|Darren Smith Band Keep The Spirit Alive||MTM Music|
It seems years ago that rrummer Darren Smith left Harem Scarem, but it was only after the first Rubber release in 1999 that he stuck out on his own.|
Working towards a solo career, there were a few false starts before the tracks for the Black Star album were laid down. Due to a naming issue, the band moniker was dropped for the European release and the Darren Smith Band was born.
Being that the album was recorded and mixed in the Harem studio and produced by Harry Hess, it should come as no surprise to hear the album has strong ties to the Harem Scarem sound.
Darren's love of modern rock and Harem's own affinity with varied styles and current production techniques shine through on Keep The Spirit Alive – itself a quite varied mixed of modern, punk/pop and traditional melodic rock.
What you don't get is an album of alternative takes on Sentimental BLVD or Staying Away – tracks Darren sang lead on for Harem Scarem. But there are influences from both present.
The album is best described as having the production sound of the last couple of Harem Scarem albums, mixed with the more modern and free flowing spirit of the Rubber releases – with a couple of unique twists of it's own thrown in.
The drummer turned vocalist has previously displayed his vocal ability with a couple of lead roles within Harem, but is better known for his harmony vocals. Here he takes lead on all tracks and shows he is a fine vocalist, albeit a gruffer and raspier version of Harry Hess.
Guitarist Mike Hall (Killer Dwarfs/Helix) does his own solid Pete Lesperance style axe-work and provides the crunch the tracks need.
The high energy rockers It All Comes Back and Keep The Spirit Alive get the album off to a cracking start, with the latter track providing some big Harem style harmonies come chorus time.
There You Go is a strong rock ballad where Darren gets to highlight his voice in a different light, while the other big ballad King For A Day goes even further, with a truly memorable hook.
The modern pop/rock of Rubber is represented by the very catchy When I Was You and Still On My Radio - two classy rock anthems, both with a tasty chorus hooks.
Everybody Knows is a hate fuelled rocker with someone getting a right proper spray from Darren!
Why Do I is a fabulous uptempo Harem Weight Of The World styled rocker which will be a fan favourite.
And closing the album is a rather unique modern pop ballad Taking On Water, with some great effects and importantly, a very memorable chorus.
Not every track is an instant knockout, with an utterly horrid cover of Love Hurts really blowing chunks mid-album. Not only does the song not suit the album, but the vocals sound truly strained. The other clunker is one of the two bonus tracks. So Low is an industrial modern rock track that doesn't suit the album at all and will send melodic fans running for the hills with their ears in a bucket.
Personal tastes will dictate your admiration for this project, but regardless – the great thing about these guys and this album is that every song has a strong chorus and can be instantly recalled from memory. Few albums have that clear ability and I find myself humming these tunes constantly and liking them more and more each listen. Yet another winner!
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