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By Jay Roberts, Massachusetts Contributor
Wednesday, March 22, 2023 @ 10:03 AM

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Frontiers Music Srl - 2023

ROBIN MCAULEY is certainly not letting the grass grow under his feet. After the killer solo release Standing On The Edge and two outstanding albums fronting BLACK SWAN, the singer is back with the album Alive. It might be easy to think the album title indicates that it is a live release but no it is in fact his third solo studio album.

Well, solo in that it's under his name anyway. As you might imagine with a release from Frontiers Music, maestro Alessandro Del Vecchio plays a HUGE role in the creative process for Alive. While ROBIN MCAULEY co-wrote each of the songs, Del Vecchio co-wrote (amongst a host of additional writers) nine of the tracks as well as producing the disc. He played bass and keyboards too.

And now that I've run down the key composers part of the album, let's get to the music, shall we?

I'll be the first to admit to the fact that as I gave the album its first spin, I thought there was a very big line between the first and second half of the album. In the early going of the disc's eleven tracks, I thought the songs were good but not necessarily as instantly compelling as the songs that came later in the running order. Again, I liked those early tracks but they didn't quite hit me as hard.

But thankfully, I've been spending a lot of time listening to the full album before writing this review. And that let me get more involved in what I was hearing on those early tracks. The album's title track opens the disc and it is pretty interesting. It opens with this really brief keyboard piece as an intro. But even as it is playing you can hear the more rocking tone of the song cutting in over that keyboard sound. Once you have the full band playing, the tempo switches back and forth between a midtempo delivery in the main vocal passages but during the song's chorus things get a far more rocking delivery. And the solo on this song is actually quite enthralling. Kudos to Andrea Seveso for the playing on this song because it really gives the song a great deal of heft.

The song "Dead As A Bone" is a lights out heavier sounding rock track from the song's first notes and musically the track is incredibly compelling. Then you add in ROBIN MCAULEY's vocal turn on the song and man, this song ended up being one that not only grew on me but ended up as one of my favorites on the Alive disc.

I have to say that the song "Bless Me Father" actually was an early song that did get me right from the start. Fueled by a unstoppable rocking soundtrack and a furious vocal performance from Mcauley, this track has a heavy yet fast moving vibe that carried me along with it from start to finish.

I've always appreciated the way ROBIN MCAULEY infuses emotion into his performance and the monster track "Feel Like Hell" is a prime example. Right at the end of the song, his delivery is such that you could actually find yourself thinking he was actually feeling bad and/or in pain as he delivered that last lyric line. But before you get to that point, this song is just outstanding. Fast paced and capped off with a superb chorus ("You make me feel like hell / all your magic's lost it's spell / you call it love but I can't tell / why do you make me feel like hell / you've got a heart that's cold as steel/ and that's just how you make me feel like hell"), the song is just kills!

Speaking of emotion, the album's power ballad track "Can't Go On" holds up pretty well too. But I will say that given how the song does seem to move a little faster for a longer period of time, describing it as a power ballad might be just a bit off at times.

As we now move into the second half of the album I should mention that I discovered ROBIN MCAULEY when he was the frontman for MCAULEY-SCHENKER GROUP somewhere around three decades ago. Since that time, whenever I've listened to music he sang on, I've been blown away by how ageless he sounds. And in the here and now, his vocals remain on point and powerful. Case in point, the song "The Endless Mile". It's a blazing rocker that rightfully shines a powerful spotlight on just how big AND good Mcauley's vocal presence has with every one of his performances.

The two songs on the album that Alessandro Del Vecchio didn't have a hand in writing are co-writing ventures between ROBIN MCAULEY and guitarist Tommy Denander. Denander is another very prolific performer and he not only wrote "Fading Away" and "My Only Son" with Mcauley, but he played guitar on the tracks as well. "My Only Son" is a damn fine rocker, but I think when people hear "Fading Away", they are going to be blown away by it. It's another favorite track of mine on Alive. The song is an highly charged rocker with a sharp-edged delivery to it. And the chorus of "The feelin' is gone and it's time to move on / when the words have nothin' to say / wand your feelin' the cold from this big empty world / as your hopes start fading away" is just a flat out ear grabber!

Again, the 2nd half of the Alive album really did it (whatever that "it" might be) for me from the first time I listened to it. So it shouldn't be much of a surprise to readers of this review that I loved the last three songs to close out the disc as well. All three songs are straight up rockers that will keep your head bouncing along to the music and your ears open for what ROBIN MCAULEY has to offer vocally. The songs "When The Time Has Come" and "Stronger Than Before" are straight up pure rockers guaranteed to keep your energy level on the rise.

As for the album's final track, I thought "Who I Am" was a flat out ripping number. It's another killer rock track and once again, the chorus ties the whole song together. In fact, I loved the way it declares the finality in the song's overall "story" a whole lot. "I won't make you beg forgiveness / that's not who I am / there's nothin' left between us / that's not who I am". I know that it seems relatively simple in terms of lyrical spin but when you hear it inside of the actual song, it really elevates the track to me.

At the start of this review I said that the first half of Alive, while still really good, didn't quite hit me as strongly as the second half did on my first listen. But as I continued to play the album, I found that it was just me needing to put in the work to hear all the great music Alive had to offer. And boy, did I really get into this album once I realized that particular fact. There are 11 tracks on the album and each one of them has something about it that makes it stand out. Truth be told and simply stated, ROBIN MCAULEY has one hell of a GREAT rock album on his hands, period.

5.0 Out Of 5.0

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