Jimi Jamison - Never Too Late review
Posted by: Kevin ()
Date: November 30, 2012 01:00PM

It's taken a bit of time for this one as I wanted to wear off the "new album" feeling. This one has been on high rotation for some time now, and after 40-50 spins, I think I've got a fairly good handle on it to the point where the thoughts aren't changing much. Either way, have at it.
Kevin



JIMI JAMISON – NEVER TOO LATE

First things first. I don’t know what Jimi Jamison has done to get his voice back, but there’s a bunch of singers who should follow in his footsteps. Simply put, he sounds better than he has since the release of Survivor’s Too Hot To Sleep, now over 20 years ago. Jamison was sounding a bit ragged for a few years, but sounds really, REALLY good on this cd.

Now, a bit of background on me. One of the first AOR albums I ever heard in its entirety was Survivor’s When Seconds Count. Still, to this day, I rate it as maybe the best album Survivor ever did although Premonition is a very close second. Unlike many people though, I never rated Vital Signs nearly as high, even though it's a very good album. For one, it was Survivor at their most pop lyrically and musically. Sure, there is some really, REALLY good stuff on offer, but also some cringe-inducing songs like Popular Girl (bubblegum pop of the lowest order), and melody notwithstanding, It’s the Singer Not the Song always struck a nerve with me. Lyrics were always important and my belief in the polar opposite just never made that song click. Melody came first, but it was the lyrics that made something stand out in the end. That’s the repeatability factor as opposed to the albums that sound good to start, but fade fast. If you had both good melodies and good, heartfelt lyrics, you have the makings of a classic disc. More on that later….

Post Survivor (or at least in between stints with the band), Jimi Jamison has released several solo cds. Those ranged from very patchy (When Love Comes Down), solid if not spectacular (Empires), and a really good album in with some songs that should have been saved for the writers other band (Crossroads Moment). Add to this, there have been a couple of projects (Kimball/Jamison and One Man’s Trash) that explored other territory. In a welcome change from the 90s and most of the 2000s, Jamison has been very prolific recently, and that’s a good thing. World class singers like him don’t come around every day, so it’s nice to get his voice on a regular basis.

Now, a couple of years after the last true solo album, the latest “writer-for-hire” in the Frontiers stable Erik Martensson has crafted an album for the newest entry in the Jamison solo catalog. To his credit, the Jamison album is a completely different sound from Eclipse, WET, or the Toby Hitchcock album……generally. Take the 80s pop sound of Vital Signs, beef it up with a few good rockers , and you are pretty close. The key word here is “80s”. Unlike many albums, this one really does sound like it could have come from the 80s. I guess it’s a matter of personal preference as to whether that is a good thing or not.



TRACK BY TRACK

A delicate keyboard intro surges into wailing guitars, as the first song kicks in, and Jamison is immediately back in Vital Signs era melodic rock mode. Big anthem melodic rock with a big sing-along catchy chorus. Easily one of the best songs on offer here.

The Great Unknown kicks off with strains very reminiscent of Can’t Give It Up from the Too Hot To Sleep album, and this song follows in similar path musically. A tough Jamison rock vocal gives way into a slightly forced chorus, which is basically two lines repeated with big backing vocals. Still, solid enough. Willie Mitchell was a producer from Jamison’s hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, but the shoutout that he is given at the end seems a bit daft. Better to leave that kind of thing for the album notes.

The title track is next, and while there are strains of Survivor in there, this is pretty much mid 80s AOR with no concessions to any intervening years. This is melodic rock songwriting 101 with a huge chorus, a definite album highlight, and one of the better songs of the year.

A balladic verse turning to a huge (as usual) rock anthem chorus is the path for I Can’t Turn Back. I’ve never been bowled over by Martensson’s lyrics, but his knack for melodies and big choruses override that point here. I haven’t heard Jamison sing this type of over-the-top (read “very good”) anthem chorus since the days of Desperate Dreams/Didn’t Know It Was Love. So far so good.

Street Survivor (hmm….) is where the album starts to lose me. This is a big rocker that probably could have been used for any Martensson project. Certainly uptempo and well placed in the flow of the album, but lyrically average at best and rather forgettable overall.

Ballad time and The Air I Breathe is a big one. Pretty much your standard hands-in-the-air AOR ballad. Lyrically, it doesn’t stand up to the Survivor ballads (which I always thought were some of their best songs), but if you aren’t a lyric stickler, there isn’t too much to complain about here. Just wish there was this big bridge leading back into the chorus after the instrumental break. That would have taken this to another level.

