2017 release from Frontiers Records srl.
Harry Hess – Vocals, keyboards, guitar. Pete Lesperance – Guitar, bass, keyboards, backing vocals. Stan Miczek – Bass, backing vocals. Creighton Doane – Drums, backing vocals. Darren Smith – Backing vocals. Jeff Scott Soto – Backing vocals, tracks 2, 7.
Artist location: Canada.
5 out of 5 stars rating.
Reviewed by David.
- Here Today Gone Tomorrow.
- Sinking Ship.
- One Of Life’s Mysteries.
- No Regrets.
- Bite The Bullet.
- Things I Know.
- The Sky Is Falling.
- Heaven And Earth.
- Here Today, Gone Tomorrow (Acoustic version. Japanse bonus track).
Many years ago a friend of mine handed me an album from a band whose name I was not familiar with, though it reminded me of the title of an old Elvis film I saw as a teen. He told me to listen to the first track, that it was catchy as hell and that I wouldn’t be able to get the chorus out of my head.
And holy crap was he right!
That band was of course the Canadian melodic rockers Harem Scarem, and the song he was referring to was ‘Hard To Love‘, the first track off of their 1991 debut record. Well obviously I loved the song, and I loved the album. I found songs like ‘Hard To Love‘, ‘Slowly Slipping Away‘, ‘How Long‘ and ‘With A Little Love‘ constantly stuck in my head and I instantly fell in love with this band’s music, the guitars of Pete Lesperance and the ageless voice of frontman Harry Hess.
Now, in their 30th anniversary year (hard to believe it has been that long), they have released ‘United‘ and it is doozy of a record. I won’t lie and say I have liked everything they have done because they have had a few over the years that did nothing for me, but for the most part these guys have been fairly steady with giving us strong releases over those thirty years, but, in my opinion, while many of their albums have been excellent, they have just never been able to repeat the sheer strength of those first two records.
At least that was the case,
Thirty years and fourteen original studio albums in and the guys have given us what, after many spins these last couple of days, I have to say is their strongest album yet!
You have likely heard at least one of the four tracks that have been released early by this point, all of which were phenomenal, but believe me when I say they truly could have chosen any track from this album to release as a single, that is just how strong every song is.
‘United‘ starts us out with a rocking, albeit short, intro that takes us into one hell of a great track and just a terrific start to this album.
‘Here Today Gone Tomorrow‘ continues on without letting up any steam and delivers another perfect and catchy as hell song. One that is made even better by the one and only Jeff Scott Soto lending his voice to back Harry up.
‘Gravity‘ gives us a slightly more pop rock sounding track that leads into ‘Sinking Ship‘. This was, I believe, the first single that was released from the record, and what a song it is. One of the catchiest tracks of the album and some fantastic work from guitarist Pete Lesperance.
‘One Of Life’s Mysteries‘ is the sole ballad of the record and it is perhaps the band’s best since ‘Honestly‘. Excellent song and excellent delivery from Hess.
‘No Regrets‘ is a beast of a song and it is probably my favorite song from the record. Just a fantastic rocker and what a great hook!
‘Bite The Bullet‘ is definitely another of the standouts for me. Great chorus, terrific guitar work and more great backing vocals from Soto.
‘Things I Know‘ has more of a mid-tempo flare to it and one fantastically catchy chorus.
‘The Sky Is Falling‘ is another track that, like ‘Gravity‘, has a pop rock vibe to it and it takes us into a great rock n’ roller with ‘Heaven And Earth‘ which leads us into the final track of the regular album, ‘Indestructible‘. This song starts out interestingly with an almost bluesy swagger to it before cranking up into a classic sounding Harem Scarem track with yet another terrific chorus.
If you purchase the Japanese import edition then we are greeted with one bonus track that comes in the form of an acoustic version of ‘Here Today Gone Tomorrow‘. A great version of the song to be sure, but other than for die hard fans I would not say it is a must have and the regular version of the album should suffice.
The band all sound phenomenal on every track of this record. Harry Hess and guitarist Pete Lesperance are the only two original members left in the actual band now and they, as one would fully expect, both do a sensational job.
Bassist Stan Miczek has been with the band since 2012 and drummer Creighton Doane, who came on board in 2000 after original drummer Darren Smith left, rounds the band out and these two talented men sound fantastic.
Smith, who left the band in 2000 after the release of 1999’s ‘Rubber‘ album, is back once again lending only his voice in a backing capacity, and finally the great Jeff Scott Soto also lends his amazing voice to two tracks, as you have already seen above.
One thing about this album that struck me instantly was just how much this thing rocks. Even the softer and more pop oriented tracks just kick ass and Lesperance is a beast on this record, he is all over the place here. I love it! I love it all and there is nothing about it that I can find that I dislike.
From the songwriting to the singing (and the singing is magnificent! Has Hess lost ANYTHING vocally? Amazing!). The playing, the production, the mix to the backing vocals, all are done to perfection here and deliver to us a sensational piece of melodic rock goodness that should satisfy most any fan of this genre.
While some of my favorite songs from the band still come off of those absolute classic first two albums, this record presents their finest work as a whole to date and these tracks are the first since those two records that can actually stand next to those favorite songs of mine.
I find it incredible how these past few years we have had some of these classic bands, bands that have been around twenty to thirty or more years, coming out and delivering some of their strongest work yet. From Hardline to Tyketto to Stryper and Pretty Maids, to name just a few, these bands have come out and given us albums that rival, and sometimes even surpass, their seminal records! Well add now to that list Harem Scarem, who have just delivered their greatest one yet.
What a fantastic time for melodic rock! Anyone who says rock is dead knows nothing. Thank God for bands like this and fans like all of you who keep rock n’ roll alive and kicking! We are only five months in to 2017 and already I have a couple of albums vying for my number one postion for album of the year, and I love it! Bring them on I say, the more to choose between the better.
If you are a fan of Harem Scarem at all, especially of their classic albums, then do not hesitate to pick this one up, you will not be disappointed. A tour de force of melodic rock greatness that serves as a reminder to us all of just why we love this genre so much!
Highest of recommendations.
‘Here Today Gone Tomorrow’.
‘One Of Life’s Mysteries’.
‘Bite The Bullet’.