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MECCA
MECCA

Frontiers / Now & Then FRCD 110
Produced by: Jim Peterik & Larry Millas

Released: APRIL 22 / Website
Relatives: Survivor, Mr. Mister, Toto
GENRE: AOR
OVERALL: 100%

  1. Velocitized
  2. Without You
  3. Can't Stop Love
  4. Silence Of The Heart
  5. You Still Shock Me
  6. Mecca
  7. Wishing Well
  8. Close That Gap
  9. Blinded By Emotion
  10. Falling Down

Ah, Mecca...at long last I get to review one of my favourite records in the past several years.
I had never intended to mark/score this album, as I was doing PR for them in the early days, before a label stepped in and a release was secured.
But time moves on and I feel only more and more passionate about this record, so why the hell not feature it as it deserves.
Now to deliver a balance to my words, beneath this review I will include links to other reviews so far online and in conjunction with the soundbytes, I urge you to sample it and make up your own minds.
But as I see it - this is the perfect AOR release.
I have previously assigned a perfect score to 3 hard rock, or melodic rock releases. All three releases (Danger Danger x2 and Harem Scarem) featured a sound and songs that moved the genre forward.
This album is a little different. What is does is capture the classic sound of the softer side of this genre of music and present it in a fresh, exciting and totally absorbing manner.
What catapults this album to the top of the heap is the unique blend of the years of songwriting experience from the pen of Jim Peterik and Fergie Frederiksen, with the youthful freshness of new comer Joe Vana.
It's the years of outstanding session work from Toto's David Hungate (bass) and Reba McEntyre's Jimmy Nichols (keyboards) mixed with the relatively news kids on the block - Shannon Forrest (drums) and Mike Aquino (guitar).
And special mention to the magnificent Thom Griffin (Trillion), who's backing vocals are simply some of the best heard since the classic era.
The album's main parts were recorded in Nashville's Big Boy Room, with overdubs and a mix down taking an additional 6 months to complete. It's those extra attention to details that gives real life to this album.
I say that, as after nearly 12 months of having this album, I can still play it now and discover new musical parts, new harmonies and new hooks within old songs.

Musically, Mecca is not hard rock. Mecca is mature, AOR at it's best. A mixture of Mr. Mister at their complex and moody best, Survivor at their stadium filling, lighters-in-the-air heyday and Toto at their vocally smoothest.
Track By Track:
Velocitized is a Jim Peterik and Frankie Sullivan written song that was going to be for the Survivor album after Too Hot Too Sleep. It never happened, but thankfully this song has seen the light of day here.
Fergie sings on this instantly likeable track that features a heavy guitar riff and is closest of all the songs to the classic sound of Survivor.
A big chorus, some strong harmonies and a sing along the whole family can enjoy. Perfect driving song!
The Vana/Peterik written Without You is one of several tunes that takes multiple listening to get to know. It's moody and almost opposite to the joyous opening song, yet remains an album favourite. Several layers of harmony vocals support the chorus, but it's the verse that gets me in, with Joe Vana's vocals raw, emotional and utterly convincing.
Mr. Mister meets Survivor maybe, but this song is pure Mecca.
Can't Stop Love starts soft and features the duel lead vocals of Fergie and Joe together, swapping lines throughout the song. This track is uptempo, uplifting and basically the ultimate feel good song. Another classic driving track, but don't blame me for the speeding tickets.
It's funny how well the two singers vocals come together, despite having totally different approaches on their own individual tracks.
Silence Of The Heart is Joe Vana's true time to shine. This is one hell of a ballad in perfect moody Mr. Mister-ish fashion. If you like that band's Go On album, take a listen to this.
The guitar and keyboard parts are perfect, adding real mood to the song that just oozes emotion. Joe wrote the track again with Jim Peterik, but this is his song - his stripped back vocal is haunting to say the least. A thoughtful, intelligent and passionate ballad, with layers and layers of harmonies and melodies.
You Still Shock Me features Fergie back up front and is more uptempo rock song, but retains the moody edge that the album encompasses. A smouldering Survivor style rocker.
Mecca is another gem that takes time to absorb. Joe and Jim wrote this again together and Joe is the featured vocalist. This isn't a ballad, but is a moody and very lyrically personal track that pays tribute to Toto in a major way. One of the most Toto-ish tracks of the album.
Wishing Well is a Fergie song, co-written with Jim and Joe. This is pure Toto!
The song matches the vocal style and sound of Toto's Isolation album and is another one of the album's highlights. The chorus is made just that much bigger thanks to some great harmonies.
Close That Gap is another Joe Vana track, co-written with Peterik & Deroche. This is the album's big sentimental power ballad. Once again, Joe's raw and honest vocals provide the extra emotional ammunition that makes good songs great. This is a great song. The version that made the album was a last minute re-mix by Joe that proves to highlight the last section of the song, giving extra power and that knockout punch great ballads are remembered for.
Blinded By Emotion is a Fergie sung Peterik written number that brings a lighter tone to the album at a perfect time. After 2 or 3 moodier songs, this song continues that tone, but with a uplifting, harmony filled, feel good approach. It's the perfect balance at the right time.
Joe singing Falling Down continues what the last song started with Fergie. This is maybe the best song of the album for those that love the moody melodic rock of bands like Mr. Mister. Joe Vana's vocal on this track is perfect - again it's passionate and emotional and lays the platform for a wonderfully uplifting song with harmony vocals that are among the best I have heard in years. The Temptations would be proud. Survivor meets Mr. Mister meets Hall & Oates. The backing vocals and concluding minutes of the song have to be heard to be believed!

