by Mark Allen
– Senior Columnist –
When Kane Roberts, the muscle-bound guitarist best known for slinging the axe for Alice Cooper on the legendary Constrictor and Raise Your Fist and Yell albums, released this solo effort back in ‘91, he created one of the greatest melodic hard rock releases the genre has ever seen. Even to this day, Saints & Sinners has rarely been rivaled and remains a near-flawless example of how to craft hook-drenched ear candy. The songwriting talent of Desmond Child and Jon Bon Jovi combined with Roberts’ stellar guitar skills and the impeccable production from Sir Arthur Payson to create something magical.
Twenty-one years later, this classic album sounds just as good as it did back then. Actually, it sounds better. Because reissue specialists Yesterrock have gotten their mitts on it, given it a spiffy remastering, and released it back onto the market in a limited edition version (only 500 copies) that includes four unreleased bonus tracks. Given how great the album sounded back then, the remastering doesn’t significantly improve the quality, but even a diamond benefits from a little polish once in awhile. The primary appeal of this reissue, the main reason folks will consider shelling out hard-earned cash for an album they probably know by heart, is the bonus tracks. More on them in a moment…
Saints & Sinners was—and is—an over the top commercial hard rock album. Subtlety is not on the agenda; this is instant rock-‘n’-roll gratification. Someone told Roberts and company that bigger is better and they decided that if bigger is better, than massive and huge were the only way to go, and go that way they did. The hooks are not merely big—they are humongous, and they are legion. The choruses are monstrous sing-along anthems that soar so high they bump their heads on Heaven’s basement and every one of them is slathered in wall-of-sound harmony vocals that provide the knockout punch, the coup de grace, the cherry on top. Take all that and toss in the terrific guitar playing of Roberts and you have the sort of stuff melodic hard rock wet dreams are made of.
But what about the bonus tracks… are they equally orgasmic? Well, not exactly; you’ll want to approach these new songs with your expectations dialed down to a realistic level. First off, these tracks are demo quality. Decent demos, mind you, but they lack the slick production that defines the rest of the album, sporting a much rawer vibe. But as for the songs themselves…
“House Burning Down” is a solid heavy rocker. No, it doesn’t hold a candle to the studio tracks, but the chorus has a decent (if slightly generic) hook and plenty of big ’80-style backing vocals and Roberts absolutely rips it up on the solo. “Waiting For You” is a bluesy rocker with a poppy feel that really goes against the grain of the rest of the album. Not nails-on-chalkboard bad… but bad enough. The pop edge almost makes you involuntarily bop your head, but you’ll be head-bopping while thinking, “Why the hell am I listening to this crap?” Following this moment of clarity you will hit the Skip button and be rewarded with “Dirty Blonde,” which happens to be the best of the bonus tracks, a vintage commercial rocker with catchy hooks and a sing-along chorus spiced up with smooth harmonies and gang backups. Rounding out the new stuff is “White Trash,” another throwaway standard issue rock song. So basically what you get is one good bonus track, one solid, and two skippers.
If you have ignored this masterpiece for all these years, then this is an absolutely essential purchase. For those who already own and love this album… well, the remastering makes minimal improvement and the bonus tracks are hit and miss affairs, but this version is still an upgrade and therefore the one to own. Angels crooning in your ear could not sound sweeter than this slice of melodic rock paradise.
Genre: Melodic Hard Rock
Kane Roberts (vocals, lead guitar, rhythm guitar)
John McCurry (guitar)
Steve Steele (bass)
Myron Grombacher (drums)
Chuck Kentis (keyboards)
1. Wild Nights
3. Does Anybody Really Fall in Love Anymore?
4. Dance Little Sister
5. Rebel Heart
6. You Always Want It
8. I’m Not Lookin’ For An Angel
9. Too Far Gone
10. It’s Only Over For You
11. House Burning Down
12. Waiting For You
13. Dirty Blonde
14. White Trash
Hardrock Haven rating: 9.5/10