Mecca - 'Undeniable'

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Mecca - 'Undeniable'

For Westcoast AOR fans a pilgrimage to Mecca is still very much in order.

It’s been nine years now since the first Mecca album was released. Nine years is a long time, and there have been a number of changes since the debut. This follow up doesn’t have Fergie Frederikson (who has just released his own solo album); where the debut had a large contribution from Jim Peterik in the song writing department, this sophomore effort relies on the band’s lynchpin Joe Vana for the bulk of the material. It’s clear Vana was taking notes when working with Peterik, as some of the songs carry that melodic Peterik dynamic; more so during the ballads than the more up-tempo material.

Musically, like the debut, there are comparisons to be made with Toto, Spin Gallery, Williams/Friestedt and a Westcoast vibe that breezes through the record. Although Vana is very much in control of the record, he isn’t working completely without a net as AOR demi-god Tommy Denander is on board and his song writing and searing guitar means Radioactive fans will want to seek this album out. Guitarist Christian Wolff is also heavily involved giving the record a consistent band sound, despite a who’s who of session musicians popping up to add their class to the record.

Vana has a strong voice perfectly suited to this Westcoast AOR sound; smooth but with enough range to wring out the melodies and tug on the heartstrings as is required of this genre. ‘Perfect World’, ‘I Know’ and the title track are confident, musically adept songs that will get fans of the debut biting their pillows. The very Toto-sounding ‘Closing Time’ and ‘Did it For Love’ are perhaps the best tracks with clever, varied arrangements and sugary hooks. It has the hi-tech, polished feel of 80s corporate pop rock. There’s a feeling that suggests Vana writes using the piano rather than the usual rock route of writing on a guitar. It means that he comes up with interesting hooks and melodies that require living with the album for some time before it reveals all its delights. However, it takes nine tracks before there’s a song ‘W2W’ that really rocks out. It’s a song that would have been better placed earlier in the record to split up some of the mid tempo numbers. Also, while it’s great to see Vana really stretch himself as a song writer and singer it doesn’t always work. The rap style verse on ‘Life’s Too Short’ is a misstep but the track gets out of jail thanks to a fine chorus and the ballads ‘Deceptive Cadence’ and ‘As I Walk Alone’, due to their Westcoast nature stray perilously close to middle of the road and cheeseville. 

Despite these reservations there is still some first class AOR here, and for Westcoast AOR fans a pilgrimage to Mecca is still very much in order.

Duncan Jamieson


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