a l b u m r e v i e w s

Produced by: Tony Clarkin
  1. Eat It Up
  2. Who You Gonna Trust
  3. Rock Me In Ya Cradle
  4. No One Can Show You The Way
  5. When The Good Times Come
  6. Talks Like A Lady
  7. An Ordinary Day
  8. Showtime
  9. Lightnin' Strikes
  10. Never Say Never
  11. Step Back
Tony Clarkin is one of the finest songwriters in AOR, the UK and even the world. Every record he makes - along with lifelong friend and sensational vocalist Bob Catley - progresses to a new level.
He has never made two records that sound the same. That is both good and bad. Good that there is always something new to be expected and enjoyed. Bad because it has led to some frustration, particularly in the Magnum years, where fans would hang out for Storytellers Night 2 or Wings Of Heaven 2, only to find they would never come.
But that hasn't stopped the band creating some fine melodic rock albums.
On Hard Rain's debut - the band were in some circles being hailed as returning to their Wings Of Heaven best. I disagree - I thought it was a continuation of where Magnum left off with Rock Art, just adding a new twist and a little different approach.
It was a fine AOR album filled with the overblown pomp rock Magnum were so great at and I liked it a lot. Just not as much as Magnum.
On When The Good Times Come, Tony and Hard Rain have moved forward again.
There are similarities and brief references back to older Magnum records and to the last Hard Rain album, but for the most part this is once again, an individual album. It is more pop than the last album - actually heavier in places but overall a little smoother and certainly more consistent in it's pace.
A more pop and commercial feel.
And back to a full band effort, after the debut featured Tony on all instruments.
The album's first five tracks are as good as anything they have recorded before. The album then drops away a little in the middle and comes back to finish strongly.
Eat It Up starts with a big funky guitar riff and a new vocal approach from Bob Catley. A funky pop rocker, this track features horns, harmonica, a big Rock Art-ish chorus and some fine vocals.
Who You Gonna Trust is a very cool and very smooth track indeed.
A smooth intro and relaxed keyboard driven verse is supplemented with some very smooth Catley vocals. This all vaporizes when the guitar takes over for a rockier more hard edge chorus that reminds of the heavy guitar lead on Rock Art's Tell Tale Eyes and Hard Hearted Woman tracks.
The chorus sees the band utilize backing vocalist Sue McClosky more than ever, with her and Bob sharing line for line and joining together for a powerful harmony.
Rock Me In Your Cradle is similar in that the verse is carried by a ballady acoustic guitar/keyboard combination that drops away to a chorus that throws you from your chair! A big hard edged guitar assault. Very convincing.
The end of the track builds sensationally to a point where Bob Catley is just going mad and sings off with one last mighty "Rock Me"! Great stuff.
No One Can Show You The Way is classic pomp Magum. Wonderful track. The chorus builds dramatics and is somewhat more intense than the chorus. A big Magnum stadium feel. Something a little like the sound of Don't Wake The Lion, but a big ballad feel.
When The Good Times Come starts softly again. Bob's vocals are awesome again. It sounds like he is really striving for a new peak. The song is mid paced and filled with Sue's backing vocals and a mix of electric guitars. The chorus is slightly more uptempo and is generally a feel good pop rocker. There is also a nice mid song acapella/acoustic break.
Talks Like A Lady is another mid paced pop rocker. A new sound for the guys, it is pleasant enough, but the chorus doesn't quite take off. Not bad.
An Ordinary Day is the most radical departure from formula Tony Clarkin has made to date. A female lead vocal! Sue has a great voice and does a good job on this moody multi tempo song. Rich in atmosphere a good song where Bob Catley shares the limelight a little on the chorus, but I am still unsure if the female vocal fits in with the rest of the album. The more open minded will probably enjoy this song.
Showtime is another of the tracks that doesn't quite hit the mark and along with the last 2 tracks, represents the lull in the album. A little pop funk number that certainly gets marks for originality, but I am not sure this is what hard rain fans would be looking for.
Lightnin' Strikes is much better. A more uptempo rocker, there's plenty of guitar's, keyboards, some drums and killer backing vocals. A moody, yet happy pomp/hard rocker.
Never Say Never also assures that the album is ending in style.
A hard but only mid tempo intro of keyboards and drums mixed with acoustic guitar. Bob's vocals are smooth and heartfelt. A great ballad that has a more dramatic rock feel.
Step Back finished the album off with a huge rock track. Bob's vocals are hard and pushed to the limit. Then the temp shifts a little and the drum rhythm owns the track. A big anthem rocker and a killer live track.
And that is album number 2. A solid collection of tunes in a style not unfamiliar, but still breaking some new ground.
Personal taste will dictate where it falls in the scheme of things as far as favorites - but regardless of it's position it's another great addition to the Clarkin/Magnum/Catley legacy.
ESSENTIAL FOR: All Magnum, Bob Catley and Hard Rain fans. Pomp rock fans.

b a c k t o i n d e x