That wraps up the album for most. The Japanese bonus track is Miss-Chevious. This Fergie sung track features the Ides Of March brass section and is a funky uptempo feel good track that is closest to the opening track in style, but far from most of the rest of the album. Unlike many other recent albums, the bonus track isn't essential, but will hopefully be features elsewhere soon, as it's well worth having.
BOTTOM LINE: Of course I am biased, but I can objectively rate an album I am passionate about. Please note Rick Springfield didn't even get a 100% rating...(to the surprise of many!!).
But Mecca has something special to offer fans of AOR in it's pure and finest form. Immaculate and passionate vocals, melodies and harmonies on top of prefect songs.
When I look back over previously marked great albums, I see House Of Shakira at 98%, Mike Tramp at 99% and Kharma at 95%, there is no real reason not to award 100% here.
This is the best example of classic 80's inspired AOR that I have seen in the years that I have reviewed albums here and I am proud to have been able to help bring it to the attention of like minded fans.
Fergie puts in his best vocal performance since Isolation and Joe makes a debut few others could match.
The musicianship is first rate and the production by Jim Peterik and Larry Millas proves that AOR releases can compete on a world stage and alongside major label releases.
Mecca 2 please....
PRODUCTION: 100% SONGS: 100% VIBE: 100%ATTITUDE: 100%
ESSENTIAL FOR: All fans of high-tech AOR and classy, moody melodic rock. Most fans of Survivor and some Toto and Mr. Mister fans.



21/01/07: Paul - paul@pagrebo.com
Rating: 69
I have to say I can't ever remember listening to a more safe or "vanilla" cd in my life. There's nothing really wrong with the songs, but there's also nothing memorable about any of them. For some reason an image of a Las Vegas lounge group comes to mind. They're all competent at what they do, but it's all paint-by-numbers in presentation. That's not to dismiss the cd in its entirety, as clearly Andrew has a lot of people agreeing with him on this. But if you like your music with at least a bit of an edge... if you at least want some hot fudge on your vanilla ice cream sometimes... then this may not be the cd for you. Mecca is just so generic, it leaves me blah.

01/08/04: Ian - Watsoni10@aol.com
Rating: 100
This is possibly the greatest AOR album ever.Faultless in every department,and in Joe Vana they have a singer to die for.FANTASTIC...

