Twelve years into their career, Vega continue to fly the flag for UK melodic rock. On their seventh album, ‘Anarchy and Unity’, long serving members Nick Workman (vocals), Tom Martin (bass), Marcus Thurston (guitar) and James Martin (keys) are joined by two new faces, but fans can be assured that the fairly dramatic shift in line-up really hasn’t caused too much of a shift in their overall sound. ‘Anarchy’ includes a couple of songs that are a little heavier than expected, but by and large, the bulk of the material builds upon the melodic rock/classic rock sound that Vega have forged since their early days, with the best tracks continuing to be a fine showcase for Workman’s voice, and the whole band’s abilities to hammer home a superb chorus or six.
Cruzh’s self titled debut album (released by Frontiers Records in 2016) included a few great choruses and a couple of impressive Def Leppard-isms, but there wasn’t always much about its blend of AOR and melodic rock that stood out in a good way. The song writing was fine without ever being outstanding, but an over reliant on shiny vocal filters and a over-compressed production job basically killed any spark the material could have had. Nevertheless, the album received really strong praise from some online sources – proof that some AOR/melodic rock blogs will heap praise on anything within their remit in a desperate attempt to keep the 80s dream alive – and that seemed to be enough for the record label to keep Cruzh on their books.
Unlike a lot of “legacy acts”, Night Ranger are one of those bands that can normally be relied upon for a decent album. Granted, they’ve rarely hit the heights of ‘Dawn Patrol’ and ‘Midnight Madness’ – the one-two punch that kick started their career back in the 80s – but the majority of the band’s best records are driven by great playing and strong song writing. Even the supposedly “non canon” ‘Feeding Off The Mojo’ (lacking founder Jack Blades and featuring a hastily put together band featuring Gary Moon) was home to a few classic tunes, and ‘Somewhere In California’ (their Frontiers Records release from 2011) showcased a band with lots more to give. In fact, it’s only really 1998’s ‘Seven’ – a heavier, Blades dominated work – that missed the mark. As albums go, it was fine enough on it’s own merits, but the slightly more aggressive tones just didn’t always feel like Night Ranger.
A much-loved figure on the AOR/melodic rock scene, Toby Hitchcock has previously applied his talents to some very theatrical releases by Pride of Lions, where he is a huge vocal foil to Jim Peterik’s overwhelming desire to be rock’s answer to a hybrid of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Greg Wells. The relentless bombast of those albums can be an acquired taste, but the critical responses to their work has often been positive. Toby’s first solo album (2011’s ‘Mercury’s Down’) carried a similarly huge love it or hate it sound but, thankfully, by the time of 2019’s ‘Reckoning’, his on/off solo career had found itself in a more melodic place. By pulling back some of the vocal histrionics and focusing on more of an AOR-centric sound, Hitchcock had finally released an album that could appeal to a broader cross section of a rock loving audience.
For a lot of melodic rock fans, Robin McAuley is a man who’ll need no introduction. He first came to fame as a member of Grand Prix during the New Wave of British Heavy Metal in the early 80s, before scoring a sizeable UK and US chart hit as a member of Far Corporation. In more recent years, he’s recorded solo works and emerged as frontman with Black Swan, a supergroup featuring ex-Whitesnake/Winger guitarist Reb Beach and Dokken bassist Jeff Pilson. Most people, of course, will know Robin through his long association with Michael Schenker. The German guitarist was so taken with the vocalist’s abilities, the Michael Schenker Group was rebranded the McAuley-Schenker Group for two excellent albums in the late 80s/early 90s, and when Schenker needed a roll-call of famous friends for his Michael Schenker Fest in the twenty first century, Robin was there, front and centre.