Over The Edge
OTE Featuring Mickey Thomas
Starship's Mickey Thomas returns under a new banner, but with a distinctly familiar feel. Over The Edge sees Mickey team up with producer Fabrizio V.Zee Grossi and a new band of musicians, but it's still classic melodic rock and high class AOR all the way. |
Over The Edge is essentially the very same blue-print used by Joseph Williams and Kelly Hansen on their recent releases.
It's an album of songs written by other people, produced and played on by the Fabrizio Grossi all-star team, with added special guests.
What's a little different about this album is that the songs themselves aren't entirely comprised of tracks we might have heard elsewhere. Instead there are several exclusive tracks featured that were purpose written for the project, or at least are unreleased tracks donated by their writers. The listener is the real winner here, with exclusive tracks from Jack Blades, Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain included.
The major risk with projects such as these is creating a consistent record that doesn't sound like it was pieced together. Grossi has a definite knack of avoiding this. He knows how to construct a record and being that the music was mostly recorded in house in the one set style/approach also helps the feel and flow of the record.
I think Grossi gets better each record – thus far that has proved true, with Vertigo (Joseph Williams) outshining Perfect World (Kelly Hansen) and Over The Edge is as good as, if not even a little better than Vertigo.
Those comments out of the way, it has to be time to heap praise on the vocal talents of Mickey Thomas. Three things really make this album work in a major way - the construction of it, the songs themselves and the vocals of Mr. Thomas.
I'm a big fan of Mickey and his perfectly styled melodic rock voice. But I have had some issues with the quality of his music over the years. I always found the Starship albums a little patchy – a selection of monster AOR anthems surrounded by some weaker pop numbers.
With the songwriting not a concern for him, all his efforts have been on making sure the vocals are spot on and wow, I don't recall Mickey sounding better.
This is perfect guitar driven melodic rock – short sharp songs with subtle verses and warm vocals, glued together with memorable sing-a-long choruses.
This couldn't possibly be any better for fans of Thomas and his past work.
A tight production and some new twists help make the project sound original and contemporary, yet instantly likeable. Neal Schon, Steve Lukather and Richie Kotzen all guest on guitars, so you really get treated to some fine guitar playing throughout.
Track By Track:
Over The Edge is a custom written tune from Jack Blades and Grossi. It starts perfectly – a sharp hard edged guitar riff and an inviting vocal. It has that Jack Blades feel, but it also sounds like classic Starship. A nice verse and short bridge lead into a chorus that is somewhat understated, but gains power with each additional listen. The result is a very catchy and memorable mid-tempo rock track.
The tempo slows for One World – another classic AOR track from the pen of Jack Blades and Neal Schon. This was another track considered for Journey's Arrival album – finally and thankfully aired here. This is an easy going laid back mid-tempo rock ballad. I love the track and believe others will also, but I wouldn't have positioned it here, rather a little further on in the album - it breaks the flow of the album a little here – especially after the strong opening track.
Thief is a perfect AOR anthem. I believe it's even better than the original, as written by Swede Martin Stenmarck and featured on his excellent album One. The song was originally titled I'm Falling – it's listed on all promo's as Thief, so note that it's possible that might be changed. If you have heard the song, this version is harder edged, more powerful and features beefed up, more mainstream melodic rock sound. It's a classic – Mickey just runs riot over this great anthem track.
Surrender is another Blades/Schon composition and boy does this sound like classic Journey. The chorus is pure 80's and Neal Schon plays all over the track. The song itself is an uptempo pop/rocker with a somewhat breezier, stripped back feel than the opening three tracks.
Eyes Wide Open is another monster from the Journey vaults. This is a slow, haunting ballad written by Jonathan Cain and featuring some fine slow guitar work from Neal Schon. A strong lead vocal drives the song, which Mickey makes his own. I have no idea why this song hasn't surfaced before now, but it won't be forgotten in a hurry. A classy ballad.
Picking up the tempo and adding a twist to the album is a cover of a track from Aussie nu-breed rockers TaxiRide. Forest For The Trees was featured on their last album and is re-done faithfully here. What's been a traditional, but updated melodic rock album to date takes on a heavier and darker tone with this aggressive modern rocker. If not done properly, this could sound right out of place, but thankfully it fits the album brilliantly.
From there the album flows into The Man In Between, which it well placed, as it's also a darker, moody mid-tempo rock track. Written by Grossi with Freddy Curci, this track is perfect Starship – a moody verse and a contrasting feel good chorus. And that has to be Neal Schon on guitar again.
I'm not familiar with the track Cover Me, but it's another track that breaks the mold of the album, yet fits in comfortably. It's more a straight ahead pop track, but is given the same darker and moody feel that the last few tracks have adopted.
Turn Away is another classic uptempo pop/rocker with a big melodic rock chorus that suits Mickey perfectly. A simple track, but one of the best on the album thanks to some good harmony vocals.
Glory Day is a track that isn't as immediate as some of the other album tracks, but on repeated listens reveals itself more. That's the sing of a great track, so it should be no surprise that Jack Blades is again responsible, writing this again with Grossi.
It has that modern feel of Jack's own solo album, yet fits this collection of songs better than you imagine any other track would. Thomas adds a powerful lead vocal and makes it his own.
Quite possibly the most consistent and rewarding album of Mickey's career.
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