Not Tonight is back on the 80s pop AOR path. A slower verse packed with melodies over the Jamison vocal rises for the very pop anthem chorus. I wish they had expanded that little speed-up in the pace near the end of the chorus, but no such luck. Cool song.

Calling the Game sounds an awful like Caught in the Game (a Dave Bickler-era Survivor song/album), and I wonder if it wasn’t intentional. There seem to be several references to Jamison’s past on this album. Here you get an uptempo rocker that doesn’t sound like the aforementioned song, and this one would have worked on the Hitchcock album. A nice change in pace, but maybe not the most catchy song on the album. Chorus doesn’t really work for me, and lyrics are a big part of this.

A false tender piano intro leads into the anthem rocker Bullet in the Gun. Cool melodic verse (albeit very abstract lyrics), but I struggle mightily with the chorus from a lyrical aspect. You’ve got this happy-go-lucky pop song about someone Jamison is planning to assassinate. The whole thing’s a bit off-putting, and I don’t know a better way to say it. It seems like it came from another song altogether. If you can get by that, it’s a fine song. I can’t. Again, that breakdown instrumental section (really nice, btw) is crying out loud for a bridge that never appears.

Heaven Call Your Name sounds like a ballad from the title, and that’s what you get. A haunting sound and a big chorus, but I still struggle with the lyrics on the verse. “I sold the old house for a brand new place….it’s smaller, but I don’t need that much space”. Maybe most people are ok with lyrics like this, but I need more substance, especially with such a poignant subject matter. Gotta say that the pleading chorus just about saves the whole thing, but it could have been so much more.

Walk On (Wildest Dreams) is the ending rocker, and this one is pretty cool. An edgy, raspy Jamison vocal leads into a big chorus with the typical melodic rhyming of fire and higher, which incidentally must be a requirement for writing an AOR song. Nice uptempo ending song with a nice musical breakdown.



THOUGHTS & RUMINATIONS

I was worried that this might just be a copy of any of the other Martensson albums with a different singer, but by and large, the Jimi Jamison album has an identity of its own. It’s certainly “lighter” than the other albums, and outright love of some of the other Martensson albums like Toby Hitchcock certainly doesn’t make this a must-buy. They are far different albums, even if there are overlapping edges. Hitchcock was melodic hard rock with some AOR tendencies. This is pure 80s AOR with some melodic rock tendencies.

It’s generally uptempo, but it’s not all that heavy. The melodic feel even on the rock material soothes and smoothes out all those rough edges, and a pure hard rock album, this certainly is not. Certainly nothing compares to the heaviest moments of Too Hot To Sleep or even Empires. Instead, pretty much straight ahead 80s AOR rules the day. Maybe a better way to say it would be if Jamison did a solo album in the mid 80s while not straying too far from the Vital Signs era of the Survivor sound. That will put you right in the ballpark.

I always thought Survivor was really underrated for lyrics that got straight at the heart of the matter. That reason in itself is partly why I don’t rank Vital Signs as high as some of the other efforts (it’s very difficult to get good, substantial lyrics when doing superficial pop songs like High On You), but across the catalog from Premonition to Too Hot To Sleep, Peterik/Sullivan were able to get some pretty good and occasionally outstanding (ie Man Against the World) lyrics down on a consistent basis. Coupled with good melodies, there are some classic albums in that catalog, regardless of style or singer.

For those not worried about such trivial things as lyrical excellence, this new cd will rate highly. It’s a fairly instant album, and upon first listen, I thought it might turn out to be a strong candidate for album of the year. Without the lyrical strength to return to, I feel it fading fast minus a couple of truly standout songs where the melodies are so strong that they outweigh the lyrical content. I’ve had this issue with Martensson records before, so maybe this shouldn’t be all that surprising. Jamison is still a surpreme vocalist, but he can only work with what he’s been given. The Eclipse Bleed and Scream album had attitude to burn, and the lyrics became a non-issue for the majority of the songs. It’s hard to keep that level of songwriting up, and between Eclipse, WET and the side projects (Toby, Jimi, The Friday Nights), maybe Erik is being stretched a little thin. He certainly wouldn’t be the first one this has happened to.

For those that just want a cd of catchy melodies and some really big anthem choruses (which must be a Martensson speciality) performed by competent musicians and a grade A vocalist, this might be right down your alley. For some, it may well be a contender for album of the year. Some of those choruses just grow and grow with repeated listening, and if that is what you are here for, look no further.

