Monday, May 11, 2015

Radioactive: ”F4ur”

Rating: RRRR

Label: Escape Music 2015
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Swedish guitarist/songwriter/producer Tommy Denander is no stranger to anyone who has followed the melodic rock scene lately. His name pops up on a few albums each month it seems. Radioactive is his very own project, and ”F4ur” (pronounced ”ffourur”?) is the fourth Radioactive album, as you might have guessed. I haven’t been listening to the previous three lately, but I’d say that this one is the best of the bunch.

Lovingly put together with some great songs performed by an all-star cast, ”F4ur” will definitely be one of the more successful AOR albums of 2015. With 14 tracks on it, there’s room for a couple of less enthralling songs, but when Denander and co. hit the bullseye, they hit it big time.

It’s taken me a while just to get past the first song ”Summer Rains”. It’s the nostalgic soft-rock anthem of this summer, with immaculate vocals from the late Jimi Jamison and some seriously gorgeous harmonies. For the first few spins the overwhelming brilliance of the song made the rest pale a little in comparison, but subsequent plays have brought up a few other favorites too.

”Back To The Game” with vocals from Fergie Frederiksen, another singer who sadly no longer with us, is rather Totoesque AOR with some progressive elements. Something I was somehow expecting from Denander, who has never tried to hide his Toto influence. I prefer the cool, slightly bluesy ”Beautiful Lies” though. Cult AOR god Jeff Paris shines on vocals and the hook is one of the catchiest of the album.

Steve Walsh’s strained vocal on ”The Piper” somehow suits the track, but it’s also a bit disturbing. The chorus is rather fine again, reminding me of the late eighties’ Kansas albums. The Robin Beck-sung ”When The Silence Gets Too Loud” and Jean Beauvoir’s ”You’ll Find The Fire” are both among the highlights, as is the second Jeff Paris-sung song ”Start All Over”. Goddamn it, we need a new AOR album from Mr. Paris and soon!

Dan Reed is a good choice to sing the smooth pop-rocker ”If Only My Memory Could Lie”. ”Just A Man” is another Fredriksen-sung track, and I like it more than the prog-Toto track earlier in the track listing.  As much as I usually like James Christian, I can’t say that I’m too crazy about the track he gets to sing, ”Give Me Your Loving”. Compared to the others, the production sounds a bit messy and as much as the song tries, it isn’t the ”Still Of The Night” for this decade. The last song is a short, atmospheric instrumental piece called ”Memoriam”.

I was pleasantly surprised by this album. Being the skeptical, jaded old man I am, I was expecting more of Totoisms and songs all carved from the same wood. Instead ”F4ur” turned out to be a versatile album with some superb performances by the guest singers. And yeah, Tommy isn’t completely hopeless when it comes to playing guitar! :)

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