CD Review: Hardline / Danger Zone
Reviewed by: Roger Scales
When I look back at 1992 what I remember the most about that period was that I started to see the tide starting to shift in the musical climate and what was on the way out was melodic rock, glam or anything to do with hair bands. In was what became the start of the grunge period and the rise of the bursting Seattle musical scene. But there was one album Double Eclipse by a newly formed group featuring Neal Schon named Hardline that seemed to escape the clutches of the flannels and these new alternative angry and depressed bands. I think what impressed me the most even after my first listen was the voice of Johnny Gioeli. Then of course was the quality of the songwriting and the catchy hooks on such classics as “Takin Me Down” “Hot Cherie” and others. Just as fast as the band arrived they were gone. Now it’s 20 years later and after two rather unimpressive efforts Danger Zone picks up where Hardline left off in 1992 and takes it to another level. Back are those amazing Gioeli harmonies and a great new lineup of some of Europe’s best melodic rock musicians in the business. Frontiers you have done it again.
The album kicks off with a big bang with “Fever Dreams” and right away Johnny has you right where he wants you, carrying the tune with that signature voice. Great use of keyboards towards the bridge and an epic riff leading into the chorus make this one of the albums best cuts. “10000 Reasons” has a bit slower tempo but not in quality guitar work from Thorsten Koehne along with some very catchy lyrics still has me humming this one in my head all day long. The first thing I thought of when I saw the title was “10000 Reasons” was “10,000 Lovers (In One)” by TNT..I guess the moral of the story is for every reason you need a lover and vice versa!
The title track “Danger Zone” has some very Jon Lord like keyboard work from Alessandro Del Vecchio which are haunting but the track suffers a little at the Chorus because it can’t decide if it should be up-tempo or slower and moody and falls flat for me. I would have chosen it at a slower pace personally and the song may have worked better for me – still a solid track regardless. “What I’d Like” brings the album back to anthem pumping AOR at its finest. Perfect pace, on the money tempo, tasty guitar lead, Gioeli again carrying the tune forward with more stellar harmonies.
“Stronger than Me” should have been left as the total unplugged masterpiece that it is instead of the mid tempo ballad that ended up on the record. I enjoyed the song but I don’t like Gioeli’s mid range sound on this one. Some of his inflections sound too forced at times and very “Un-Johnny like”. The song is “Stronger Than This” for sure. I hope live it has a different feel to it. Of course I hope the band just PLAYS live at all so I’ll settle for this version rather than nothing at all!!
“Never Too Late For Love” is maybe the strongest track on the album with the perfect influx of keys, crunchy riffs and an over the top Chorus from Johnny. Very early Danger Danger sounding..enough said..it’s perfect for Hardline 2012. “Stay” kinda creeps up on you because it starts off slow and then just picks up and makes you want to jump up and down. Really enjoyed the riff leading into the chorus on this track and some of the best harmonies on the record. “I Don’t Want to Break Away” has the worst mix of keyboards and vocals on the record. I didn’t care for the chorus and it’s my least favorite track on the record. Does not showcase Gioeli at all..which is a crime in and of itself.
“Look at You Now” brings back that classic Hardline feel with the return of Johnny’s greatness even though the song has a slower pace than I would have liked. Smooth sort of cool down sort of track..enjoyable chorus. “Please Have Faith in Me” has Hardline begging the music industry to stand up and take notice on how to write a solid mid-tempo ballad that works from beginning to end. Full of hooks and more hooks…this works for me big time..even with the unnecessary keys mid song.
“Show Me Your Love” is the hardest rocker on the album and my second favorite track. Perfect set opener if this lineup decides to take this train on the road. Perfect showcase of riff vs. vocal..it’s about even on my scorecard. Love this one. The final track is “The Only One” and ends the album on a high note. Up tempo rocker with balls. Over the top vocals from Johnny..what more would you expect? This one will make it in the set for sure.
I was pleased when I saw the album cover for Danger Zone that there is a glimpse of an Eclipse which is an obvious tip of the cap to its predecessor from 20 years earlier. This was the vehicle that Johnny Gioeli should have been driving for the past two decades and has in a sense with his work with Alex Rudi Pell. This record is a return to glory of a band that left us way too soon. It took 20 years to get here but boy was it worth the wait.
Watch the new Hardline Video for “Fever Dreams”