VARIOUS ARTISTS – Steel Bars: A Rock Tribute To Michael Bolton

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.

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THE BIG DEAL – First Bite

The promotional cycle for melodic rockers The Big Deal was a slow and carefully planned affair. The Serbian band pitched themselves to Frontiers Records with a selection of demo recordings which got the green light for an album, but they didn’t begin work on that immediately. Instead, they took to social media throughout 2021 and shared a set of videos that introduced them to the world via a selection of well known cover tunes. Classic tracks by Europe and Aerosmith very much set out the band’s melodic rock stall in an obvious but very engaging way, but it was their take on the ABBA classic ‘Gimme Gimme Gimme’ that really stood out. The track’s strong melodies provided vocalist Ana Nikolic with a great platform, but it was guitarist Srdjan Brankovic driving everything forward. The original cut’s distinctive keyboard hook transposed excellently to guitar, and he lent The Big Deal’s recording a truly excellent feature with his massive harmonic sounds.

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