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JIMI JAMISON'S SURVIVOR / EMPIRES
LABEL: USG RECORDS / FRONTIERS / AVEX
OVERALL: 93%
Produced by: Klay Shroedel
  1. Cry Tough
  2. Run From Thunder
  3. I'm Always Here
  4. Empires
  5. First Day Of Love
  6. Have Mercy
  7. Just Beyond The Clouds
  8. Dream To Far
  9. Love Is Alive
  10. November Rain
  11. Calling America
  12. Burning Heart (Live)
  13. Rebel Son (Live)
In the space of a few weeks - during the normal album learning curve - this CD has gone from what I thought to be a safe and fairly routine release - to an essential melodic rock album.
It is neither as safe or routine as it appears and subsequent listening to it shows a bigger depth that I thought possible.
I don't think anyone, especially Jimi Jamison himself, could have predicted that it would be late 1999 before we finally heard a new album from him.
But that is the way it has worked out. Here we are and the major questions will no doubt be - was it worth the wait and has Jimi still got that voice?
There is no doubt the man has still got a monster voice and is it worth the wait? You had better read on. In brief, I think many will agree is has been.
It was over a year ago I heard a set of demo's for this album. Strangely, they were almost completely all ballads and the future for the album seemed a little bleak.
But Jimi and the band have returned with an album that features only a handful of those tracks and a more that feature a more hard edged guitar sound. There is also a more uptempo feel to the album overall.
I welcome any new release by the man, but I think his work away from the core songwriting team of Jim Peterik and Frankie Sullivan has lacked a little depth. His 1991 solo album was firm proof of that.
But it's now 1999 and Empires is a quantum leap from the When Love Comes Down release. The songs are more solid and have greater depth than those showcased there.
The opening song Cry Tough hits an immediate melodic rhythm - a mid paced, but hook filed opening that suggests that Jimi has taken up where Survivor's Too Hot To Sleep left off.
The verse features some wonderful vocal harmonizing with Jimi's voice running over the song to great effect.
Run From Thunder has the appearance of a mid paced song, but on subsequent listens becomes darker and heavier. There is some cool piano accompaniment and an equally cool pace change mid way thru the song.
The song's beauty lies in the fact the guitar appears to get heavier with every listen.
Yes, I'm Always Here is that song - now several years old and well seasoned. But with full marks again to the guys, the song has been re-worked and slightly re-written. While the pace is the same, the song appears a little more laid back. Certainly better produced, it fits into the rhythm of the rest of the album.
The keyboard sound is more a pure piano sound and it's contribution is even better than the original.
Empires is one of the original demo's held over for the album. This album is a killer ballad - a more urgent / passionate song, rather than a straight forward love song. It was written with Jim Peterik & Frankie Sullivan several years ago.
The track is very moody and features an elaborate verse, hook and chorus and spans nearly 7 minutes. Quite an intense rock ballad with a superb instrumental break.
Adding further to the original demo is the addition of a female lead vocal in verse 2 and then backing Jimi through the rest of the song. Great touch.
First Day Of Love kicks off like any melodic AOR number, until Jimi's vocals trail off and a crunching hard edged guitar hook kicks in. This track really rocks, with a raspy hard vocal adding feel to the track. The chorus is slightly more melodic and grows with every listen. Sure to be a sure fire live favourite, the song ends on the same melodic note is starts on. Heavy guitar attack.
Have Mercy is more a straight ahead rocker. It's not heavy and it isn't straight up AOR either. Just a good mid tempo guitar driven rock song, with a AOR verse and a hard rock chorus.
Just Beyond The Clouds is the first traditional power ballad. It's a classy high powered ballad that uses Jimi's voice perfectly.
Dream To Far is another cool track that does not immediately make an impression, but like a few other tracks grows substantially with every listen and also gets rockier. It has an urgency to it, which like the mood of the song grows with every listen.
Love Is Alive is maybe the only let down track on the album. It's just a straight forward rock song with a tough sound, but little in the way of hooks.
November Rain is a pretty song. A simple pop love song, with minimal accompaniment. A vehicle for Jamison to let his vocals shine.
Calling America is a curious number to include, but once again becomes an essential part of the record. This Tom Cochrane song was originally on his Victory Day album. Jimi's voice fits perfectly where Tom would normally be expected. It's sung at an octave lower and really suits the album. The chorus may even be a little rockier than the original.
Burning Heart (Live) & Rebel Son (Live) are the album's bonus tracks.
But I think they are a needless addition. It would have been better to leave these bonuses to the single or an EP. The album is plenty strong enough to not warrant the inclusion of these songs recorded live with the new line up.
Still, with that objection noted, it is great to hear these songs again. The are classics in their own right and it would take a really sad effort to ruin them.
Being that this new album is nearly 10 years down the track from Jimi's last involvement in Survivor - the style of the album is part Too Hot To Sleep, part Survivor and several parts a new sound.
BOTTOM LINE: There is several elements that make this album essential.
Whether you agree with the use of the Survivor name or not, (we'll keep that debate for another forum), this is a great album.
Jimi's vocals are first rate, the production is tight and most importantly - the songs are of very high quality. The band have done well to improve on the initial song selection that was on offer 18 months ago. There is a lot to like about this album.
PRODUCTION: 94%SONGS: 90%VIBE: 92%ATTITUDE: 90%
ESSENTIAL FOR: All Jimi Jamison fans, Survivor fans, fans of great commercial American hard rock & AOR.



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