CD Reviews

Houston - 'Houston' (UK Edition) Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     March 15, 2011    
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A great album at the time of release, and that still holds true.

(This review also covers 'Reckless Love - 'Reckless Love' (Cool Edition)')

Just in case you've been hiding out in a remote cave for the past couple of years ... melodic rock is back! For a while now classic acts have been cleaning up at the box office with sell out shows (both here and in the US), and smoking new releases from the likes of Whitesnake, Foreigner and Treat (to name but three) has advocated a resurgence of interest in a genre most would have you believe was dead. Great as it is to see all the old guard making a comeback however, the lifeblood of any sustainable scene has to be the emergence of new bands. Over the past twelve months two of the most notable names to ingratiate themselves into the collective consciousness have been those of Houston and Reckless Love...

Ostensibly a duo (drummer Freddie Allen and vocalist Hampus "Hank" Erik), Stockholm based Houston first started to make waves last summer, their self titled full length debut eventually emerging through Rocket Songs in the fall. The pair were initially brought together by local promoter Dave Laroxx with the express intention of "making a really good Swedish record". Now I don't know about you, whenever I see statements like that the ol' bullshit detector kicks into gear, but given all the plaudits heaped upon said debut on its release (Classic Rock voted in the number one AOR release of 2010!) for once it actually held water.

Cut from the same cloth as bands like Survivor, Journey, Foreigner and Giant the Houston sound is firmly entrenched in classic American AOR (flavoured with some Westcoast and a good dollop of Scandie), and what's more it was delivered with the same kind of style and panache. Helped in the studio by an impressive cast of players (Tommy Denander, Mats Olausson and Thomas Vikstrom amongst others), and bolstered by the proven production skills of Westcoast/AOR guru Ricky Delin, hook laden tracks like 'Give Me Back My Heart', 'Pride', 'Hold On' or She's A Mystery' provide a glorious nostalgia trip back to the heyday of AOR, yet still manage to sound fresh and verdant.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine For Melodic Rock Music

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Now available as a domestic release here in the UK, 'Houston' has been repackaged with new artwork and a couple of tasty bonus tracks – 'Under Your Skin' is a slick, mid tempo number with a flighty flamenco feel, whilst the more upbeat 'Chasing The Dream' has a bouncy sense of urgency. The production quality of both tracks isn't quite as polished as the rest of the album, but they're both worthy additions for Houston collectors.

'High school drop outs made good' sounds like the plot for some clichéd Hollywood musical, but in a way it kinda fits glamsters Reckless Love to a tee. Originally from Kuopio in the Finnish province of Northern Savonia, the four piece has been together as a band in one form or another since 2001, but its only more recently (and after relocating to Helsinki) that the current line up gelled. Quite apart from the fact that he looks like the bastard offspring of David Lee Roth and Vince Neil, fans of CrashDiet will probably recognise front man Olli Herman (aka Oliver Twisted) as the voice on 2007's 'The Unattractive Revolution' opus.

Sporting an image that screams 80's glam metal and a raucous, guitar driven sound, Reckless Love are probably Finland's best answer yet to Sweden's Crazy Lixx. Imagine if you will an amphetamine fuelled mixture of Treat, Poison, Wig Wam, Motley Crue, CrashDiet and Brother Firetribe, and if it survived into adulthood chances are it would look and sound exactly like Reckless Love. Granted, they ain't doing anything radically different to countless bands on The Strip 25 years ago, but when you factor in a whole new generation who've never really seen or heard anything like this before; then to all intents and purposes they could be the new messiahs.

Bombastic, joyous and for the most part well over the top; their brand of big guitar driven party rock is all about forgetting life's woes for a couple of hours and having fun! As for the hooks and melodies, yes there are obvious glam overtones throughout, but just a phrase here or the odd chorus there and you find yourself squarely in prime time Scandie AOR territory – I kid you not! If you find that hard to swallow then just check out the likes of 'Romance', 'Love Machine', the sultry 'Sex' (odd title for a smouldering AOR ballad that sounds like Def Leppard, but hey ... it works!) 'Feel My Heat' or 'Wild Touch' and you'll see what I mean.

Originally released last spring, the album has now been repackaged, expanded and reissued as the appropriately titled 'Reckless Love – Cool Edition'. In addition to the revamped artwork, there's also an extra five bonus tracks. These comprise two alternate versions of 'Back To Paradise' (one remix, one acoustic), acoustic versions of 'Sex' and 'Hysteria' (yes, that one!), and the punk laced anthem 'Get Electric' – I was particularly impressed with the Leppard cover because even though it stayed pretty close to the original, it managed to capture the essence of the song without sounding at all contrived.

Consensus was that both were great albums at the time of release, and that still holds true. Whether they're worth shelling out for again if you have the original has to be your choice, but if you passed first time, now is definitely the moment to jump in!

Dave Cockett
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