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.
The fashion for bands playing “complete album” live shows presents a double edged sword. On the negative side, this robs fans of the excitement and mystery of what the night’s setlist might bring. On the plus side, such a practice means that long neglected gems are given a live airing. In the case of Blue Öyster Cult’s ‘45th Anniversary: Live In London’ the latter definitely applies. Not only is their debut record is a stone cold classic, but it features several tunes that aren’t necessarily regular fixtures in their live sets, which lends this recording an instant vitality.
In 2012, Blue Öyster Cult released ‘The Columbia Albums Collection’, a seventeen disc set rounding up their output for the label between 1973 and 1988. It was a set that was worth picking up even for those that owned some of the albums previously, as it also included a couple of discs of rarities. For a limited time, owners could even access four previously unreleased live shows via the BÖC website, which was a definite sweetener for those who’d bought ‘Agents of Fortune’, ‘Spectres’ and ‘Some Enchanted Evening’ a couple of times over already.
To promote the box set, the band held a one-off concert in New York. Finally released as ‘Iheart Radio 2012’ in the summer of 2020, when heard retrospectively, it isn’t a perfect set by any means, though it has enough to recommend it. Capturing the band in front of a select audience of 200 fans, the recording could have had a similarly flat atmosphere to ‘Agents of Fortune – 2016’ (released via Frontiers Records in early 2020), but due to not being tied to such a rigid setlist, founders Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser and Eric Bloom, along with bassist Kasim Sulton, guitarist Richie Castallano and drummer Jules Radino, sound much less like a band going through the motions (no pun intended).
By the end of 2019, Jeff Scott Soto had celebrated thirty five years in the music business. One of melodic rock’s most gifted vocalists, in that time he’s released six solo albums and over thirty more as a full-time frontman with a band. Obviously, you’d expect such an extensive career to take in a live album or two already, but by the spring of 2020, Jeff had no fewer than seven live albums to his credit (three with Talisman and four solo), so in that regard, fans have been more than well served. With three of those already covering his output for Frontiers Records admirably, there’s initially a feeling that 2020’s ‘Loud & Live In Milan’ might just be surplus to requirements…
When FM released their ninth studio album ‘Heroes & Villains’ in 2015, it kicked off a second golden age for the band. An album loaded with great songs, it showed Steve Overland and friends in their best shape since the late 80s. A re-recorded version of their classic ‘Indiscreet’ released the following year presented a really muscular sound and proved that re-recording old work does occasionally work out for the best and 2018’s ‘Atomic Generation’ – although sticking somewhat to a well-established formula – suggested their knack for a catchy chorus was as sharp as ever. In addition, vocalist Steve Overland found time to record an enjoyable solo album in 2016 and an absolute cracker of a disc with his side project Lonerider in 2019. At a time when so many of the older “legacy” AOR acts either sounded long past their best or were going through the motions, FM seemed to spend a half-decade going from strength to strength.