by Alexandra Mrozowska
– Columnist –
Have you, melodic rock aficionados, managed to cool off after the late 2013 release of Frédéric Slama’s AOR project, The Secrets Of LA…? The apparently restless French musician and producer doesn’t let his listeners for this, as just a few months later he returns again under the AOR moniker with LA Connection, another star-studded and promising album. This time it features the guest contributions from the likes of Tommy Denander, Bill Champlin (Chicago) and his wife Tamara, Bob Harris (Axe), Philip Bardowell (Places Of Power, Unruly Child), Paul Sabu (Only Child, Kidd Glove), Jeff Paris or David Forbes (Boulevard). Only nine songs having been included on the album, since the project’s mastermind Frédéric values quality over quantity – and as for LA Connection, quality is the key word here.
Again gravitating towards a bit heavier, slightly more feisty AOR/melodic hard rock sound and drifting apart from the Westcoast style of the early AOR releases, the album starts with “On The Edge Of Glory”. Enriched with Bill Champlin’s trademark vocals, this keyboard-and-guitar-duel could have been as well a lost Survivor gem of their late ‘80s recording sessions. The first seconds of the second track, “The Pride Of Strangers,” leave no doubt to those who are familiar with the recordings of Only Child or Kidd Glove – this raspy, sensual and very strong voice belongs to no one else but the mighty Paul Sabu. This fiery vocal performance of him is, without a doubt, one of the highlights of the entire album.
More mellow, but nevertheless perfectly melodic is “Closer To Zero” with David Forbes (Boulevard) singing lead. Its follow-up is “Once Off Guard,” largely anticipated by the fans of the project (and the genre) because of the announced contribution of Jeff Paris. This is another highlight of the album, not only because of the Paris’ vocal input but also a blistering guitar solo.
In “Lost Souls Don’t Cry,” sung by Philip Bardowell, some distant echoes of Giant and Foreigner can be heard. Further on, you’ll find some other flavors, as the perfect groove of “Exiled In Sadness” or keyboard-driven “Age Of Desire.” The next to last “Circle Of Danger” is embellished with the solid and emotional performance of Tamara Champlin, this time the only woman behind the microphone in AOR – as well as a solid portion of Tommy Denander’s guitar licks. “The Crystal Heart,” a nostalgic and reflective ballad sung by Bob Harris, closes the album on a very high note.
LA Connection is the thirteenth album in Frédéric Slama’s AOR discography – and a clear proof that all the superstition regarding the unluckiness of the number “13” is much hyped anyway! At least, for the melodic rock and AOR fans who are treated with a high quality performance and top production for the thirteenth time. This fact – and apparently unfading ardor of Frédéric Slama – makes us all look forward to the number 14, another album potentially as splendid as LA Connection. Much recommended.
Genre: AOR, Melodic Hard Rock
Frédéric Slama: Guitars and keyboards
Tommy Denander: All instruments
Bill Champlin: Lead and backing vocals
Paul Sabu: Lead and backing vocals
Jeff Paris: Lead and backing vocals
Sherwood Ball: Lead and backing vocals
David Forbes: Lead and backing vocals
Philip Bardowell: Lead and backing vocals
Bob Harris : Lead and backing vocals
Rick Riso: Lead and backing vocals
Tamara Champlin: Lead and backing vocals
Pete Newdeck: Backing vocals
Colin Rodgers: Guitars and bass
Pat Thern: Drums
1. On The Edge Of Glory
2. Pride Of Strangers
3. Closer To Zero
4. Once Off Guard
5. Lost Souls Don’t Cry
6. Exiled In Sadness
7. Age Of Desire
8. Circle Of Danger
9. The Crystal Heart
Label: Escape Music
Hardrock Haven rating: 9/10