On the other hand, I need a little bit more. The lyrics aren’t strong enough to carry the songs, and the songs aren’t strong enough to compensate for the lyrics. I don’t hate it, but on the whole, I’m not really moved one way or the other by it. Thus is the problem and it’s frustrating being a longtime Jamison and Survivor fan, especially when the first listen elicited such a positive reaction. Instead of getting better, the cd simply planed off. In the end, Crossroads Moment even in full version is a little bit better, and with the Pride of Lions-esque theatricality of a few songs removed and the whole thing cut down a bit, that cd stands well above this effort. Maybe next time will be the charm…or maybe it’s just me.

Rating: 75

To interpret scoring numbers:
Below 70…..needs work
70…..average. Good and bad points.
80. Very good, if not spectacular.
90+ future classic.
(for scores more in line with Andrew’s current system, add 10 points to the score given)

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SubjectViewsWritten ByPosted
Jimi Jamison - Never Too Late review1197 Kevin 11/30/2012 01:00PM
Re: Jimi Jamison - Never Too Late review 464 LilKing22 11/30/2012 01:35PM
Re: Jimi Jamison - Never Too Late review 328 Kevin 11/30/2012 02:57PM
Re: Jimi Jamison - Never Too Late review 365 Doug Wolfgang 11/30/2012 03:41PM
Re: Jimi Jamison - Never Too Late review 333 nivjourney 11/30/2012 10:00PM
Re: Jimi Jamison - Never Too Late review 439 Andrew 11/30/2012 11:31PM
Re: Jimi Jamison - Never Too Late review 378 nivjourney 11/30/2012 11:43PM
A little clarity. 318 Andrew 12/01/2012 12:52PM
Re: A little clarity. 227 Terry K. 12/02/2012 02:05AM
Re: A little clarity. 198 Cressy 12/02/2012 03:37AM
Re: A little clarity. 200 nivjourney 12/02/2012 04:39AM
Re: A little clarity. 191 Terry K. 12/02/2012 06:50AM
Re: A little clarity. 224 Andrew 12/02/2012 04:19PM
Re: A little clarity. 195 Andrew 12/02/2012 04:17PM
Re: Jimi Jamison - Never Too Late review 275 Chazz 11/30/2012 11:58PM
Re: Jimi Jamison - Never Too Late review 239 Kevin 12/01/2012 03:36AM
Re: Jimi Jamison - Never Too Late review 377 Rockingbear 12/01/2012 03:55AM
Re: Jimi Jamison - Never Too Late review 235 Peter M. Bietenholz 12/01/2012 05:09AM
Re: Jimi Jamison - Never Too Late review 254 Terry K. 12/01/2012 06:46AM
Re: Jimi Jamison - Never Too Late review 151 Chazz 12/05/2012 05:28PM
Re: Jimi Jamison - Never Too Late review 246 Marco74 12/01/2012 06:04PM
Re: Jimi Jamison - Never Too Late review 189 Kevin 12/02/2012 03:05AM
Re: Jimi Jamison - Never Too Late review 252 Terry K. 12/02/2012 03:43AM
Re: Jimi Jamison - Never Too Late review 272 RAMSAY 12/02/2012 07:09AM
Re: Jimi Jamison - Never Too Late review 249 Terry K. 12/02/2012 08:56AM
Re: Jimi Jamison - Never Too Late review 240 nivjourney 12/02/2012 10:25AM
Re: Jimi Jamison - Never Too Late review 232 Andrew 12/02/2012 04:21PM
Re: Jimi Jamison - Never Too Late review 167 nivjourney 12/02/2012 10:52PM
Re: Jimi Jamison - Never Too Late review 202 nivjourney 12/02/2012 10:54PM
Re: Jimi Jamison - Never Too Late review 257 rickyboy999 12/02/2012 11:28PM
Re: Jimi Jamison - Never Too Late review 202 nivjourney 12/03/2012 01:50AM
Re: Jimi Jamison - Never Too Late review 190 rickyboy999 12/03/2012 04:22AM
Re: Jimi Jamison - Never Too Late review 199 nivjourney 12/03/2012 07:59AM
Re: Jimi Jamison - Never Too Late review 149 Terry K. 12/03/2012 08:18AM
Re: Jimi Jamison - Never Too Late review 160 nivjourney 12/03/2012 08:50AM
Re: Jimi Jamison - Never Too Late review 164 Terry K. 12/03/2012 10:05AM
Re: Jimi Jamison - Never Too Late review 209 Scott 12/03/2012 10:56PM
Re: Jimi Jamison - Never Too Late review 232 Andrew 12/02/2012 04:20PM
Re: Jimi Jamison - Never Too Late review 179 farrarsm 12/03/2012 03:41AM


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