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First Signal - 2010 First Signal

ARTIST: First Signal
ALBUM: First Signal
LABEL: Frontiers
YEAR: 2010


LINEUP: Harry Hess - vocals * Dennis Ward - bass, backing vocals, guitar * Chris Schmidt - drums * Michael Klein - guitars * Eric Ragno - keyboards * Darren Smith - backing vocals

TRACK LISTING: 01 This City * 02 When You Believe * 03 Part Of Me * 04 Crazy * 05 Goodbye To The Good Times * 06 First Signal * 07 Feels Like Love * 08 Into The Night * 09 When November Falls * 10 Yesterday Rain * 11 Naked Desire



Harry Hess has been a busy chap lately. What with all the Harem Scarem reissues, appearances on other CD's, and now we we've got his new AOR project called First Signal. Given the Frontiers seal of approval, which means Dennis Ward on production, and a slew of associated musicians in the wings, 'First Signal' is one of the better releases in 2010, in a year which has not seen too many great albums to be totally honest. Many of us are big fans of Harem Scarem, but Hess has taken it up a level, with a crisp delivery, bristling with melodic energy.

The Songs
If Hess and his team mates are out to knock your socks off from the start, then 'This City' wins through with ease. Melody and power combine to create a lasting impression. If I recall, we had a video of this track up on the site a few weeks back. When You Believe' surges on a rushed tempo, keeping up a high level of intensity all the way through. 'Part Of Me' mixes up a modern rock sound with slower parts, the chorus is a crescendo of the two, crashing together in melodic tandem. 'Crazy' is the first of the ballads, highlighting Hess' predilection for a Snowtex moment. 'Goodbye To The Good Times' has been covered by a few artists previously (Bob Marlette/Mark Free), Ignition), this one is pretty good too, and nice to hear it updated. The title track 'First Signal' is a thrilling slice of AOR, it's followed by a change-up moment in the semi-acoustic 'Feels Like Love This Time', anthemic to the brim, which adds even more brownie points to an already strong album. 'Into The Night' and 'Yesterdays Rain' are both excellent tunes, hard to ignore the Scarem influence, but the ballad that splits them 'When November Falls' is probably the weakest track on the album. 'Naked Desire' is a fantastic way to finish the CD, powerful, melodic and with the battery levels still on high.

In Summary
First Signal to my way of thinking is definitely in the top 3 Frontiers releases for 2010, it took a few listens to get into it, but that was probably due to all the other music going on around me at the time. Once I gave it some clear space and room, it came to the fore. I hope Harry Hess can return to Harem Scarem and reinvigorate their sound, because they are a band that really should be doing better than what they are. I shouldn't hark on about it, but the first two Scarem albums really are killers, but they've rarely gotten close since, despite some near quality misses. First Signal demonstrates that one of the key members is up to the task, hopefully the others can follow suit.

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#1 | jeffrey343 on December 23 2010 05:27:14
Excellent album that will end up solidly in my top ten for the year. No weak tracks by my ears. "Naked Desire" is a killer and a great way to end the album. My sons like this one too, so it's a good choice to play as I drive them all over town.
#2 | Jez on July 20 2011 12:13:08
For starters, for me, this is way way better than the last few Harem Scarem discs, with Harry Hess returning to the more traditional AOR/MR sound and looking at the list of songwriters on here, that should come as no surprise at all really I suppose. 3 tracks from the Martin Bros., 2 from Richard Marx, the same from the excellent Bob Marlette, 2 from Erik Martensson (with Magnus Henriksson and Robert Sall in tow) aswell as a James Christian co-write. All this adds up to a really very very good album indeed and a real pleasant surprise in the recent times of generally lacklustre AOR releases. I look forward to spending many more hours listening to this one
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