Michael Bolton. You know people of a certain age can break out into a ‘how am I supposed to live without you’ song when asked the question. What most people don’t know is that before he became a soft rock icon and eventually delved into the dark side of soul, Bolton was something of a popular AOR artist with pop and mushy ballads. Think a mix of Alien, Bryan Adams and The Leftovers. Italian label, Frontiers are trying to recapture those early glory days with a tribute album focusing mostly on his original songs and forgotten AOR classics, ‘Steel Bars’.
The genesis of ‘Iron Bars – A Tribute to Michael Bolton’ came when Serafino Perugino, President of A&R for Frontiers Music Srl, had the idea of bringing together new vocalists with existing singers. Make them pay for a particularly beloved Bolton career. And so new names like Girish Pradhan (Girish and The Chronicles), Dave Mikulskis (The Talent Working with Jim Peterick), Sochan Kikon (About Us), Anna Nikolic (The Big Deal), Nevana Brankovic (The Big Deal), Santiago Ramonda (Hurricane), Stefan Nyqvist (Saying) and James Robledo (Sinner’s Blood) appear alongside Steve Overland (FM), Guy Oliver (Landfall), Robbie LaBlanc (Find Me) and Ronnie Romero (Michael Schenker, Rainbow). ).
Michael Bolotin (as he was at that time) started recording music in 1998. In 1975, though, he was in Blackjack with legendary guitarist Bruce Kulik (later to join Kiss in the ‘no makeup’ days of the 80s) and began cutting hard rock. teeth. They released two albums, but it wasn’t until 1983 when Bolton started making the big splash that he is now. The songs on this tribute album are taken from this period in his career up until 1991’s ‘Time, Love and Compassion’, which was Bolton’s last album with any rock input or sound.
Frontier’s production values go one of two ways on ‘Steel Bars’, either replicating that beautiful, smooth ’80s sound they grew up with in the ’50s, or bringing a slightly heavier, more modern sound with a European edge to it since it’s there. The pulse of most hard rock and AOR lives on these days. The album opens with a perfect double piece of bliss in ‘All Crazy’ and ‘Fools Game’. The former is one of Bolton’s most beloved early classics and Girish Pradhan handles the vocal duties in style, coming across as a mix of Lou Gramm and Kevin Dubrow. A great production with a slightly harder edge than the original makes this track a perfect opener. “Fools Game,” meanwhile, is the perfect vehicle for FM lead singer Steve Overland’s pounding guitars and big keyboards. If there is a vocalist in Europe who can compete with Michael Bolton, it is simply Steve Overland. Like Bolton, he has the power, range and ability to sing a Gillette commercial at the drop of a hat and ‘Fools Game’ is a walk in the park for this talented singer.
Elsewhere, frontman Robbie LaBlanc leads the soft-rock anthem ‘Gina’ with some ambition. LaBlanc’s powerful, effortless vocals are really suited to Michael Bolton’s back catalog and his classic ‘New York’ 80s pop/rock sound is transcribed with ease. Rainbow’s Ronnie Romero nails the stunning, soulful and atmospheric ‘Don’t Tell Me It’s Over’ with 80s keyboards and a great turn-of-the-moment chorus and Stefan Nyqvist nails ‘Call My Name’ in a thunderous storm. -Drums and great guitar solos when I think of 80’s AOR bands like Survivor.
‘Hold On Love’ featuring Anna Nikolic and Nevana Brankovic is an absolute masterclass of 80’s vibes. Think Sarria, the femme fatale, Romeo’s daughter. They’re all in there. Whoever had the idea to feature female vocals on this track should be amazed as we get a song that a modern artist like Chase Kane is dying to record. It builds to a classic chorus by both women’s voices, echoing artists like Cher and the Wilson Heart Sisters. Flipside’s production, with heavier guitars and a more Euro-oriented approach is present on tracks such as ‘Can’t Turn It Off’. Foreign-style keyboards run riot on one of the best tracks on the album, opening the track with some heavy jamming before Gui Oliver comes in to give us his best Lou Gramm impression.
The elephant in the room is that I haven’t even mentioned the two biggest tracks on this tribute album yet, and we’re at the end. Both ‘How We’ll Be Lovers’ and ‘Steel Bars’ were huge hits for Michael Bolton and for me were the most anticipated tracks on this release. It is painful to say that they do not live up to expectations and billing. Sometimes a song is so iconic that it shouldn’t be covered. Maybe I was expecting too much or I just love those two songs so much I can’t think of anyone else but Bolton. who knows? Dave Mikulskis directed ‘How To Be Lovers’ and there was something missing. If you’ve read this far into this review, you’ll be able to interpret and understand what I’m saying when I say that I think the track needs Jimmy Jamison to sing, not Dave Bickler. It just needs an edge in the voice that isn’t there. ‘Bars of Steel’, meanwhile, feels a little underwhelming, a little defeated. Playing in an elevator or in the back of a conference or a motivational speech somewhere, it sounds like it’s been soaked or cleaned. There is nothing particularly wrong with Sochan Kikan’s vocals, but nothing particularly appealing.
When you listen to Santiago Ramonda sing ‘Save Our Love’ from Hell, you may wish, as I do, that he’d given it ‘Iron Bars’ or ‘How We’ll Be Lovers’ instead. His vocals really capture the anger and anguish, and dare I say soul, that were present on Bolton’s original recordings of these songs. The production on ‘Save Our Love’ is also top-notch, making the track feel like it could be lifted from Frontiers’ AOR projects of the past 25 years. There’s a fantastic guitar solo here too, just to end things with a bang.
Rock and AOR message boards have been pushing hard rock Michael Bolton songs for nearly 30 years, ever since the man himself left the genre and took the easy money the pop market offered him. Well, in ‘Steel Bars’ the fans finally got their wish. Of course, the two big ticket songs don’t live up to expectations, but it’s a shame that every other song on this album works. There’s an urgency and intensity about the songs on offer here that will delight fans of Michael Bolton’s early work and the AOR genre in general, meaning three decades of wish lists and questions have now been satisfactorily answered. Well done Frontiers.
Tracking List: 1. It’s All Crazy 2. A Fool’s Game 3. How Can We Be Lovers 4. Iron Bolt 5. Keep Love 6. We Can’t Destroy It 7. Save Our Love 8. Gina 9. Call My Name 10. Don’t Tell Me It’s Over 11. Desperate heart Registration ID: border Official date: Buy July 7 ‘Iron Bars – Tribute to Michael Bolton’ now