Throughout 2022, Ronnie Romero continued his very prolific streak of releasing new material. The year brought four new albums: another studio recording with the brilliant Sunstorm, an album with The Ferrymen, a solo disc featuring some well chosen cover tunes and, not least of all, a titanic piece of metal reuniting the hard working singer with his band Lords of Black. With just two albums released in 2023, it was a quiet year by Romero’s usual standards, but you still have to ask: at what point does having a ridiculous work ethic start to look like a man on a musical treadmill at the behest of his record company?
In the minds of a lot of people, Michael Bolton is a man charged with filling his career with easy listening pop, or crooning standards. He achieved massive success in the late 80s with his sixth album, ‘Soul Provider’, a record that showcased a man with a strong voice, but beyond the Desmond Child penned ‘How Can We Be Lovers’ had very little substance.
That track was actually a welcome throwback of sorts to Bolton’s musical past. Before he became chief executive of making a generation of housewives over excited, old Mickey Two-Haircuts had already had a full career by most people’s standards. His first two albums mixed west coast pop with AM radio friendly rock tunes and material that occasionally hinted at his future success as a best-selling crooner, but a run of work released between 1979-85 cast Michael in the role of a full blooded rocker. With his band Blackjack (featuring future Kiss axeman Bruce Kulick) and as a solo performer, ‘Blackjack’ (1979), ‘Worlds Apart’ (1980), ‘Michael Bolton’ (1983) and ‘Everybody’s Crazy’ (1985) captured a run of work that could easily stand up with the best of Foreigner, Survivor and their ilk. Given the ubiquitous presence of Michael’s later, softer works, these brilliant records have all but been forgotten – or more likely ignored – by the more casual record buyer.
For his first solo album, Chilean vocalist Ronnie Romero took the easy route and put together a covers album. To be fair, it’s not like he had anything to prove; in the year before its recording, he’d already recorded well-received albums with both Lords of Black and The Ferrymen. He wasn’t about to spend much time coasting along recycling other peoples’ classic rock works either, since he then released an album with his other band Sunstorm, which hit the shelves barely four months later.
When the legendary vocalist Joe Lynn Turner stepped away from Sunstorm in 2020, it could have been the end of the line for the much loved melodic rock band. After all, his departure not only left them without their distinctive voice, it also led to a band with no original members. In addition, Joe was the reason why most people loved Sunstorm in the first place. For these reasons, for Sunstorm to continue seemed like a strange decision. However, they battled on, thinking that Sunstorm name would be enough alone to shift a few units.
After securing the talented but busy Ronnie Romero in 2021, the band secured not only another top drawer singer – capable of tackling a broad range of styles – but also someone who’d technically filled Joe’s shoes when Ritchie Blackmore decided to revive the Rainbow moniker. On paper, Ron was perfect for the Sunstorm job. Since they were attempting to replace the irreplaceable, the reality could have been different, but between some well written songs and Romero in great form, the new-look Sunstorm’s ‘Afterlife’ was a solid affair, regardless of whatever band name happened to be on the box. It was certainly good enough to suggest that Sunstorm had a future without Turner.
Ronnie Romero is one of those vocalists who never seems to stop working. Between the beginning of 2016 and the end of 2021, he released three albums with his own prog metal band Lords of Black, two as frontman with power metal collaborative The Ferrymen (featuring the multi-talented Magnus Karlsson), an album apiece with Sunstorm and Vandenberg, embarked on major tours with Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow and even guested with Michael Schenker.