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


Produced by: Tommy Denander

Released: OUT NOW
Relatives: Sayit, Toto, Snakes In Paradise

  1. Blind
  2. Don't Wanna Waste
  3. Starry Eyes
  4. Liar
  5. Italian Girl
  6. Hear Me In Heaven
  7. Stop Playing Games
  8. Sarah
  9. Where Is The Fire
  10. End Of The Millennium

The latest release from Z Records sees the label take a more commercial turn that their normal more Euro friendly releases. Even though this band is 100% European, it has a distinctly American flavors and a commercial AOR feel that should see them develop a following.
The main name behind the album and the band is Tommy Denander (Guitars, bass, keyboards, Programming). Tommy is a long time friend of Toto and has surfaced in various projects over the past couple of years, most of them like last years Sayit release - holding much potential, but lacking in production and with long term longevity problems.
But hopefully Prisoner will develop into a band that has staying power, as the songs are stronger than on any of Denander's previous albums.
The vocalist position is shared between new comer Piere Wensberg - the higher pitch vocalist (and preferred one in my opinion) and the darker/rougher sounding Geir Rönning (still a fine vocalist).
Ricky B. Delin rounds out the band. AOR fans should take to this one fairly easily, the songs and style are familiar - the keyboard / guitar driven melodies are all fairly predictable, yet enjoyable to say the least.
With Tommy Denander's previous works and his personal guitar style, there has always been a Toto connection and the same can be said of Prisoner. It's a very smooth album, with plenty of programming and several layers of Toto-ish effects. But the production is thankfully much better and several songs rock harder than expected (e.g. Stop Playing Games)
Songs like Blind and Starry Eyes are moody, rocking without being heavy or imposing. Tracks like Don't Wanna Waste are more anthem-ish, with more hints of Toto, but with a more European rock feel. This chorus in particular is killer melodic rock.
The swapping back and forth between vocalists can be distracting, but on Prisoner, the arrangement of the track listing ensures smooth running.
This album is more guitar dominated than the Westcoast style of Sayit and should have a wider appeal.
The backing vocals are a strength.
Check out tracks like Liar, where Piere does his best Steve Perry.
Other tracks like Hear Me In Heaven go for a stripped down acoustic approach and provide a Westcoast touch. Yeah, we couldn't go a whole album without something for the softer fans!
Guests on the album include a stellar line up of AOR stars: Johan Koleberg - Drums (LIONS SHARE), Thomas Vikström - Backing vocals (TALK OF THE TOWN), Mikael Eriksson - Backing vocals (HOUSE OF SHAKIRA, ZIFA), Bernt Ek - Backing vocals (HOUSE OF SHAKIRA), Andy Eklund - Backing vocals (HOUSE OF SHAKIRA) and the great Bruce Gaitsch.
BOTTOM LINE: A stronger album than expected of good, if not totally original, material that should keep fans of pure AOR and Toto-ish rock well happy.
ESSENTIAL FOR: Tommy Denander fans...Fans of European melodic AOR with an American touch.

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