Sunday, 4 March 2012

Sunstorm - Sunstorm 2006

Format: flac + cue + log
Genre: Hard Rock
Original Release Date: 2006
Label: Frontiers Records

If you weren't paying close attention, you likely missed it. Sunstorm is not an established name, but yet is another project that features Joe Lynn Turner behind the mic. And if you believe you have never heard anything sung by JOLT then you are likely wrong, since he has appeared everywhere. Turner has been the vocalist for Mother's Army, Rainbow ("Stone Cold" and "Street of Dreams" went top 40), Deep Purple, Fandango, Yngwie Malmsteen ("Heaven Tonight" charted on the Billboard), Brazen Abbot, teaming with Glenn Hughes for Hughes/Turner and plenty more. Toss in a mighty heaping of tribute appearances and a handful of solo records. Get through all of that and you can congratulate yourself for barely scratching the surface of the Joe Lynn universe. There's alot more out there than just those mentioned. He has done metal, hard rock, pop, etc. and has a superb voice for all those niches. Yet AOR may be where he sounds the most at home.

Sunstorm was created in an attempt to finally get some of Joe Lynn's older material out on the market and take him back to his AoR days of glory. Alot of the songs on here are reworked, updated versions of tunes that were slated to appear on the follow up to "Rescue You". This second album was in the can but canned before it could make its way out to the public. The music was undeniably quality stuff so thanks to the encouragement and input from a record label, the dust was blown off and these puppies were polished up for their grand mainstream debut. These were mashed together with an assortment of other tunes. A few unreleased gems from Jim Peterik and a handful of AOR classics that you might have forgotten about as time moves on.

Working over the songs that never saw the light of day makes sense, but covering the other tracks is a puzzling move. Not that the songs aren't good, they definitely are, but was this really necessary? Couldn't they come up with a few more tracks to fill in the gaps if there was a question of quantity before these additions? Ah well...I guess we'll never know.

What you do need to know is that Dennis Ward has hopped aboard for production purposes, and the album sounds sharp as a tack. Unfortunately the over-the-top keyboard doodlings have been toned down greatly. They ran rampant and dominated even over the guitars some twenty years ago for "Rescue You" and I was personally hoping for a revisit to this style. Instead, they have been updated, thus taking on more of a equally shared presence between guitar and synth. It sucks a bit of 80s nostalgia from the disc.

It would be ludicrous to comment that he sounds revitalized here. Why? Turner has never lost it. Not over the span of his career. While his classic performances on the Rainbow albums are often considered his best work, a few of the more recent appearances have come close to recapturing that near perfection. "Dreams" on Brazen Abbot's last disc was mighty fine and that was just last year. So let's just say he continues to be a fabulous frontman, untouched by time and leave it at that. Few singers can squeeze out the kind of response that he can, and he wields that power like a weapon of mass emotional destruction here. Sunstorm represents a genre he has mastery over, and proves it time and again on each song that goes by. Don't feel yourself moved by anything here? Double check your vital signs.

Turner milks the emotion with powerful ballads such as the silky smoothness of "Heart Over Mind" (Van Stephenson cover) and the Peterik tune "Arms of Love" which could have masqueraded a Survivor/Journey soft pop piece. Makes sense, since it was put to paper during the "Too Hot to Sleep" writing sessions for Survivor. The tempo is dialed up a few notches for the melodic rockers "Keep Tonight" and "Fame and Fortune" Both get the album going on a rock n roll high, flowing with melody and big, robust choruses. "Fame" was written shortly after JLT was dismissed from the disassembled Rainbow and the lyrics express the feelings that he was filtering through at that moment. It's a snapshot of the 80s rock game.

The real gems here are "Strength Over Time" which has a beautiful progression as a midtempo piece that builds to gigantic porportions and the slick cover of "Night Moves" (Marilyn Martin/John Parr). Joe Lynn makes "Night" all his own in a fantastic flashback to can just see the pink shirts and Miami Vice kind of style taking shape with the laid back rockin pace of this track. The danger and adrenaline rush of a romance silenced by secrecy and culminating only in midnight rendez vous. "Another You" breaks the heart in two with the desperate need to find that one certain person that has turned the key to your soul - but has been lost to the wheels of time. Peterik has written yet another wonderous piece and teamed with Turner's lush voice, it creates a sorrowful masterpiece of balladry.

"This is My Heart" has a raw, soul bearing attraction and "Fist Full of Heat" just rolls down a rocky road and never looks back. It has an 80s western rock n roller vibe, a'la music from Blaze of Glory or Young Guns (just as it was intended). It's all kept firmly on the light and fluffy side for the easy listening crowd, thus putting it in the same league as Place Vendrome, Michael Kiske's (ex-Helloween) turn at creating melodic magic. "Making Up For Last Time" is all about falling in love the second time around with the same person. Lush piano to backup Joe Lynn's lovely voice. This one has Peterik's stamp all over it. "Loves Gone Wrong" stands out from the crowd and was obviously a JLT written piece. The lingering ghost from his debut solo album shines all over the track. Guitarwise there is a very short but sparky solo and the whole rhythm and drive of the track is built around the force of the guitar and the punchy chorus.

There are a few very petty nitpicks here and there, coming from a Turner fan that wants to fantasize about "what could have been". So anyone that isn't absolutely over the moon about "Rescue You" should take some of the following comments in this paragraph with a grain of salt. One, it would have been nice if the synth heavy approach had been hung onto. This could have made the disc sound alot more dated, but Brother Firetribe did just that and are getting rave reviews because of it. Also as "Sunstorm" unravels, the songs run together towards the end due to an absence of drastic variations of tempo. A satisfyingly smooth running album, but one that kind of melts together into one big gooey glob of goodness on a casual listening. Upon further inspection, the tunes begin to seperate and distance themselves from one another, but the initial impression may be one that is difficult to distinguish beyond a few standout pieces.

If you have been disillusioned by the bluesy turn of his past few solo albums (mainly "Holy Man") then this will make up for any gaps left. Sunstorm is a no brainer purchase for AOR fanatics and anyone that loves the voice of Joe Lynn. The more time invested, the more you will grow to adore the disc.

So let's do the math shall we?

Joe Lynn Turner + classic AoR tunes + a great backing band + Dennis Ward's production = A great release that you would be crazy to pass up on. Is it one of the best AOR records from this year (2006)? Without a doubt. That's all you need to know...go buy it now or regret it later.

Written by Alanna