Whilst I'd never for a second dream of criticizing Italian label Frontiers for becoming a rest home for bewildered AORsters, the sheer number of albums they throw out by men who, whilst great vocalists in their own right, have names forever destined to be preceded by the words 'singer of...' does lead to a certain saminess in the sound of the albums they release by artists you assume are not strictly 'top priority' at the label.
Take Toby Hitchcock for example. Singer of (Survivor alumnus) Jim Peterik's Pride of Lions, he's a man with a set of pipes built for the early nineteen eighties, a glorious vocal throwback to names like Journey's Steve Perry and Fergie Fredriksen (of Toto, in case you didn't know, And if you didn't, why are you reading this?)
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But he's not a songwriter, see, so Frontiers have teamed him up with one of their songwriters of choice, Erik Martensson, a man whose diamond-studded footprint is all over the latter day work of artistes such as Giant and W.E.T., a man who can churn out the melodic rock goodness in his sleep.
And that's where things get a little messy. Mercury's Down is a very good album, make no mistake – indeed there are several epic moments on this disc where you'll be in tears if you call yourself a fan of AOR, such is its intermittent brilliance- it's just that every now and then – in fact more often than is comfortable if truth be told, there's a hint of 'written to order' about the songs.
And because of that, some of the material here doesn't quite seem to have been written with Hitchcock's vocals squarely in mind, leaving the man shouting gamely along to songs he can't quite keep up with. The song 'Let Go', for instance, would be utter, utter dynamite in the hands of a stylist such as Joe Lynn Turner or a bombastic anthem shouter like Jimmy Barnes. It's a devastating track, or would be in the throat of a master, but poor ol' Tobes just can't quite cut it.
However, that's one song in a dozen that fizzes a bit, so we should complain, right? The song itself brings to mind the glory days of AOR titans Drive, She Said (and you can't get much better than that in my book), and, as said earlier, there is an awful lot to like here if you leave your critics hat at the cloakroom and let yourself float in the music.