Friday, July 6, 2018

Album Review: Gioeli/Castronovo - Set The World On Fire

These records where two notable vocalists are paired up together for a series of duets have become quite the trend. It all started with the Allen/Lande albums, and has since seen any number of combinations, some with more reason and success than others. This time, we get Johnny Gioeli and Deen Castronovo, two men who might not be the first you would put together, but who do have history from way back in the day with Hardline. That lets this record make sense, and it shows how much life happens when you look back at where we used to be.

My biggest pet peeve with these projects is when the singers are ill-chosen for their roles. Earlier this year, there was an album of this kind that came out under the banner of Leone/Conti, where the two singers were so indistinguishable I seldom could figure out who was singing what. That made the whole thing seem pointless, even though it was good. That problem does not exist here whatsoever, with Gioeli's sharp attack and Deen's raspy voice sounding nothing alike, but blending together well.

We first heard this combination on "Through", which was a propulsive morsel of melodic rock that was nearly flawless. It was melodic bliss, and their contrasting voices built into something close to epic. Their tones occupy different parts of the spectrum, which allows them to give a depth to the choruses and backing vocals we seldom hear. They often sound big but flat, because they are often sung all by the main vocalist. But having these two filling out the highs and lows is a revelation about how to do it right. It's a magical sound.

The music on this record is melodic rock with a bit of dramatic flair. There are hints of pianos here and there, and some strings on the ballad "It's All About You", which give the songs a heightened emotional pull. Depending on the band, many would have used synths instead of pianos, but doing so would neuter the impact of having those elements at all. Hearing the resonance of an organic instrument is what lets us connect to it. Synths are disposable, forgettable.

In the middle of the record, we get a cover of Lady Antebellum's "Need You Now". It was jarring to hear at first, and I'm not entirely sure why it got put on the record, but it works in the context. Regardless of your feelings on that genre, the song itself is a catchy number that sounds good in this more rocking version. Pop songs get ragged on a lot, but the best of them are better written than sneering snobs will ever give credit. Adding guitars and pumping up the energy to make thme proper rock songs shows how the melodic constructions are sometimes head and shoulders above what we're used to hearing.

There's a feeling to this record that recalls Meat Loaf's lesser-known 80s output. Since I'm fond of a record like "Bad Attitude" quite a bit, the similarity in tone is welcome to me. These melodic rock records get pumped out at a frenzied clip. Every month there's probably a dozen or so that fall into the category, most of which I will never remember again, because they're all so similar. What I like about this record is how it has a sound of its own, and doesn't sound at all like W.E.T., or Sunstorm, or any of the others that have come out this year. It truly does sound like an album tailored for these singers.

When it comes to melodic rock this year, Gioeli/Castronovo is near the top of the pack. I don't think it quite has the spark W.E.T. does, but this is a more mature release that serves a different purpose. To that aim, it's a fantastic record that delivers what would be as good as any 'adult contemporary' album of recent years, if that was still a thing anyone paid attention to.

I liked this record a lot.

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