Fireworks

Saracen - 'Marilyn' http://www.rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/11/4a/c7/1653_Saracen_1320151950.jpg Hot

Added by James Gaden     November 01, 2011    
 
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A masterpiece full of superlative performances and masterful songs!

I have been a huge Saracen fan since 1981, and was the instigator behind getting the band to reform for Now & Then back in the late 90s, so perhaps it may be construed as a conflict of interest for me to review this album. However, as I’ve always prided myself in my honesty and propensity for speaking my mind, I’m going to do it anyway. Ha!

The big talking point for this new album is whether one can really consider it a kosher ‘Saracen’ album, due to the number of lead vocals supplied by guest singers.  That is a point that is very much open for debate. What isn’t debatable, however, is the sheer quality of the music on display here.  But I’m in agreement that the contributions supplied by guests are what lift this album up into a distinctly different class … and for a lot of the album, maybe even a different genre. I’ve never been a fan of saxophone, but Snake Davis’ contribution here cannot be lauded high enough. A performer who has played with the likes of Cher, Tina Turner and Paul McCartney, his delicate, and at times mournful touch here really add a creative depth to the music, none more so than on the opening four and a half minute instrumental, ‘Norma Jeane’. A brave move, but one making total sense considering final epic track, Marilyn’, where the journey of both the character and album have progressed from child through to international icon.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine For Melodic Rock Music

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The fact that this international icon is voiced by Robin Beck is truly the icing on a most mouth-watering cake. Laying down lead vocals on five of the tracks here, including a duet with FM’s Steve Overland (doing his best Michael Bolton impersonation) on ‘Who Am I’, Robin rocks harder than I’ve heard her before on ‘Make This Body Work’, while at the opposite end of the scale, brings such an honest sincerity and emotional pathos to the acoustic ‘Not For Sure’ and heart-wrenching ‘Like Going Home’. Frontiers’ Norwegian signing Issa supplies the lead for ‘Hold On’, but Saracen’s vocalist Steve Bettney is not left out of the mix, giving us a redone old-time classic in ‘Whither the Wind Blows’ along with the uptempo NWOBM feel of ‘Break the Spell’, but also, for me the only down spot, the Pink Floyd-ish ‘Love Like a Razor Blade’, which leaves me colder than an alopecic polar bear in the dead of winter.  Brrrr! And keeping it in the family, Rob’s son Richard handles lead vocals on ‘Unfinished Life’, another slice of 80s metal fun.

Bottom line – Saracen main man Rob Bendelow has delivered arguably the greatest album of his career, and one which would easily translate to a wonderful West End musical, for sure. As Robin Beck expressed to me recently, “this album has heart”. It surely does, along with a massive amount of talent and genius. Is it a Saracen album? If forced, I’d probably say no. Is it a masterpiece full of superlative performances and masterful songs? Of that, there is no question.

Bruce Mee

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