To be honest, I don’t have a whole lot of knowledge of Gary Hughes – and I definitely haven’t heard all that much of his solo albums, this being number nine. Hughes is mostly known as the singer in British Melodic Rock act Ten, a band that I haven’t listened to all that much either. I’ve reviewed their last three albums and I found all of them good enough but I still haven’t heard any of their other eleven albums. Hughes has also written three albums for Magnum singer Bob Catley, been involved with Hugo, Vinny Burns, Johnny Lima and Ayreon, so it’s a productive and creative gentleman we’re dealing with here. Judging by what I have heard of this man previously, my impression of Hughes is that he’s a skilled writer with a somewhat limited vocal-range so I have high hopes that this album will contain a whole bunch of really good Melodic Rock tracks.
Gary Hughes opens the album with a ballad. Yes, you read that correctly – a ballad. ”All At Once It Feels Like I Believe” is a slow pop-song with musical-theatre undertones, very down beat and laid-back. This where I realized that this might not be a Rock album at all. I have no issues with ballads whatsoever but to kick off an album with one is a brave – or stupid – move. You choose. Personally, I don’t think it works at all especially as the song isn’t all that much to write home about in the first place. Hughes never had a broad range vocally but here he sounds monotone, uninspired and on auto-pilot and the whole track just disappears. It’s a forgettable tune and as a taster for the record this just might backfire.
Starting out as a mid-paced pop-song, ”Electra Glide” soon takes on a faster pace yet still very Pop. Taking on a slight 70’s approach, the tune leers at Queen at times but for the chorus, Hughes’ recognizable Ten melodies shines through with slick and smooth AOR-ish waves and silky arrangements. That being said, I miss hooks here and the song doesn’t makes much of an impression. ”Lay Down” is another slow-burner but at least he tries to bring in some heaviness and staccato riffing. It’s a pretty rhythmic number, both laid-back and upbeat. The song holds the strongest refrain so far with some slick AOR-isms but as a whole, it’s merely a decent tune at best.
The upbeat pop-rocker ”The Runaway Damned” takes the AOR of Bon Jovi and teams it up with the Classic Rock of Bruce Springsteen, especially when the dramatic piano comes in. The strong main-melody really grabs a hold and the same can be said of the the catchy chorus which lies on a straight-forward rhythm and some Ten-like hooks. This is easily the best track so far and the first one to really grab me. Very good indeed. ”Screaming In The Half Light” is a slow, down-beat ballad with a cinematic arrangement and held-back rhythms. The dynamics rises with the female harmonies and there’s a bit of a structure change as the song speeds up some for the solo part. Still, the song never really takes off and fades fast. A forgettable tune.
The title-track, the album’s leading single, is another mid-paced pop-rock number but this one is way catchier than most tunes here. There’s a slight nod towards modern Country here which marries fine with Hughes’ AOR melodies. A big, chunky refrain makes the tune catch on and I even find myself singing along with a smile. A good song that brings hope for the songs to come. ”Video Show” is an upbeat Pop meets AOR piece with a nice backbone and a fine groove. With a chorus that brings on a slight Dare vibe, the tune tries to reach some kind of catchiness and while the song is ok, the big hook is a no-show and at the end of the day the song just don’t hold water. Slightly better than a skipper.
”Save My Soul” is a guitar-driven rocker where AOR meets more edgy Melodic Rock on a straight ahead rhythm with a nice hook and a catchy refrain and if you take all those elements and add a little Classic Rock with both crunchy and clean guitars, you get the uptempo and quite punchy ”Seduce Me” which actually comes across as Hughes first attempt to actually rock – as in RAWK – on the album. All of this would be fine and dandy if it wasn’t for the choruses on both tracks which are weak and doesn’t lift the songs at all. ”Save My Soul” is the best of the two with a refrain that at least sticks some.
The album’s closer is another pop-ballad that holds some traces of AOR called ”When Love Is Done”. It’s a dramatic piece that wouldn’t be out of place in some musical of sorts. It’s an underwhelming number with a goth-like piano and a drum sound that screams rushed programming. That being said, there are some qualified melody-hooks in the verses and Dann Rosingana delivers a very fine, Ten-like guitar solo. The chorus, however, isn’t all that much to write home home about – it fades fast and never lifts the song at all.
I hate slagging artists off but this album isn’t very good at all. Even though there are some good songs on it, it’s hard to listen because of the horrible production. The truth is, this record sounds like a rushed demo that screams budget a long way. The drums are the worst – if there are real drums anywhere it’s hard to hear because everything sounds poorly programmed, think Yngwie Malmsteen’s latests efforts and all of that ruins the whole experience. That Hughes is a limited singer is nothing new and that comes with the package but if that’s added with a bunch of forgettable songs and a stinker of a production, it doesn’t really help. Back to the drawing-table, Gary, because you’re so much better than this!