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Rock Rose - 1979 Rock Rose

ARTIST: Rock Rose
ALBUM: Rock Rose
SERIAL: JC 35819
YEAR: 1979


LINEUP: Frank Demme - vocals, bass * Carl Johnson - guitars * Jack D 'Amore - drums * Chris Barr - keyboards

TRACK LISTING: 01 Daddys Car * 02 Matinee Mood * 03 Bittersweet Love * 04 You've Gone Beyond * 05 Phantom Lover * 06 Diary Of Fools * 07 Sad Thing * 08 Slippin' * 09 Rock Rose

One of many bands to get lost in the shuffle in the late 70's US melodic rock scene were Rock Rose, who produced one fairly obscure album, which despite its relative excellence failed to make any waves. As is usually the case with acts of this nature, information is scarce, the ravages of time leaving Rock Rose an afterthought to all but the hardened aficionado. Demme and Johnson had been part of another 70's act named Sweet Pain prior to Rock Rose, before joining forces with Barr and D' Amore. The band signed with the major label powerhouse Columbia, which one would assume meant there were big plans afoot for the band. But with so many other bands plying the same trade, it was a hard sell. The album was produced by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter, who had worked with Player and Jack Street, injecting large amounts of their sound into Rock Rose.

The Songs
The opening strains of 'Daddy's Car' feature Player type harmonies with a harder rock influence, perhaps that of Starz. Nothing special here until the final minute when the band decides to speed things up, culminating in an explosive finale, which it must be said sounds dated compared to what Van Halen were doing at the same time. 'Matinee Mood' could pass for early Kiss, only less effective, sounding like a relic in the process. The melody is there, making up for this disorder. AOR type harmonies make an entrance on 'Bittersweet Love', with sub disco effects so common of the period. Matters improve with 'You've Gone Beyond' and 'Phantom Lover' which lean towards Atlanta Rhythm Section in sound, especially the latter, a stunning piece of radio friendly AOR which could be the cousin of ARS' 'Imaginary Lover', with the same keyboard style favoured. This track makes the album work by itself. The good form continues with the fast paced 'Diary Of Fools', where the Player comparisons move into overload, this is heavier however, mainly in the guitar dept where Johnson allows himself a searing solo or two. It's hard not to fall in love with 'Sad Thing' with its undeniably catchy hook, it's softer AOR strains more acceptable than the faceless Tommy Bolin rip off 'Slippin'. The band does themselves proud by naming a track after themselves, 'Rock Rose' being ponderous and uneventful at best, the band clearly more adept at the AOR fashioned direction than the rock one they tinker with rather ordinarily.

In Summary
It's hard to recommend this as a classic, because sadly it's not. That said the album is probably difficult to locate so it would be wise to investigate should the chance arise. While 'Phantom Lover' is an authentic must hear, there's too much filler in between the admittedly impressive remainder of the album. Perhaps the public were aware of this, the band hitting a concrete wall which subsequently led to the band minus D'Amore changing their name to Small Talk and signing with MCA for one further self titled album in 1981 which went the way of Rock Rose. Just wasn't meant to be then? The talent was there, the luck wasn't.

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#1 | reyno-roxx on April 03 2008 19:38:28
Dragged this out for a spin today. Very underrated record. It's still better than 99% of the albums released today. Superb.
#2 | super80boy on April 17 2016 15:48:28
The band was originally formed around Demme, Barr and Johnson, who all went to high school together in a suburb of Los Angeles. The trio drifted through a variety of local garage bands as mentioned in the above review. Once they got D'Amore on board, the band kicked into high gear and traversed the Southern California club circuit as well as going up the West Coast. The album is well crafted period AOR with polished harmonious arrangements courtesy of the production/song writing team that most notably had worked with Santana, Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter. 'Diary Of Fools' is a great song, along with 'Daddy's Car' and 'Sad Thing'.

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