|Tall Stories Skyscraper||Frontiers Records|
The debut Tall Stories record is another of this genre's cult classics, recorded and released just after the peak time for the format (1991), but still managed to gain a lot of fans who anticipated a follow-up. It never came. |
Just as the tsunami of flannel shirts rolled in and washed over the aqua-net covered shores of traditional melodic rock, Tall Stories were holed up in a New York studio recording album number 2.
The almost overnight abandonment of melodic music left many a band high and dry and Tall Stories were yet another victim. The album was shelved and the band disbanded.
Vocalist Steve Augeri went on to front Tyketto briefly before making a huge impact with Journey. Guitarist Jack Morer continued his path in music as a professional musician in NYC. Bassist Kevin Totoian continued playing clubs and various bands as he still does today and drummer Tom DeFaria left the business.
Interest in Steve Augeri's past work from Journey fans meant that interest in tall Stories never waned and once Steve left the band, talk turned to what Tall Stories could do again.
The master tapes of this album were dusted off and the remastering process was started. Unfortunately the condition of the tapes meant that the drum parts were no longer usable, and various session guys were brought in to re-record those parts.
The rest of the material is the original and authentic 1993 recordings.
The debut Tall Stories album was hailed as an enjoyable slice of Journeyesque melodic rock. Much has been anticipated as far as the second album – let's face it, it has been a long time coming. But sensing a changing tide of musical expectation back in 1992, the second Tall Stories album was always going to be a different beast.
The band wanted to experiment and improvise…to loosen up a little and explore different musical avenues.
And they sure did… Skyscraper is finally available and has more in common with Led Zeppelin than Journey.
Had this album been released in 1993 I don't think it would have been received very well. Most bands trying their hand at styles outside expectations found themselves on the end of a heavy criticism and fan backlash.
But in 2009 I think enough time and passed that this album will find some good support, probably for different reasons than was originally imagined back when it was recorded.
This is not a melodic rock or AOR record and should not be considered as such. Nor is it a straightforward release or one that should be compared to their debut album.
That unfortunately will count a lot of listeners out. This simply is not going to be of appeal to many readers of this site. And it is in some ways, disappointing that the glorious AOR of the debut is not replicated here.
However, for its lack of commerciality, the album still features a lot of positive aspects and is chock full or musical integrity. The quality of the performances is beyond question.
Jack Morer's complex guitar parts – both electric and acoustic – plus the powerful steam train vocals of Steve Augeri are something to witness.
This is not a hit-singles kind of record. At times it isn't easy to listen to – it is challenging and is better appreciated as a whole entity, from start to finish.
Even then a couple of songs don't work so well, but there are some gritty gems in amongst the tunes here that offer fans of classic/retro rock some truly classy music.
Highlights on Skyscraper include the opening rocker Tomorrow – retro vibe on hand, but possibly the most straightforward number on the album; the heavy blues of Clementine, featuring a terrific groove that mirrors the changing sound of the day; and then the classic rock ballad All Of The World – which has the vocal feel of the debut.
No Justice has a 70s pop feel to it and also a nod of the head to the style of song Mr. Big sometimes included on their albums as a tempo changer.
Where it might get a bit harder for traditionalists to appreciate things is on the slow, Leppelin retro rocker Original Sin (which I like) and the acoustic drenched Pictures Of Summer.
The retro-heavy and effects-filled River Rise is another complex track (particularly with the rhythm section) and is challenging, but rewarding at the same time.
Eternal Light is perhaps the weakest of the tracks, even with its swirling guitar riff.
The sparse and bluesy jam You Shall Be Free is going to be an instant turn off to classic melodic rock fans, but retro fans that appreciate what Extreme sometimes offer may appreciate this. Another cool vocal at any rate.
I also really like the powerful and haunting rocker Stay, which crosses between Zeppelin inspired retro rock and current commercial hard rock.
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