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Articles Home » Best Of » Best Of 2013 - 2014 Lee South Africa Best Of 2013
Best Of 2013 - 2014 Lee South Africa Best Of 2013

ARTIST: Best Of 2013
ALBUM: Lee South Africa Best Of 2013
YEAR: 2014


A very different 2013 wrap to all the other GDM writers, as my own personal philosophy on music is very era defined. That era is what I consider to be the classic AOR years, from 1976 until I felt the last drops of magic disappear around 1997. As a result I have over time favoured bands whose careers have reflected this period of time, remaining active through all or most of it. You could say I'm in a time capsule, and to be honest quite happy there. So if I'm not buying or paying attention to current music, what was I up to in 2013? Well, I found there was still plenty of quality AOR undiscovered or certainly under celebrated in more far flung regions of the world, and decided to investigate what Europe and Japan were offering us at the same time that Journey/Kiss/Foreigner etc were ruling the US airwaves and UFO/Magnum/Queen etc were holding court in the UK. The thing I realized was that not all great AOR was sung in English. Now I love English, and I will always prefer it over a language I don't understand, but a little work and tolerance was richly rewarded throughout 2013 as I broadened my AOR pallette while staying safely within my time capsule

The Selections
Bow Wow first appeared on my radar when looking through our 1977 review section, and I read George's review of their 'Signal Fire' album. The idea of a Japanese melodic band of real lineage was very appealing so I did further investigation and found that plenty of their output was AOR and of an extremely high quality. Massive in Japan pretty much from the start, they moved operations to England in the mid 80's and changed their name to Vow Wow to avoid confusion with new wavers Bow Wow Wow! From this period, I picked up their 1987 album 'V' and the 1989 release 'Helter Skelter'. Both reviewed here, and 2014 will certainly bring more albums and reviews from both eras of the band, Definitely one of my highlights from 2013, getting acquainted with Japan's Bow Wow.

Omega came in from the cold during some chat with Eric, I had asked him about a Bulgarian band called Signal and ended up with more leads than I bargained for! Some youtube clips and a brief reading of their biography set me on my way, treasure hunting for a copy of a long deleted compilation disc from 1988. For months none seemed available but eventually a vinyl/cd collectors store in Moscow showed one copy available and I pounced on it... some 2 months of anxious waiting later it arrived and was duly reviewed along with 'A Fold Arnyekos Oldalan' from 1986, 'Babylon' from 1987 and 'Trancendent' from 1996. The Hungarian pomp kings certainly turned out to be the iciest AOR legends I'd come across, even chillier than Saga or Eloy, but just as brilliant. Easily the best AOR legacy from behind the iron curtain, Omega enjoyed enormous support all across that region and in selected parts of Western (free) Europe, Germany especially. Most of their albums from 1976 to 1996 were recorded in both English and Hungarian, or at least featured some English bonus tracks. More discs and reviews on Omega in 2014, you can bet the house on that.

FSB can again be traced back to Eric Abrahamsen, and no surprise. Bulgaria's finest was referred to me by him, so out came the credit card again (after a couple of youtube snippets) and the singles collection was on it's way, shortly after came 1987's 'I Love You Up To Here' and 1983's 'Ten Years After'. FSB work some LA styled west coast bits into their general sound at times, making for an interesting if slightly lighter take on the obvious Saga tendencies. Excellent musicianship and vocals, sung in Bulgarian save for one English album released in Germany as 'Free Sailing Band' in 1987, alongside the Bulgarian release mentioned above, already reviewed here. Look for a review of 'Ten Years After' in the coming weeks.

Karat were the third band I ran into from behind the iron curtain (you guessed it, Eric again), from East Germany, East Berlin to be exact. Plenty of prog influences in the early work, with AOR working it's way in by the early and mid 80's. I managed to source their 1986 disc 'Funfte Jahreszeit' and the 1990 album 'Im Nachsten Frieden', both reviewed here. Really good band, vocals a little deeper than standard AOR but none the worse for that. They were huge in East Germany and for a time enjoyed singificant success in West Germany as well.

Ange were a band I stumbled on through sheer curiosity, wondering if any great AOR had come out of France in the late 70's and 80's. Now I was only aware of Magma and Therion before, neither of which were in any way AOR, in fact Magma were quite unlistenable to me, having sat through the entire 'Mechanik Dustructive Commando', was quite a disturbing amelodic experience. A wikipedia search revealed Ange as France's best prog/AOR legends so I was off to the races again, reining in the 1983 album 'La Gare De Troyes' and the 1986 effort 'Egna', both reviewed here. With Ange you can expect a pompous AOR cocktail full of flourish and flair, and above all a truckload of melody. All tracks sung in French except one English album recorded in 1976 and released decades later! Superb band, their 80's work not easy to get on hard copy but worth the effort.

Pooh crossed my desk quite by accident, having dinner with some musically minded friends at the Randburg Waterfront I was explaining to them my excitement at being exposed to AOR from unexpected regions, when good old Wayne Hampton answers that 'there's an Italian band that sounds like Boston singing in Italian'... well that was enough for me, the long suffering credit card came out again resulting in 1985, Asia Non Asia, 1987's 'Il Colore Del Pensiere' and 1988's 'Oasi'. the latter reviewed here and the first two to follow in the coming weeks or so. Classy band with some great touches and powerful vocal attack.

In Summary
So this was how I spent 2013, embarking on a species of AOR tourism which was especially rewarding. This in no way diminished my love for the AOR heroes from North America and the UK, just widened my viewpoint. Of the bands above, all are safely ensconced in my general AOR collection, but special mention to Bow Wow and Omega, who have ascended to my AOR premier league, swelling that highest pinnacle to 35 bands. To quote an old song: 'it was a very good year'!

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#1 | Eric on January 26 2014 20:21:25
Next up Lee, South American AOR! lol Thanks for the plugs, always like to open doors.
#2 | AOR Lee on January 27 2014 05:35:27
Welcome Eric, the mentions were well deserved ... South America you say ?? hmm!
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