Fireworks

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Departure - 'Hitch A Ride' http://www.rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/6a/37/5d/2169_departurehitcharide_1336321313.jpg Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     May 06, 2012    
 
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Upbeat, uplifting and catchy as hell.

Back in the late 90’s British label Escape Music were like an oasis in the wilderness, the quality and consistency of their MHR/AOR output second to none. Every few weeks it seemed that something new and exciting would shimmy into view, those of us still left reeling from the after effects of the grunge firestorm earlier in the decade at least offered a glimmer of hope in the shape of Agent, Intruder, Change Of Heart, Message ... and Departure.

An exquisitely honed, purpose built outlet for the keen musical machinations of multi-instrumentalist/composer Mike Walsh (who’s extensive CV reads like a veritable who’s who of New Jersey talent), Departure impressed straight out of the box with their eponymous debut in early ’98, it’s pomp edged brand of hooky AOR leagues ahead of the competition. Walsh has subsequently issued two further albums under the Departure umbrella – ‘Open Your Mind’ in ’99 and ‘Corporate Wheel’ a couple of years later – each time tweaking the line up of musicians involved but never once sacrificing the principles and quality so firmly established with that aforementioned debut.

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since ‘Corporate Wheel’ first emerged, and after more than a decade of silence you’d perhaps be forgiven for thinking that Departure had, well ... departed! Fortunately, lingering rumours of their demise have proven to be a tad premature, and by the time you read this their fourth album ‘Hitch A Ride’ will be in the starting gate chomping at the bit as it readies for blast off!

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Aside from Walsh and longstanding drummer Duey Ribestello, this new version of Departure features bassist Ryan Walsh, and perhaps more surprisingly, ex Seventh Wonder/Silent Call vocalist Andi Kravljaca. Reshuffling any line up always comes with its own inherent risks (regardless of the long established qualities of the main songwriter) but you know what, the classy melody lines and pomp infused refrains herein are just as strong as ever! Haven’t lived with this long enough to proclaim it better than any or all of the three that went before, but soaking in the gloriously ostentatious ambience of tracks like ‘Nowhere To Go’, ‘This Is My Time’, ‘Soldier Of Fortune’ and ‘Fly’ I’d have to say it was at least as good.

Upbeat and uplifting, catchy as hell yet sophisticated enough to appeal to those in possession of a rather more discerning palette; everything about ‘Hitch A Ride’ screams world class. The playing is uniformly excellent, the vocals are drenched in equal measures of passion and emotion (Kravljaca is a fantastic fit for the band), and the hooks are strong enough to linger around long after the tracks have actually finished. Bet JBJ wishes he could still write songs of this calibre!

Dave Cockett

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