Monday, November 6, 2017

Album Review: Sweet & Lynch - Unified

Many people were excited not too long back for the pairing of Michael Sweet and George Lynch. Those were people generally a decade or so older than me, who grew up listening to Stryper and Dokken, and who wanted to relive those days once again. Of course, Stryper is still out there doing their thing, and Michael Sweet is also making solo albums, and George Lynch has both Lynch Mob and KXM, so I'm not sure there was a need for either of them to make yet more records. Still, the first album from this team was a solid effort that pleased most everyone, and created enough anticipation for a second go-round. I just have to say that with a Sweet solo album last year, and another Stryper album in the works as we speak, I'm a bit worried about him running through all of his good ideas.

Maybe it's just because I grew up listening to the music of the 90s, but the idea of George Lynch as some kind of guitar god has never been something I can wrap my head around. Dokken is a band that might as well not exist to me, and nothing I've heard from Lynch has ever impressed me more than your average, generic rock guitarist. I say that because again here, the riffs provided by Lynch don't stand out in the way I would like them to. He can play, but his riffs never compete with Sweet for attention. Despite the branding, this is clearly Sweet's show.

Speaking of Sweet, he turns in another full-throttle vocal performance on this album, blasting his way through these tracks. He still has all the range and power he ever did, the latter of which he uses often.

Most of the record sits in the comfort zone of 80s rock you would expect from these guys. There is a curve-ball in "Walk", which morphs from straight-ahead rocker into a Queen-esque chorus that is unlike most anything I can remember from these recent Michael Sweet albums. It's not only a really good song, but the uniqueness of it makes it stand out as something easily remembered. I'll nominate it as the best track on the album, and the one you should check out.

But the issue I have with the album is the same one I've had with recent Stryper releases; Sweet relies too much on his vocal power. When I say that, what I mean is that he sometimes thinks that singing a chorus at the top of his lungs is just as good as writing a hooky melody. Listen to "Make Your Mark" to hear what I mean. He practically shouts through the chorus, which barely has any melodic movement to it at all. It's rather tepid.

That gets balanced out by tracks like "Tried & True" and "Unified", which are more in line with what I would want. We get doses of Lynch's slightly sleazy guitar playing, while Sweet's hooks are far more melodic and memorable. They're very good, as is at least half the album, which is what makes it a bit frustrating. There's a lot to like in the approach Sweet & Lynch take on their music, and they've produced some very good songs, but they haven't carried it through an entire album. They're a good band making good records, but there's the potential in their combined talents to be doing something more. Still, this is a satisfying record for 80s rock aficionados.

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