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.
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.