Classy second offering
In the (almost) 30 years I have been listening to rock music, two peoples music has influenced me the most. People have come and gone (to my personal taste anyway) over the years – David Coverdale (came,went, and is currently back again), Paul Rodgers (with Queen, say no more), Dokken (living on past glories), Diamond Dave (just past it)to name a few.
Ritchie Blackmore was the spark that ignited my interest in rock music, but currently he is pre-disposed in playing minstrel music and good luck to him. However, one person has remained, and thank God, he's still turning out quality music through various projects. I was drawn into Steve 'The Voice' Overland in the early 80's when his then band, Wildlife were supporting MSG I think. I have to guess as all I can really remember is the Wildlife set.
SO has a voice that is up there with some of the best, Paul Rodgers, Glenn Hughes, and yes a couple of Motown singers spring to mind in Sam Cooke and an certain Mr Gaye, such is the high regard I hold him in. If you like your vocals bluesy, soulful then look no further. Too often superlatives are thrown out at singers, but not here, Steve Overland CAN sing the phone book!
This is the second outing for 'The Ladder'. The first album was basically some re-recordings of FM songs, B sides etc. With 'Sacred', we have a change of personnel. Still with the band are Pete Jupp (ex-FM/SO) and Bob Skeat (ex-FM, current bassist for Wishbone Ash). Out goes the versatile Vinny Burns (ex-Dare/Asia) and in comes relative unknown Gerhard Pichler who I must say has given them a big kick up the arse with a more modern, fresher, and dare I say it - even darker sound..
'Body and Soul' kicks proceedings off with an up-tempo melodic style up there matching previous quality offerings. 'Sacred' is one of the highlights of the album, a much heavier, darker riff being the core of the song, with a very melodic chorus which reminds me in style of Starbreaker. The first ballad 'Something To Believe In' is an excellent ballad which only SO can seem to be able to produce consistently. This guy knows how to churn out quality.
The tempo builds back up over the next couple of songs, back with this more modern contemporary melodic vibe of which 'All of My Life' stands out. A more classic sound follows with the lighter sounding, 'Boys Of Summer' style song 'Run To You'.
'Here I Am' is a song which would have fitted perfectly on the 'SO!' album with one of the stand out bridge/chorus on the album. The last 4 songs revert back to the 'modern' approach with 'Sea Of Love'. 'Make a Wish' is one of my favourites on the CD with a chorus well ingrained on me due to the moody, emotional vibe. Moving to the commercial sounding 'Mean Streets', and finally 'Abandoned' again with a stand out chorus rounds things off.
'The Ladder' have definitely got themselves a 'find' in Gerhard Pichler, and will hopefully result in future release/s. Both BS/PJ handle rhythm duties excellently and are as tight as a gnats chuff, as I'd expect from these two very underrated individuals. As usual it's the quality of the vocals which stand out above the competition and Steve as usual sings as well as I've heard him over the years.
I'm glad 'The Ladder' have adopted a more modern, contemporary approach, because the current norm is for bands to reform and try to live on past performances and glories, and quite a few releases have been disappointing because at the end of the day time moves on. Its 2007 and not 1987.
I very much doubt we'd be lucky enough to see 'The Ladder' tour on the back of this, particularly with a certain headlining gig planned for FM later in the year (cant wait). This album really deserves to be heard by a much wider audience. Definitely one of the best releases this year, melodic or not!