Every melodic rock fan with half a brain knows that there is no such thing as the perfect AOR album. From the late ‘70s through to the early ‘90s we were awash with perfect moments but, for the past two and a half decades, bands have matched the gems of that period with only very limited success. These days, making records is cheaper and faster; sonically sub-standard AOR albums arrive at an alarming rate and are all accompanied by unhelpful amounts of hype, so it’s no wonder that fans have become cynical about new releases. How refreshing it is, then, to come across an artist whose press makes no claim whatsoever and who has made an album that doesn’t sound as if it was cobbled together in a hurry. One-man freaky genius (he plays, sings, produces and mixes everything) Tom Satin quietly released his debut in 2014 and now the follow-up, It’s About Time, has arrived seemingly out of thin air. While it’s not perfect, I’d say it’s about as close as anyone has got in a very long time.
The crunching guitars and glorious keys of ‘Look Up In The Sky’ open up the record, with Satin coming across like a supercharged Boulevard. This is a good start in my book. The equally catchy ‘I’ll Never Let You Down’ is pure ‘80s Bon Jovi; full, as it is, of woh-oh-ohs and a chorus that could easily have flowed from the pen of Desmond Child. Then, the ever-so-slightly pomp keys that dominate the verse of ‘Waiting For Someone’ give way to the song’s explosive and melodic chorus and I am officially sold. It’s a song that wouldn’t have been out of place on the Signal album from 1989 and is, quite simply, a nugget of pure AOR gold.
Having successfully charmed this particular melodic rock lover in the space of just three songs, the album then - very wisely - changes tack with the tougher ‘Use It Or Lose It’ which owes a very big debt to classic Ratt. For me, this is also a very good thing. The record then misfires with the upbeat galloping and ‘70s keys of ‘The Damage Got Done’ which has the distinct whiff of Iron Maiden entering Eurovision but, thankfully, the album quickly rights itself for the second half. ‘This Time’ doffs its hat to White Lion while throwing a nod at Firehouse and big ballad ‘Heading For A Fall’ pays homage to Survivor in its musical-theatre-type construction. ‘Who You Are’ is feelgood AOR worthy of the Harem Scarem debut while the gang vocals of ‘True Love’ flirts again with glam, the vocal delivery here recalling Vince Neil. ‘Lying Eyes’ is straight ahead melodic hard rock and brings to a close an album that is impossible not to like.
All of the AOR conventions are in place here, but the clichés never seem self-consciously rolled out. The result is a record that sounds like it’s been made out of a genuine love for the genre rather than out of a desire to flog a dead horse. Essentially, It’s About Time is a balanced study of American hard rock in all its best incarnations but what puts it head and shoulders above most others is that, from a production and mastering point of view, it’s also a pleasure to listen to. And it helps that the obvious enthusiasm with which Satin performs is so infectious. So, if you have a big place in your heart for vintage melodic rock and prefer new releases to sound fresh rather than formulaic, then It’s About Time you introduced yourself to Satin.
Review by Rich Barnard