After releasing two solid melodic rock albums, First Signal delivered a genuine masterpiece with their third disc ‘Line of Fire’. On that recording, the union between vocalist Harry Hess and versatile guitarist-for-hire Michael Palace was truly inspired, and the resultant set of songs rivalled the early Harem Scarem output. In many ways, setting such a high benchmark meant that any follow up would likely feel a little inferior, but there’s still plenty about First Signal’s 2022 release ‘Closer To The Edge’ that comes to the gold standard of melodic rock, at least in terms of both composition and musicianship.
Covers albums can be a hit and miss prospect. For every band willing to take risks, there are three dozen hacking out uninspired versions of other peoples’ songs in the name of a quick buck. As proven by Jorn Lande, metal based covers albums can be an even trickier thing to pull off successfully, since not everything needs – or even suits – being “heavied up” in the name of entertainment. In fact, the experience of hearing Lande wail his way through Don Henley’s ‘New York Minute’ could be enough to put you off metal oriented covers albums for life…
For many melodic rock fans, guitarist Josh Ramos is a man who’ll need no introduction. In the 90s, he was a member of The Storm, a fine AOR band that featured ex-Journey men Gregg Rolie and Ross Valory. He later achieved success as driving force behind Frontiers Records signings Two Fires, an act much-loved by genre fans the world over. At other times, he’s been a member of Hardline, a melodic rock outfit who’ve battled on against changing fashions and changing line ups, but could often be relied upon for a decent end product. Yup, Josh has always kept himself busy, and while his approach to things might make him seem like a “man for hire” rather than a genuine star in his own right, he’s often made some smart career choices.
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.
Always a much loved band in melodic rock circles, Harem Scarem have released some great albums over the years, with their first two albums very much at the forefront of the scene at the point where the AOR glory days of the 80s reached their end.
Over the following years, Harry Hess, Pete Lesperance and band continued to make great music, with their 2002 release ‘Weight of The World’ ranking among their best.
Outside of Japan, most of their albums have been increasingly hard to find, but March 2019 will set that right when most of the band’s catalogue is set for release as a lavish fourteen CD set, pairing the first twelve albums with an “Early Years” disc and an exclusive disc of rarities. The good news for fans looking to fill those collection gaps is that each of the individual releases also includes the relevant bonus tracks from the Japanese releases and more besides.
The full details can be found in the press release below.