25/06/04: Guillermo - guillerperez@usuariosretecal.es
Rating: 99
UN gran clasico moderno del aor un muy buen disco de principio a fin

03/05/04: brad - alclawncare@juno.com
Rating: 100
This album is truly one of the best you,ll ever hear. I just could,nt believe the vocal combinations. The melody and rhythym is unbelievable. When I play this for other people they just can,t believe this isn,t on the airwaves. (GOD was in the studio).

05/04/04: Mark - mark@wyse583.freeserve.co.uk
Rating: 100
This album is one of the best, if not the BEST EVER AOR release. Fergie Fredericksen is my favorite AOR singer and he sings his heart out here along with the brilliant Joe Vana. The influence of Jim Peterik is very evident across the recording and this gives the songs even more class and longevity. The best songs of an amazing bunch are hard to pinpoint and with as many AOR / Melodic Rock cd's as I have I just cannot find a weak link in this album, (a Neal Schon or Steve Lukather would be the icing on the cake for the guitar work - although Mike Aquino is very good). My particular faves though are "Velocitized" if only for Fergie's INCREDIBLE vocals - his energy and articulation are first-class. "Silence of the Heart" is brilliant and Joe Vana proves himself as a wonderful talent here. "Blinded by Emotion" is AOR perfection........ The list goes on....... If you like AOR then buy this album and listen and listen and listen. The hooks will not hit immediately, but give it time and they will and when they do just remember to buy the second album when it comes out!!!

21/12/03: Matt Sealby - highsierra@boltblue.com
Rating: 95
My copy arrived in the post this morning and all I can say is - WOW! This is a brilliant album with a particularly impressive debut from Joe Vana: This guy has a great voice and has co-written some fine songs. However, everyone of the musicians on this album puts in a great performance.
There are no weak songs on this album, although I'm not too sure about the lyrics on Velocitized and Wishing Well, which is maybe why I'm not giving the album 100. Having said that, there are some truly exceptional songs, notably Without You, Can't Stop Love, Silence of the Heart and Mecca.
Buy this album and you will not be disappointed!

09/08/03: Tony Pape - tonypape0001@hotmail.com
Rating: 80
For an album that got 100% I was expecting a lot more. It is a 'good' album, no mistake, but doesn't really rate such a high score IMO.
There are maybe three or four songs that would deserve more than 90%, while some just make me hit the skip track button on the remote every time.
More songs in the style of the excellent ' You still shook me ' would have made this album better.


03/08/03: David - ayotte2506@yahoo.ca
Rating: 75
I have to agree that the songs are great, however the production is very weak compared too many other melodic rock releases. The volume seems muttled, I always have to augment the volume everytime I listen to the disc. The vocals and the players are strong, I just can't see a rating of 100%.

18/07/02: Brad - bdame@snet.net
Rating: 98
This album is absolutely everything Andrew says it is. Not overly-rocking but certainly rocking enough with unstoppable melodies. Obviously you can't help but love the Survivor-sounding tracks. And the moody gems sung by Joe Vana...wow, did those blow me away. Every song on here is indeed a gem. Jim Peterik is a genius. Definitely Survivor meets Toto with Mr. Mister influences, as has been stated. Too bad it will never get noticed here in the United States, but get it anyway via the import route if you are in the States. Every melodic rock fan should have this album...period. I cannot recommend it enough.

13/07/02: Greg Sykes - greg_sykes@hotmail.com
Rating: 100
This is a well polished album from a brand new band with some old and new faces. If you liked Toto, Chicago, or Survivor, then you'll love Mecca. I actually have two copies of the cd, just in case on gets messed up or misplaced. My favorites are Velocitized, Can't Stop Love, Silence of the Heart, and Close that Gap. Although, it's hard to pick the favorites, because the other songs on the album are just as good. Joe (JV) Vana is a fantastic singer, and of course, Fergie is excellent as well. You'll not be disappointed!

