Review by Andy Hawes for MPM
Second to none is the second album by Restless Spirits, led by Lords of Black guitarist Tony Hernando.
He is joined on this album by Journey and Generation Radio drummer Deen Castronovo and singers Kent Hilli (Perfect Plan, Giant), Chez Kane, Johnny Gioeli (Hardline, Axel Rudi Pell) and Renan Zonata (Electric Mob).
The sound of this album is classic AOR/Melodic Rock. Using a range of singers gives this the feel of a project rather than a band, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing and all the singers do a great job with the gear at hand .
There’s absolutely nothing new under the sun happening inside Second to none. If you’ve ever listened to any of the AOR/Melodic Rock projects produced by Frontiers Music on a monthly basis, you’ll know exactly what to expect from this album.
Whether or not that’s a good thing will largely depend on your perspective, but in general, if you’re a fan of this type of “AOR production line”, you’ll find plenty to enjoy here.
Hernando’s vocal choices are very cost effective and they elevate the material with the quality of their delivery. Kent Hilli kicks things off with the hook-laden, albeit somewhat repetitive rocker AOR “Need A Lil White Lie” and a superb job he does with it too. The man has the perfect lungs for this sort of thing and gives his all.
The British rocker Chez Kane then takes the microphone to unleash her formidable voice on the next three tracks. The first of these, ‘Hey You’ is a stereotypical but enjoyable play through a standard AOR/Melodic Rock track. It is followed by “Dreams of the Wild” which, despite having one of those familiar chord sequences in the verses, has a rather more interesting chorus.
She ends her stint on the album with ‘Until the End of Time’ which has a medium pace and slightly softer production on another rather obvious, but enjoyable track nonetheless.
Renan Zonta intervenes for the next two tracks, “A Dream To Be Lost In Time” and “And Yet It Breaks”. The first starts with a rather funky piano and has quite a different feel to what has come before. This change of atmosphere is welcome and raises the album somewhat.
There’s a real hint of Journey and their track ‘Suzanne’ from Raised on the radio in this song, from the rhythm of the drums to the phrasing of the guitar solo. It’s different enough from the original to pay homage rather than simply plagiarize.
The latter pursues the emerging theme of a very competent but really quite distinctive Scandinavian AOR/Melodic Rock.
Hardline’s Johnny Gioeli steps in for the next three tracks. Her absolutely solid gold vocal performance elevates ‘Too Many’ a notch above the ordinary, even if the chorus hook is less obvious than you’d expect and ‘Nothin’ Dirty Here’ continues in the same vein. , with Hernando flexing his shredded muscle on the very cool guitar solo.
Gioeli completes her contribution with the standard AOR/Melodic Rock ballad “Always A Pretender”, which does exactly what you would expect from it.
The album ends with the return of Renan Zonta and Kent Hilli on ‘No Time Wasters’ and ‘Dirty Money’ respectively. The two continue with what we’ve already seen from the album, with both singers putting their all into their performances on very competent AOR/Melodic Rock.
All in all, fans of European melodic rock/AOR may well find a lot to enjoy here. It’s very well acted, arranged and sung and it’s very competent at what it does.
However, it doesn’t have much to stand out from the crowded AOR/Melodic Rock market; perhaps its biggest selling point is the guest vocalists who are all absolutely brilliant and make the tracks their own.
20 or 30 years ago, I would have loved this album, because it has a lot of merits. However, now with so much similar music, I personally prefer to be rather selective in what I buy and the albums have to have something a little more to grab me.
If you’re a fan of this sort of thing, it’s a “must” because it just might float your boat, but it’s a lot like a lot of other things out there right now. Listen to it and see what you think.
List of unparalleled tracks:
- Need a Little White Lie ft. Kent Hilli
- Hey You ft. At Kane’s
- Dreams of Nature ft. At Kane’s
- Until the end of time ft. At Kane’s
- A dream to lose in time ft. Renan Zonta
- And yet it breaks ft. Renan Zonta
- Too many ft. Johnny Gioeli
- Nothing Dirty Here ft. Johnny Gioeli
- Always a Suitor ft. Johnny Gioeli
- No wasting time with Renan Zonta
- Dirty Money with Kent Hilli
Johnny Gioeli – Vocals on tracks 7, 8, 9
Kent Hilli – Vocals on tracks 1, 11
Chez Kane – Vocals on tracks 2, 3, 4
Renan Zonta – Vocals on tracks 5, 6, 10
Tony Hernando – guitars, bass, keyboards, backing vocals
Victor Diez – Piano, Keyboards
Matt De Vallejo – Drums