Now & Then / Frontiers FRCD 093
Produced by: Charlie Calv

Released: Nov. 28
Relatives: Jimmy Lawrence, Intruder, Shotgun Symphony.

  1. Brother
  2. Rainy Monday
  3. You Gotta Love It
  4. All The Way Home
  5. Remember The Times
  6. Under My Skin
  7. Forever In My Life
  8. Standing In The Rain
  9. Nothing Left But Time
  10. On The Run

Listening to Skin Tag is a unique experience. Yes, they are a new band that play melodic rock/AOR, but this is something a little different.
Listening to Skin Tag is listening to a collection of songs that push boundaries. These songs are not only well crafted, mature and ultimately very memorable, but they are also something that doesn't happen often enough. They are musically interesting. They are original and complex, without losing the point of a 4 minute melodic pop rock song.
In fact, it's a very simple album, just with more complex arrangements. There's only 10 tracks, they are all short and to the point, they are all moody AOR in a soft pop rock vein, yet they contain an ingredient that gives them an edge over many others out there in the market.
Skin Tag is a new name, but those involved are not. Jimmy Lawrence is the principle song writer and lead vocalist. Jimmy previously recorded and releases an excellent solo album The World Is Round thru MTM. That album was filled with great songs, in a more traditional AOR format. There are traces of that here, especially with the style of Jimmy's delivery, but for the most part, this is on another level all together. Charlie Calv is the keyboard player and producer of this album. Charlie has previously been a member of Shotgun Symphony, Message and helped with Melodica.
The production of this album is second to none as far as Charlie's previous projects. This is a tightly produced record that like the songs, takes some risks and provides some very interesting song arrangements and production effects. It is also perfectly mixed.
Charlie's Shotgun Symphony buddy Ron Sivulich Jr (drums) joins him and a little of the sound of that band jojns them. But like I said, this moves them all to a new level. Rounding out the band is John Bonjiovanni (Bass, Joe Lynn Turner, Arcara) and Dave Tsien (Guitars, Shoot The Doctor).
Jimmy's vocal style is a long way from the sweet vocals of his solo album. This is a tougher, harder edge Jimmy Lawrence that I think will find more fans because of the quality of this performance.
Brother opens the album, with a moody hard edged melodic rock song in a strong Led Zeppelin mould.
There's no instant chorus or feel good bridge like we are used to from the guys behind this band Instead, listen more carefully and pay attention. The songs hit you when it counts, after several listens. From that point, they never let go.
Rainy Monday is a truly dark and brooding mid tempo rock track with another chorus that hits you after repeat listens. A great lead guitar break, great song melody and tasteful use of keyboards, back in the mix to add atmosphere, not to lead the track. This is a really classy piece of song writing. It has also previously been featured on the Union 4 sampler, so it should be familiar to many of you.
This track comes as a bolt from the blue, You Gotta Love It is nothing like anything these guys have done before, nor like anything else on the album. It's a totally guitar dominated rocker, with a huge hook and moody aggressive edge. Jimmy's vocal is inspired!
All The Way Home is a simpler track and more in line with what Jimmy sung on his solo debut. The production and delivery of this rock ballad are in the challenging spirit of the album as a whole, but this is somewhat more commercial. A great feel good melodic rock anthem.
Remember The Times is another intelligent slow to mid tempo rock ballad with another instantly memorable chorus.
The band head back into their dark and moody ways with Under My Skin. Still, there are multiple layers of instruments and vocals and a rewarding chorus, so it won't be long before this song is under your skin!
Forever In My Life is another track in the vein of All The Way Home - moody, multi-layered, yet catchy in an infectious way that only really well written songs can achieve.
Standing In The Rain is one of the album's most easily accessible song, very simple and catchy pop rock.
Nothing Left But Time starts totally acoustically, with a soft raw vocal. The songs builds, the vocal intensifies and continues through this rather complex and engaging song.
On The Run ends the album by rocking out in a way no other track does on the album. It's almost out of character, but as track 3, the production and delivery still makes this sound in place and at home.
This is one of the catchiest and certainly the fastest paced track of the album. A good fun fast paced pop rocker with a strong chorus.
BOTTOM LINE: It's quite often albums like this develop and grow on you after repeated listens and turn out to be better and more intense than others you can memorise instantly.
This is a step up in intensity, production, songwriting and performance than any of the guy's previous records - with all respect for those retained. I simply try and demonstrate that this is one of those rare melodic rock releases that really tries to break the mould, break the barriers and provide something inspiring for those fans willing to accept a band's bold vision.
That said, there isn't anything alien on here, it's just classic melodic rock, written, produced and performed with a twist of originality and class. Check it out please, for the sake of those willing to take a risk.
ESSENTIAL FOR: Fans of intelligent melodic rock / pop AOR, fans of the works of Jimmy Lawrence and Charlie Calv.

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