Soul to Soul is the second album by yet another of Frontiers Record’s ‘projects’, where they team artists that haven’t worked together previously, and see what happens. Some of these don’t have much of a shelf life, but on other occasions something really worthwhile emerges, such as the two From The Inside albums that featured Danny Vaughn. The first Groundbreaker album teamed Robert Sall (Work of Art, W..E.T.) one of melodic rock’s finest singers, FM’s Steve Overland, who added this to a number of side projects he’s been part of, including Shadowman, The Ladder, Ozone, Lonerider, and his own Overland solo albums. This time around Frontiers have brought in Alessandro del Vecchio, who these days seems to be on most Frontiers releases, as a writer or producer, as well as his day job in Hardline.
In FM, there’s always been a bit of creative tension between the shimmering AOR magnificence of the first two albums, and a bluesier inclination, which is a direction the band have been following more and more recently. However, there’s no such tension in Groundbreaker, because this is pure, classic AOR from start to finish. Opener ‘Standing On The Edge Of A Broken Heart’ (a proper AOR song title if ever there was one) sets the tone straight away, a slice of sheer quality AOR with a terrific hook. Unbelievably it’s 35 years since FM’s classic debut album was released, but on this and the next track, the title track, there’s no evidence that time is having any effect on Overland’s vocal powers, and this, alongside del Vecchio’s ear for a quality AOR hook, seems to be a really successful combination.
There are a number of highlights on the rest of the album, including ‘Wild World’, (not the Cat Stevens song that was a hit for Jimmy Cliff), a slower song, with a deft guitar solo from Overland himself, ‘Carrie’, with another tremendous hook, and there’s some more fine guitar work from Sven Larsson (ex-Street Talk) on ‘It Don’t Get Better Than This’ and ‘Soul To Soul’. ‘Captain Of Our Love’ is a stately ballad, brilliantly sung by the great man, but best of all is ‘There’s No Tomorrow’, with the vocals and music combining to give a real sense of urgency, even if the chorus doesn’t quite hit the heights of the rest of the song. Similarly with ‘Evermore’, the song has plenty of energy, but the chorus doesn’t hit you quite as a classic AOR one should, unlike ‘Fighting For Love’, where the verse doesn’t exactly blow your speakers, but there’s a genuine earworm of a chorus.
Despite the name of the project, there’s nothing ground-breaking about the album, and the song titles are probably ample illustration of that, but as an AOR album, it’s almost faultless, well written, brilliantly played and, of course, with some superb singing. Some might say it’s a little too perfect and stylised, almost as if the creators had deliberately set out to wite something that sounded like a great lost 80s AOR album, just listen to the keyboard intro to the title track, for example, but that’s not to say it’s soulless, as if anything sung by Steve Overland could ever be described as ‘soulless’, but sometimes a little grit in the oyster can be a good thing. If you’re a fan of Steve Overland, or that classic 80s AOR sound, this is a really enjoyable listen, even if you do smile a little knowingly to yourself on occasion.
- Reviewed by Paul Quinton.
- Released by Frontiers Music on 12th November 2021
- Standing on the Edge of a Broken Heart
- Soul to Soul
- Captain of Our Love
- Wild World
- Fighting for Love
- It Don’t Get Better Than This
- There’s no Tomorrow
- When Lightning Strikes
- Until the End of Time
- Leap of Faith