|Radioactive Taken||MTM Music|
Tommy Denander – surely the busiest man in melodic rock – is back with his third Radioactive release and his third full album release of 2005, following his production and musical work on the Philip Bardowell and Sha-Boom albums.|
As is the case with all Tommy's work, Taken features that very distinct production sound and the expected mixed of guitar chops and AOR keyboards.
You know what to except with a Denander release and established fans won't be disappointed or surprised with this release.
One does not need to talk a lot about the sound, as stated, no surprises here – a pleasant mix of Toto-esque guitars and lush keyboards in a setting that traditional fans of the AOR genre will love.
While the AOR scene has its roots in the 80s, Tommy's updated production techniques help avoid any claims of a dated sound, but at the same time his style appeals to fans of that classic era.
The biggest differences in Tommy's work is the actual songs themselves and the vocalists used to deliver the message.
As is always the case with Radioactive, an all-star cast of melodic rock singers has been used to great effect.
The songs this time around are a little more melodic than the last album Yeah and I will state that Tommy has definitely achieved his desire to make a classic AOR sounding record. The choruses of Taken are some of the best to appear to date on any Denander release.
Track By Track:
The album opens with C.O.W, a snappy little guitar solo which falls away before the first full length track Taken bursts to life.
That distinct, unmistakable guitar/keyboard blend that is Tommy Denander's sound floods the speakers and we are away.
Taken features the great Bobby Kimball at the helm - belting out a loud, aggressive vocal. The vocal suits the urgency of the song, which is one that gets better as time goes on. I love the vocal and the track itself, while perhaps a little busy, is still a winner.
Stronger Than Yesterday is quite the opposite. Sung by Andreas Carlsson, this is a super smooth AOR track with a more restrained sound and a rather excellent verse melody and a very catchy prominent chorus which has all the hallmarks of the Denander sound. Toto alumni Steve Porcaro and Greg Phillinganes guest on keyboards and the late, great Jeff Porcaro supplies the drumming from a session recorded before his untimely death.
Hit Her Where It Hurts is a curious track indeed as it is a pure AOR anthem featuring Gary Barden on lead vocals. I say curious, as Gary is not normally noted for his AOR work – more bluesy and hard rock, yet he sounds right at home here and the song is further boosted by one of the strongest choruses of the album.
Next is another coup for Denander. Easy's Getting Harder features the very first duet between husband and wife duo James Christian and Robin Beck. The songs itself is a very smooth, easy going Westcoast/AOR number and is perfectly suited to the guys, who put in great performances. Why haven't they done this before?!
The greatest Swedish vocalist Mikael Erlandsson makes his first appearance for the big sentimental ballad This I Promise You. His raspy, passionate vocals are made for power ballads and he doesn't disappoint here.
Forgiveness is a very Westcoast/AOR track with a high-tech Rick Springfield/Richard Marx/King Of Hearts feel. Norwegian vocalist Christian Ingebrigtsen takes the lead vocal for this mid-tempo ballad which also features Bruce Gaitsch on acoustic guitars. Now you know why the song has a strong Marx/King Of Hearts feel.
2005 saw Tommy team with Unruly Child vocalist Philip Bardowell for an album and Bardowell reprises that role here.
It is good to hear the album take a slightly tougher, heavier feel at this point, after three relatively soft tracks. The song Shattered features a nice long instrumental break and a typically furious Yngwie Malmsteen solo.
Tommy also spent time in 2005 working on his upcoming album with Fergie Frederiksen. Fergie guests on a lead vocal here, as he has done on all three Radioactive albums. Thomas Vikström also joins with a lead & backing vocal appearance. The guys sound pretty good together and I like the musical direction of this uptempo melodic rocker. Premonition is a musically intense rocker, which features some cool programming and a good strong chorus.
Following on, Carry On is a much more relaxed AOR tune, but featuring an equally intense chorus. It was advertised that Kelly Keagy was the featured lead vocalist, but rather it is Mikael Erlandsson, with Keagy providing a few lead vocals lines during the song and chorus.
The line-up of guests on this track includes Tom Keane (keyboards), Neal Schon (talk box intro) and Michael Landau, Michael Thompson and Frederic Slama (guitars). Although, with so much going on here, it is a little hard to deterine individual parts
Love Is On Your Mind features some cool guitar riffs and a sound reminiscent of Denander's early work. The uptempo melodic rocker features Thomas Vikström on lead & backing vocals and one of the album's best choruses.
The song was written with the Spin Gallery project in mind and does remind me of that, although it is that little bit heavier.
Sinner features a lead vocal by Jaded Heart's new boy Johan Fahlberg. It's an ok track, but perhaps it doesn't stand out enough next to some of the other tracks.
Never Gonna Let Her Go is a soft and slow Westcoast instrumental to close the album. The track features a dream-team Westcoast line up of Michael Landau, Steve Lukather and Peter Friestedt (guitars) and Vinnie Colaiuta (drums), plus David Diggs (keyboards) and a little Sax from Tom Saviano.
All three Radioactive albums have a slightly different feel and preferences may depend on personal tastes and day to day moods. Either way, it is a very fine AOR album and yet another notch on Denander's belt. Together with the Philip Bardowell album, Tommy has delivered two highlights for 2005.
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