09/06/02: scott aurisch - scottaurisch@iprimus.com.au
Rating: 85
It was Andrew's 100% rating that convinced me to purchase this album. I normally lean towards harder edged melodic rock such as Harem Scarem (whose Weight of the World is fully deserving of a perfect score) and Danger Danger, but as this album came so highly recommended, I thought I would give it a try. While there is no questioning the quality of the songs, musicianship or production, Mecca have not fulfilled my expectations. Even though Andrew warned us that this was not hard rock but rather 'AOR at it's best', I was still expecting something a bit more guitar driven. In my opinion, the first half of this CD is by far stronger than the second half. Despite being well crafted and performed, songs like Mecca and Close That Gap lack the hooks evident in the earlier parts of the album (especially the first three songs). Personally I much prefer Kelly Keagy's Time Passes from last year. That album managed to effectively blend somewhat heavier stylings (Anything Goes, Wrong Again) with some softer AOR elements (The Journey). Mecca tend to lean too heavily towards the softer side of melodic rock for my liking. It lacks the drive and punch I am after. Having said all that, this is a quality piece of work. There is no doubt this album has grown on me with each listen, but in my opinion is not the classic so many others claim it to be. Bring on Def Leppard and Hardline!

06/06/02: ANTONIS KARABALIS - karabalisa@interamerican.gr
Rating: 100
amazing,fantastic. A REAL AOR ALBUM. JUST BUY IT

05/06/02: J.C. - jason80@iol.it
Rating: 90
I love this cd, I can't move it from my stereo!!! Velocitized is the best song of the year, no doubt!!! But don't confront Mecca with Toto... where are hard rock songs like "kingdom of desire"?
or prog ones like "better world"? Even Mindfields is so much more better than Mecca...
Still, Mecca it's a really good cd!

03/06/02: Zoe Efstathiou - glamdoll_gr@yahoo.com
Rating: 100
I don't have words to describe this album. It is just brilliant and a must buy for AOR fans. I just received it and it will be on my cd player for a long time. Definitely one of the top releases of the year. Don't miss this one.

24/05/02: JV - jv@meccaband.com
Rating: 0
Twin towels and everybody...THANKS FOR REVIEWING THE ALBUM!!

Twin towels....FYI..I don't sing lead on Wishing Well :-)
the line you speak of is Fergie...I think he sings it great...but hey...I love all opinions!!

Without you is a vibe tune....there may be more than one line that we may have wanted to "fix"....but the vibe is what I wanted...so I left alot of stuff that others may have wanted to fix......Feeling over technical prowess....sometimes you just gotta say what the %$^# and take a leap!!

Thanks everybody...I am truly flatterd by your reviews!!!!

And remember...no critisism is bad...If everybody dug everything I would truly be worried!!

See you guys!!

JV

24/05/02: TwinTowels - melsoul@hotmail.com
Rating: 99
Hi ...all i can say about this album is WOW ,just brilliant
every step of the way.

each song oozes with quality, emotions and that need to listen
to the album over and over :)

i love AOR more than anything ,the album got 1 or 2 rock songs
that i do like anyway, the song Velocitized is really good
but the album really shines starting from Track2 WITHOUT YOU,
my personal favorite are Can't Stop Love and Close that gap
and Falling Down ,the rest of the album is hard to listen at
first, but after a few listens you will come back to never let
it go again :)

you may wonder why 99% in my score , well all awesome if maybe
on 1 small thing, Joe Vana's is a bit out of tune in Without you
and Wishing Well first part when he say "i'm gonna find someone
who believes in me" ,fergie instead has some Cut-Voices in
Can't stop love chorus ,low key tone.

but all this can be forgiven with a gem of an album like this.

