|Pride Of Lions Pride Of Lions||Frontiers Records|
For those that have been living under a rock, Pride Of Lions is the new Jim Peterik melodic rock vehicle that features Jim alongside new discovery, vocalist Toby Hitchcock. Toby's just 25, but is happy to jump aboard Jim's first foray into traditional straight ahead melodic rock and AOR since Survivor. Yes, it has been that long!|
Jim has of course been as busy as he ever was, writing and producing with many artists – including Kelly Keagy, Lynyrd Skynyrd, 38 Special and of course the monster debut Mecca album.
But this is the first time he has performed and released his own AOR project since the late 80's.
Since his departure from Survivor, Jim has toured and recorded with the reformed Ides Of March and released a debut album for his classic rock styled World Stage project.
In 2001 Jim hooked up with Joe Vana to co-write and produce the awesome Mecca album, which also featured Toto's Fergie Frederiksen.
That helped build a fresh desire to return to where Jim's heart lays – traditional 80's style melodic music.
Pride Of Lions is a real mixture of influences. It's a combination of everything Jim has done in the past, with a couple of other 80's influences included.
The primary musical influence is clearly that of Survivor. This could almost be the follow up to Too Hot For Sleep, while elsewhere there are touches of Vital Signs and When Seconds Count.
Then there's the World Stage factor. Jim has a naturally earthy feel to his songs, and that shone through with the Midwestern style of the straight ahead classic rock of World Stage. That continues here, as does the dual vocal approach on that album.
Jim can be heard here trading lines and verses with Toby on several tracks and it works perfectly. The rough bluesy vocal of the master over the sweet harmonies of the young apprentice.
There is also the Mecca factor. Just as that album included two lead singers, it had a track pattern of rocker/ballad/rocker/ballad. To some extent, that is also a feature here. It works well, as the songs are all perfectly crafted, but I do think there is one occasion where it hurt the momentum of the album.
And just to prove he's the master at just about everything, Jim's written a couple of tracks that sound like they could have been included on Toto IV.
I would be remiss not to talk of the new boy here – Toby Hitchcock. This is Toby's first assignment as a vocalist and he passes it with flying colors. His voice is youthful, yet powerful and suits the music included here wonderfully. His voice can be compared favorably to that of Toto's Bobby Kimball and Survivor's Jimi Jamison, not to mention a little of Starship's Mickey Thomas. But one of the biggest vocal comparisons when Toby isn't flying into the high notes is to that of Mecca's Joe Vana. Yes, the two sound like brothers. Toby's debut is impressive, but as a young vocalist, he still has some developing to do. Which is scary really, as you can tell he's fresh, but his range and his tone is already fantastic. The only thing that will come with experience and with age is further warmth to his voice.
Another important note about the album is the amount of guitar featured. On several tracks the guitar riffs come flying thick and fast. It features some of the most fired-up Peterik guitar parts since….well, ever!
Track By Track:
The album opens with the perfect mood setting intro, which bursts into the guitar driven It's Criminal. Toby's opening lines are commanding and authorative and set the album up perfectly. The song is pure Survivor – a melodic verse and then a chorus that comes from nowhere, all the time building the intensity of the album. Although it's a fairly simple track, everything about it oozes class and for no other reason than it's perfectly crafted, the song is instantly planted in your head. Brilliant.
Gone gives the impression it might be a ballad, especially with the piano intro. But the track fires up into a moody mid-tempo pop/rocker. Jim takes lead for the first verse, with Toby joining in for the bridge and then taking over completely for the massive chorus, which is another instantly catchy hook.
There is no mistaking Interrupted Melody for anything other than a big ballad. The soft piano intro, the orchestral musical accompaniment and yes, strings. Like many Peterik songs, this one has another strong verse-bridge-chorus arrangement and as each chorus comes around, the intensity of the song builds. Perfect melodic rock, with some fine harmony vocals throughout.
It's tracks like Sound Of Home which make life worthwhile. This is a textbook AOR anthem, with every ingredient included for fans of the old-school sound to get excited about. There's the driven guitar riff, plenty of keyboards, a melodic verse, building bridge and then a chorus that just goes right over the top! Jim sings the verse, with Toby coming in to take the chorus into overdrive. Magic stuff and one of the top contenders for song of the year.
It's at this point in the album I would have liked another uptempo number. Prideland is a first rate slow to mid-tempo rock song, but the tempo was really on a roll after Sound Of Home. Despite that observation, Prideland is still very cool. It's a stripped back, reflective and somewhat soulful track that would have been at home on World Stage. Jim and Toby share vocals, and sound right at home together. The song features some fine soft guitar playing, as it builds throughout.
Unbreakable is a straight ahead rocker, with plenty of guitar going in all directions. Toby's vocals are again commanding, while Jim's guitar playing is fabulous. Lots of little riffs and rhythms throughout. The tone of the track is quite dark and just that little bit aggressive. But the end of the track is what does it for me – this is pure shred-fest stuff, with guitars and vocals all over the place. A great rocker and nice aggressive number!
Reverting back to a more laid back feel, First Time Around The Sun is something a little different. The tempo is slow to mid-tempo, but the track is no ballad. Rather it is a pomp-ish, jazzy pop number that could have come from any early Toto album. Toby is dead on for Bobby Kimball, while Jim does his best David Paich. And to add to all that – the song is as catchy as hell!
Keeping the pace of the album flowing well is Turn To Me. This is another example of perfect straight ahead melodic rock/AOR with a major 80's keyboard slant, but a nice guitar riff for texture. Another pure Survivor track, this one features Jim and Toby trading verses and winds up with some great solo guitar work.
Madness of Love is a mid-tempo and moody rock track that features more strong lead guitar riffs and another duel vocal performance. The verse is soft, the chorus is far more intense. Hard to compare this track – another World Stage style track, but more melodic and definitely Survivor-ish.
Love Is On The Rocks is another classic piece of keyboard driven 80's rock a la early Survivor and Toto. The verse remains fairly stripped back, then there's a bridge that builds to a slightly more powerful chorus. Pure 80's pop here.
Last Safe Place is a classic ballad. Classy all the way and if the world was fair would find itself on the biggest movie soundtrack of the year and would be a #1 hit. This is a fabulous lighters-in-the-air romantic ballad that features a big vocal from Toby and a chorus that's an instant hit from the start. Another album highlight!
Music And Me closes the album in the same manner that Rick Springfield has done on a few occasions – with a storyteller track – and an autobiographical one at that. The song basically describes where Jim's heart lies and what his music means to him. And for that reason, many will relate easily to this.
The song itself features Jim upfront initially, with Toby joining in. This is a powerful track that is mid-tempo throughout, but builds dramatically through the mid-section guitar-fest, then switches tempo – up another notch during a bridge section - before switching back to how it started. A rollercoaster ride if you will, much like most of this album!
It's also a long album…the 12 tracks run just over an hour and the songs themselves aren't short. They all run 4 to 6 minutes.
The great strength of the album is the diversity of the music. There are big ballads, moody mid-tempo tracks, soaring AOR anthems and guitar driven rockers. Something for everyone that loves old-school melodic music.
Jim Peterik's songs once again come out as the winners in all this, but let's not forget the fabulous vocal talents of Toby Hitchcock, who is seriously only going to get better and better.
To sum up – this is really the stuff. This is the kind of album I live for. This is why I do this website - so I can pass on the good word about classic melodic rock and AOR albums like this. And this is classic. The debut Pride Of Lions album is everything we hoped for and expected of, the great Jim Peterik. Just about perfect, but certainly 100% classic!
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