Hot off the Press

Harem Scarem | Mood Swings II

by Joe Mis
– Senior Columnist —

Harem Scarem Mood Swings IIOnce again a strong Canadian Wind is blowing – this time it is a reunited Harem Scarem delivering a solid and complete re-recording of their classic 1993 album Mood Swings. With a fresh and clean sound plus three new tracks, Mood Swings II should appeal to all Harem Scarem fans, or anyone looking for some old school melodic rock and metal.

Three of the four original members are back together, although one has a very limited role. Frontman Harry Hess clearly demonstrates that he hasn’t lost a step. His thick and sometimes smoky voice is as powerful as ever, and the more modern recording techniques uses only highlight his ability. The strings – both guitar and bass – are handled by the venerable Pete Lesperance. The integration and teamwork of guitar and bass are very strong as a result, and Pete’s efforts behind the console are apparent as well, giving the entire release a bright and crisp tone. Original drummer Darren Smith also appears on the album, contributing lead and backing vocals on “Sentimental Blvd.” but the drums on all tracks are capably handled by Creighton Doane, Harem Scarem’s stick man since 2000. As is the Harem Scarem trademark, backing vocals are some of the best in the business.

Musical highlights include: the powerful and hard rocking “Saviors Never Cry;” the slick and bouncy rhythm line of “Stranger Than Love;” the funky, bluesy groove and blistering guitars of “Jealousy;” the “vintage” sound of “Sentimental Blvd.” delivered by Darren Smith’s vocals; the gritty feel generated by guitar and vocals on “Empty Promises” contrasting with the smooth acoustic work on the ballad “Just Like I Planned;” Each and every “classic” track captured the spirit of the original.

“World Gone To Pieces” is the first of the new tracks, and despite capturing the spirit of the old ones it has a decidedly modern tone. Slick guitars and a strong vocal performance make the song memorable. Pete Lesperance pulls out all his guitar chops on “Anarchy,” and Hess drops to the lower, grittier end of his range, suiting the lyrics perfectly. Doane’s impeccable drums only serve to highlight the great rhythms and flows of the song. “Brighter Day” is a wonderfully uplifting melodic rocker and is hopefully an indication of things to come. All the new songs capitalize on the strong Harem Scarem sound and bode well for the future. Even though they’ve modernized the sound a bit, there is no doubt that even after a five year hiatus Harem Scarem is still in top form. These three tracks prove that some things just never get old!

Mood Swings II is not only a great re-recording of a classic, it is a gem of an album on its own. The excellent re-working of the original album plus the three new songs makes it a winner all around. Harem Scarem fans can only hope that these new recordings are but the start of a newly revitalized career for the band, and with a little luck much more Canadian Wind will blow through in the future.

Genre: Classic Rock

Harry Hess (lead vocals)
Pete Lesperance (guitars, bass)
Creighton Doane (drums)
Darren Smith (background vocals and lead vocals on “Sentimental Blvd.”)

Track Listing:
1. Saviors Never Cry
2. No Justice
3. Stranger Than Love
4. Change Comes Around
5. Jealousy
6. Sentimental Blvd.
7. Mandy
8. Empty Promises
9. If There Was A Time
10. Just Like I Planned
11. Had Enough
12. World Gone To Pieces (new)
13. Anarchy (new)
14. Brighter Day (new)

Label: Frontiers Records


Hardrock Haven rating: 9/10