Totally 2nd best album of the year ,1st place goes to the big, huge ,eternal HAREM SCAREM :)
-----------------------------

23/05/02: Mats - mats@mpe.se
Rating: 95
Excellent CD, love the playing and everything on thisa little gem. Will be at the top when itīs time too round up the year 2002. And if something is for sure "Canīt stop love" is what AOR is all about ! Again a superb release that any true AOR fan must own. If someone who reads this HASNīT BOUGHT IT YET , I FOR ONE WONDER WHAT THEY ARE DOING AT THIS SITE!!!!! :-))

14/05/02: Tommy - cannervall@telia.com
Rating: 100
What an album! Pure classic AOR for every one. This record will rule the melodic world for quite some time. The song "Canīt stop love" is the best song i have ever heard. Then put nine more songs to that in nearly the same standard and you have a superb album for life! BUY OR DIE!!

11/05/02: derek smith - derek.smith9@btinternet.com
Rating: 85
Hi Andrew
slightly disagree with yourself on this one(would be a boring place if we all had the same opinion!!)Good cd..in places very good... but 100%... MMMMMMM..Great peformances all round though and both singers do a fine job just overall lacking a Lukather or Schon and (just my opinion) a couple more beefed up tracks like the storming opener wouldnt have come a miss...but still good stuff

09/05/02: Bruce - bmathwig
Rating: 90
This is an excellent album but I don't think it quite diserves 100. I am very pleased with the vocals which are very up front in the mix. How ever I totally disagree with Richard Hall and believe with the exception of Mecca that I like the Fergie tracks best. Joe voice is an excellent smooth voice but some songs you just have to rock and for those songs Fergie wins. My main slight disappointment is I feel the guys played to AOR radio safe and needed break out a bit more instrumentally. The guitar player is good but seems a little to restained so I hope on the next album they will rock a little harder with out loosing the great melodies. I mean Lukather on Toto latest and Neal Schon on Journey Arrival just wail in comparison yet those albums are also very melodic. In fact in my book the album that deserves 100 is Journey Arrival if you get over the fact that Steve Perry is gone. All that being said my hat is off to Joe Vana with a great first album.

07/05/02: MARCO - minnellamarco@lycos.it
Rating: 100
GREAT ALBUM NOT ONLY FOR AOR FANS,BUT FOR THOSE WHO LOVE THE ART OF MUSIC.BUY BUY BUY.

02/05/02: Susumu - sfuku@d7.dion.ne.jp
Rating: 95
I agree with Andrew that it is one of the finest albums of 2002.
The songs are super and I believe it is better than prime time TOTO, Foreigner and Survivor on sound quality. It is excellently produced as well. Songs are super. Every song can be cut as single. I have never encountered the albums with such excelelnt songs. But why not 100? I feel it depends heavily upon 80's legacy or 80's nostalgia. Don't take it wrong it is nothing wrong with that but more adventurous approach as seen in Tommy Denandar is necessary for the band to take into the next step.
Chorus part is another agenda, it could have been better particularly in Can't Stop Love. A Japanese fan told about using John Elefante backvocals if they use sound kitchen. That could be one of the options. That being said, it is highly commercial release and hope that it will broaden the fanbase of melodic rock as a whole.

25/04/02: Neil Tudor - neil.jo@ntlworld.com
Rating: 75
Well,this is my second attempt at reviewing the Mecca disc,as Andrew from the Melodicrock team,thought quite rightly that my initial judgement("dissapointed") ,after only a brief listen or two, was perhaps a little rash.Well Andrew,my views have changed a little!
The album has grown on me,and I can recommend it to anyone brought up on an eighties diet of quality,melodic A.O.R."You Still Shock me"and "Without You",complete with understated staccato riffs could well have been tracks that graced Leroux"s "So Fired Up" platter,whilst"Silence Of The Heart" and "Mecca" are pure Toto at their mid-eighties best!
Joe Vana certainly has a fine voice,but for me, not quite the same distinctive edge of Fergie,that said,the unusual stereo panning of both voices during "Can't Stop Love",paradoxically makes them sound very alike!
Only a 75/100 rating,because in my world, the album nestles alongside some pretty big guns:Arrows,Journey,Survivor,and of course Fergies own LeRoux(to name just a few).In the context of todays music scene though, its a real gem....BUY,BUY,BUY!!

