I was fully expecting Balance to be far and away the best release from the ever more impressive Frontiers stable this month; yet much as the songs are growing on me more and more with each new listen (which I have to confess, is quite a lot), because of the rather dull production, Place Vendome’s sophomore effort ‘Streets Of Fire’ has just nipped in and pipped them at the post!
Conceived as a way of tempting former Helloween vocalist Michael Kiske back into the fold after years spent in the rock ‘n roll wilderness, the Dennis Ward produced ‘Place Vendome’ was a bit of a revelation; it’s broodingly sophisticated take on the old tried and tested classic hard rock formula marking it out as one of the best such releases of its type in 2005. Written and recorded with the assistance of various members of Pink Cream 69, and keyboard maestro Gunter Werno from Vanden Plas, ‘Place Vendome’ came as a genuinely pleasant surprise, and there’s been an increasing clarion call for those involved to venture into the studio once more ever since. Those calls have finally been answered with ‘Streets Of Fire’.
This time around, whilst the backing musicians have remained the same as last time, the songwriting team has changed completely with Torsti Spoof (Leverage), Robert Sall (Work of Art), and Ronny Milianowicz (Saint Deamon) lending a slightly different slant to proceedings. Striding purposefully from classic AOR to something with a slightly more modern twist (nothing TOO modern however I should add), ‘Streets Of Fire’ has a noticeably more rounded, less metallic edge than the debut, although the quality of the songs and performances remains just as high.
You instinctively know that you’re onto a bit of a winner when it opens up with the pulsating title track ‘Streets Of Fire’, and from then on the hooks and melodies sink their claws in ever deeper with each passing song. As usual, Dennis Ward has done a top notch job behind the mixing desk, the dynamic, billowing sound further accentuating each tasty little nuance the album has to offer. Favourite tracks? ... bit of a tough one as there are plenty to choose from, but for me, aside from the aforementioned amazing title track, I’m totally smitten with the soaring ‘A Scene In Replay’ (pure Firehouse meets Journey at a Touch reunion!).
Just time to mention the vocals before I sign off - totally different from Helloween of course, but on the strength of this, Kiske would’ve made a cracking AOR singer back in the day. After Places Of Power, Place Vendome offers yet more evidence that 2009 will become another watershed year for the genre ... excellent!