First Signal - Line of Fire

First Signal Line of Fire cover
First Signal
Line of Fire
Frontiers Music srl
Out of all the various projects that Frontiers has “devised” by having the various vocalists on their roster sing in tunes composed and recorded by a variety of talent they also have on tap, First Signal was meant to feature and display the considerable talents of Harem Scarem’s Harry Hess. The Canadian has always done a top notch job, but also the project itself has never become “a burden” other than one of joy. With only three albums in a decade, no matter if it were Dennis Ward, the duo of Daniel Flores and Michael Palace or Flores (with Palace still on guitar duties) along with more than a dozen different contributors, what has remained unchanged is the great quality of the material that Hess has been given to sing. Really “hit” songs, with little to not in the way of filler.
Not entirely AOR in nature, the material here feels like the mix between AOR and Melodic Hard Rock, that JSS used to come up in spades, before he set he sights on, getting as far away from that sounds as he could, embracing in part the financial stability that partaking in a project such as TSO, a graveyard cast of musicians, who creatively have died, doing covers of classic music, Christmas standards and second rate Broadway numbers for the money that can be made over the holiday season (which is a lot).
Hess is on fire throughout, reminiscent of both well, himself, but also Soto in a number of tracks, which had me scratching my head, whether he was somehow made to be involved with this project as well.
Bon Jovi would kill to have written something like “Born to be a Rebel”, although I sincerely doubt he’d be able to sing it these days.
“A Million Miles” is smoother and has a huge hook in the vein of HS, Signal and the like.
“The Last of My Broken Hearts” is a benchmark ballad with sweeping chorus that Soto would have felt at home with, instead of pursuing his various “experiments” and singing carols to make it all work.
“Tonight We’re the Only” is a party AOR rock that has a tiny riff, but it’s slow burning nature explodes into brilliant celebratory supernova of a chorus (Think Vega, Eclipse, Wig Wam etc.).
“Walk through the Fire” is a dramatic rocker that feels like someone crashed a Foreigner tune, headlong into a JSS anthem and stood back, amazed at the beautiful mess that ensued.
“Never Look Back Again” mixes the Soto with Jovi in a smoother tune, that still features an explosive enough chorus.
The title track, “Line of Fire”, is more streamlined and while it doesn’t veer into pure AOR territory, its keyboard rich and even smoother, with quite a crazy solo thrown in there, which just works, against all odds.
“Here with You” is an almost obligatory ballad, which tightropes between acoustic in the verses and power ballad during the chorus.
“Need You Now” has a pretty AOR verse that develops and blooms into an arena sized chorus, typical of what you’d expect of Hess. Again the solo stands out in a big way.
“Falling” departs a little… more melancholic and swifter on its feet, with yet another nifty solo, but not holding back on melody either.
“The End of the World”, which finishes the album, feels somewhat familiar and that probably in part due to the slight recycling of melodies and simplistic riff. It’s different enough for one not to cry foul and claim self-plagiarism, but on the other hand it doesn’t earn any points for feeling fresh.
Japanese copies feature an acoustic version of “The Last of My Broken Hearts”, which is heartfelt and passionate, but I think works slightly better with its full orchestration in place.
Although the album tends to lose a little steam towards the end, the sheer quality of its material keeps things interesting. Hess is also not saturating the market with numerous releases per year, so that makes every release that bares his name, really worth waiting for. Therefore “Line of Fire” is a highly recommended proposal for all those who enjoy their hard rock melodic and with big hooks, just like they used to make em in the 80s.