19/04/02: Noddy - jonferg@nortelnetworks.com
Rating: 99
It is a most dangerous business to use the word "classic" in the early days of the life of an album. However, in the case of Mecca, the term is not misplaced. Along with Journey's "Arrival", Mecca's debut will be viewed as a milestone of the AOR genre - containing, as it does, an array of melodic masterpiece's which set the standard for all other's in the field. The album is co-written by Survivor keyboard maestro Jim Peterik and that band's influence weaves a magical web throughout the whole Mecca opus. The other major point of reference is Toto, with their one-time frontman and Le Roux shouter, Fergie Fredriekson adding an extra slice of class to the excellent vocals of Joe Vana. Title track "Mecca" in particular is reminiscent of Toto, circa The Seventh One and Farenheit, it's laid back groove a pleasure to behold. The Survivor influence is strong, with CD opener, Velocitised echoing "She's a Star" from the former's magnificent "Too Hot To Sleep" album. Perhaps strongest of all is the insistent melodic stomper, "You still shock me", imbued with all the punch and instant hooklines of such Survivor classics as "Is This Love" and "I Can't Hold Back". Elsewhere, the superior AOR of "Without You", "Can't Stop Love" and "Silence of The Heart" help take this release to a different level from the bulk of recent releases, which tend to have a couple of good songs surrounded by a clutch of nice but bland fillers.
Roll on 2nd June and Mecca's appearance at The Gods 2002. Mecca should live up to that billing easily. Classic!

16/04/02: freddy de keyzer - freddydekeyzer@hotmail.com
Rating: 92
Heard by a friend of mine and I'm going to buy it as soon as possible, because this is a real AOR gem of the highest order !An yes, Joe has a fantastic voice, but please don't forget our dear Fergie who has an even fantastic voice. Ever heard him singing 'Oh Dianne' ? on Phillips/Frederiksen ? Brilliant.
But back to the Mecca record, this is pure classy AOR the way it should be done. A band like this, together with Giant, Drive She Said, Signal, Red Dawn and of course Harlan Cage (look out for their new masterpiece soon) and some others are the real kings of AOR. And to all those who think that Harem Scarem are so fantastic, listen to Mecca and the above mentioned acts and you will know how pure brilliant AOR should be played ! They gave Harem Scarem a run for their money, every note !
Buy or die, guys and as you know, 92% is a very high rating for me. 100% is impossible, nothing is perfect in this world, but this is close !

13/04/02: Wio - wio_nl@yahoo.com
Rating: 98
Very good album.I am a big fan of Fergie so on this album he rocks. I really like all the tracks but for me "You still shock me" is the best rocksong on this album. Just rock on guys!!

10/04/02: Richard Hall - drhall01@hotmail.com
Rating: 87
I have to agree that the Joe Vana tracks are superior to the Fergie Fredriksen tracks ,that's not to discredit Fergie or anything(Toto's "Isolation" album remains his best work to date).It just sounds pleasing to hear Joe's melodic crooning after Fergie's high pitched offering.With all this in mind this is not a bad album at all.Definetly for fans of more laid back AOR music ala Mr.Mister & late eighties Toto.

09/04/02: brent - bl5150@BIGPOND.NET.AU
Rating: 85
....and that 85 is 50/50 for the Vana tracks and 35/50 (70/100) for the Fergie tracks. I dunno.........I just can't get into Fergie's voice like some others.....a bit too high and nasally! I always thought it was a shame that Toto's rockiest album Isolation didn't have Joseph Williams. Having said that Isolation is by far Fergie's best performance and superior to that on Mecca.

There are some classic songs here and Joe Vana is a STAR!! It is a BUY OR DIE for AOR fans......not much for hard rock fans. I love it but just find the Vana tracks stand out a bit too much


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