their first for Frontiers Records – follows suit with another hit and miss collection of heavyweight rockers.
With overtones of Warrant, Trixter and other vaguely sleazy bands, Roxy Blue’s 1992 debut album ‘Want Some’ became a firm favourite among fans of the glammier end of the melodic rock scale. With a really catchy set of songs and solid musicianship, it was the kind of album that deserved better than just cult status. Over the passing decades, it’s never seemed to get the same rose tinted love as, say, Warrant’s ‘Dog Eat Dog’, It’s Alive’s ‘Earthquake Visions’ or Kingofthehill, but if approached in the right mood, it’s every bit as good as other similar stuff from the period. Disappearing not long after, Roxy Blue seemed destined to join Outlaw Blood, Warp Drive and countless others in the “one album band” stakes. Despite frontman Todd Poole continuing to write songs, as the next few years came and went, they seemed about as likely to record a second album as Ted Nugent becoming a progressive minded vegan.
Billy Sherwood’s 2015 album ‘Citizen’ looked at the world through the eyes of various historical characters, both real and fictional. He drafted in a few friends to make his vision a reality: Yes men Jon Davison and Geoff Downes lent their vocal and keyboard skills; other keyboards were added by sometime Yes members Rick Wakeman and Patrick Moraz, John Wesley, Steves Hackett and Morse each brought their distinctly different guitar chops to the recording sessions but, perhaps best of all, Colin Moulding (one time of XTC) came out of retirement for a guest vocal appearance. In many ways, ‘Citizen’ felt like an all star epic.
In 2016, The Graham Bonnet Band released ‘The Book’, a brilliant release that managed to look forwards and backwards simultaneously. Its first disc presented a selection of brand new hard rock numbers – many of which represented Bonnet’s best work for a long time – and the second celebrated his past by offering re-recordings of songs originally released by Rainbow, Michael Schenker Group, Alcatrazz and more. The record didn’t especially care for being fashionable, but it was a timely reminder – at least for some – that Bonnet could still deliver the goods when backed by the right musicians.