Welcome To Hollywood
Glen Burtnik is one of the original AOR Gods. His first two albums Talking In Code and Heroes And Zeroes set benchmarks for others to imitate and to this day are held in the highest regard.|
His other solo ventures have been a little more laid back and acoustic driven, which saw a continuation in the admiration and respect for his songwriting abilities, but those first two albums remain the favourites of the melodic community. Glen has spent the last few years in Styx, touring and featuring on their last studio album Cyclorama, not to mention his first stint with the band, on the Edge Of The Century album.
In between solo albums and Styx duties, Glen has always written and recorded demos and there remains a wealth of unreleased material locked in vaults, not to mention quite a number of tracks being traded around the demo circuit. Over the past 12 months or so, Glen has been busy recording his first solo album since 1996's Palookaville.
Glen promised two things for this record to update his sound and to make a rock record. He has kept his promise, as this record rocks, but in a seriously updated way, with a definite modern rock vibe in place.
However, Glen hasn't forsaken melody this album harks back to his very best melodic out put on Talking In Code and Heroes And Zeroes just with an updated feel.
Basically, this is Glen's best album since those two early records no doubt about it. In fact, this is truly a work of art. You know how some albums rock solidly great, but very straightforward? This album feels and flows like a work of art. There are intro's, outro's, interludes between tracks and extended musical plays that entwine tracks together. It's an album that sets you out on a great voyage.
The production and sound quality is second to none. It sounds a million bucks and the added sound effects and musical layers over the basic tracks really gives the listener something to appreciate. This is a record that requires multiple listens in order to get to know and with each listen, something new is revealed. I love records like this. But there are a couple of small criticisms which take a little away from the end result.
The record is seemingly split into two halves, with the more straight ahead melodic rock and traditional Glen tracks ending with track 10, Cry. The last few tracks are when Glen takes on his artistic license and experiments a little sometimes it works, but on a couple of occasions I think melodic fans will decide it doesn't.
As I said, Glen has updated his sound and seriously rocks. The hard hitting guitars sound fabulous and the updated effects feel quite at home with the new sound.
But there are a couple of occasions where Glen breaks into a rap-vocal, one time detracting from an otherwise very melodic and passionate song The Muse.
The main offender is the aggressive alternative rocker When The Shit Hits The Fan, which to be honest I have no time for at all. It's only 2.42 long, but I don't feel that it has any place on this album. Glen has one of the genre's great voices and disguising it in vocal effects and spoken rap vocals is just wasting God given talent.
The other small issue I have is the origins of the songs themselves. It's been some 8 years since Glen's last full studio album, yet there are a few songs here that are from Glen's songwriting archive some of which have been well traded by Glen fanatics and therefore will already be known to some. Tracks like Roses, Another and Super Boy are not new and then there's Glen's own solo version of the track he wrote for Styx - Kiss Your Ass Goodbye. That's 4 tracks some fans might already be familiar with. It's a minor point, but when die hard Burtnik fans such as myself are craving as many new songs as possible, it is a little disappointing.
Track By Track:
Super Boy is a slow to start guitar driven rocker with a big fat bass/rhythm sound and several production effects featured to build tension. An acoustic verse features more effects, which suit the track. Come chorus time the song explodes from the speakers after a vocally melodic bridge. A strong start to the album and a song that places the new Glen Burtink stamp firmly on the record as a whole.
The 101 is a brief segway into the title track Welcome To Hollywood, which quite simply is a new Burtnik classic. This is a brilliant lyric, cleverly arranged and powerfully executed within the song, with a huge guitar fuelled chorus and some classic lead vocals.
Another is "another' Burtnik classic. Again slow to start, this mid-tempo pop/rock track feature some of Glen's best singing, with his vocal acrobatics providing the hook and bridge leading into the chorus, which is a truly memorable song in the best tradition of Glen's work a la Heroes And Zeroes and the tracks of Retrospectacle.
BAM! is a sultry mid-tempo rock track. Solid, but not an album favourite, it features some unusual textures and a few additional production effects. A modern pop song is my best description.
Kiss Your Ass Goodbye is a classic rocker, I just love this tune. I also like this version better than the Styx track, only because it has even more Glen in it. But there really isn't much difference from the original this is a very faithful rendition.
Heart In A 3 is a great chance of pace, without letting the tempo of the album fall. This is a moody mid-tempo rocker, with some more outstanding vocals from Glen. This is another traditional Glen track that has been updated and modernized.
Intermission is exactly as it says a 1 minute "cooling" off before the best track of the album bursts through the speakers. Roses (formerly known as Roses For The Working Girl) is a flat out, feel good rocker with all the trademark hooks and melodies required of a classic Burtnik track. This new version has been seriously updated from the original demo, with more guitars, more vocals and a faster tempo added.
Cry signals a change of pace and the end of the first half of the album. This is a soft, slowly moving and very passionate songwriter ballad.
When The Shit Hits The Fan is that track mentioned before! A heavy, alternative, effects filled rap-rock song. Next
Spiritual War runs just over 1 minute in length. It continues the aggressive stance of the last track, with a brief vocal over a sharp guitar riff.
Flash Before Your Eyes continues the "arthouse" portion of the album. This 2 minute track summarizes the tracks that have come before it, with lyrics and melodies of previous tracks woven into its complex new age vibe.
All That's Yet To Come is a little gem for long time fans. This is a sparse track featuring only Glen's vocal with no accompaniment. It's a haunting and passionate vocal that really appeals to me, which leads directly into the Celtic influenced modern pop of
The Muse. This is another gem of a track, featuring more passionate vocals over a wildly different track compared to anything from Glen's past. I remain disappointed he breaks into a rap-vocal, but it's a unique song that deserves credit. Muse (Slight Return) is another "out there" example of the wild ride this album takes you on it's a 1 minute uptempo pop track featuring a Gospel choir. Yes, seriously!
I don't think every track works, but credit given, this album is a true work of art and the production is fabulous. Effects, fills, segways and cleverly placed tempo changes make for a really interesting listen and there is some satisfaction in purchasing an album that has had so much effort put into it.
Not Glen's best album ever, but his best since the early days and those first two classic releases. Now, let's not have a six year gap until the next record!
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