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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Rock Sugar, Going For Epic.
by: Erik Rupp Vista Records


An 80's Heavy Metal band lost at sea found themselves stranded on an island with only a 13 year old girl's boombox and CD's for music to listen to. Eventually succumbing to the need to listen to something the band became brainwashed by the constant stream of Pop music. Rescued 20 years later, a very confused band did their best to sort things out and recorded Reimaginator, a combination of the Heavy Metal they loved and the Pop they were subjected to for almost two decades.

It makes for a fun story, and an even more fun CD to listen to.

Rock Sugar is a novelty band. Sort of. These guys can play - and sing! Their mash-ups of Hard Rock or Heavy Metal songs with 80's Pop hits make for some very entertaining listening. 

Most of the mash-ups work really well, including the album opener, "Don't Stop the Sandman." The combination of Metallica's, "Enter Sandman," and Journey's, "Don't Stop Believin," works far better than it has any right to. The band's performance (including some really, really good harmony vocals) is so spot-on that the combination just sounds right. Sure, there is a tongue-in-cheek quality to their Frankenstein monster of a song, but there is also a pair of great songs that are put together in a way that puts a smile on the face of the listener. The bar is set very high right off the bat.

While the band can't match that level on every song on the album is almost irrelevant. Most of the songs either match it, or come close, like the next song, "We Will Kickstart Your Rhapsody." Who would have known how well the faster version of, "We Will Rock You," (from Queen's Live Killers album) would fit with, "Kickstart Your Heart?" (The vocal part to "We Will," fits perfectly over the music for the verse of, "Kickstart.") Including the intro to, "Bohemian Rhapsody," at the beginning and the rocking ending of that song (here put near the end, with the final part of, "Rhapsody," at the very end of this song) just takes the song over the top.

With a 1-2 punch like that Rock Sugar will likely win over most of the naysayers.

"Crazy Girl?" Rick Springfield meets Ozzy Osbourne. Again, it works as, "Jessie's Girl," and, "Crazy Train," sound pretty darned good together. So do, "Welcome to the Jungle," and, "Voices Carry," in the form of, "Voices in the Jungle." It's actually a little scary how well those two disparate songs work together as Til Tuesday meets Guns N Roses through Rock Sugar's magic.

The first minor misstep on the album is the combination of Bon Jovi's, "Wanted Dead or Alive," and the Eurythmics, "Here Comes the Rain." It's not bad, but not quite up to the level of the first four songs on the album. The album quickly takes the quality level back up from just OK to really good with, "Shook Me Like A Prayer." 80's Madonna meets AC/DC? Yup. And it works, although this one sounds just a little more forced than the previous songs on the album (a couple of the transitions aren't quite as natural as those on the previous songs), but it's still fun (and there is a surprise thrown in there that 
does work really well). This one grows on you the more you listen to it.

Paula Abdul joining KISS? Another unlikely scenario, but the combination of, "Detroit Rock City," and, "Straight Up," works remarkably well. Rock Sugar is on a roll again at this point as, "Prayin' For A Sweet Weekend," is another winning combination. Rock Sugar's ability to take Pop Rock (Loverboy, Journey, Rick Springfield, etc) and turn it into killer Hard Rock is without peer. 

So much so that I would love to hear them do a straight cover album of songs by bands like Journey, Styx, Boston, Loverboy, etc. They sound so good on these songs that they could make a great album just doing covers of those songs without the mash-ups. Maybe next time.

That would certainly be a better move than covering two mediocre Power Ballads ("Heaven and Heaven"), even if they do fit together well.

Some Metal fans might consider that to be, "Breaking the Law," just as they might feel about combining that Judas Priest classic with 70's Pop anthem, "I'm Not In Love," (by 10cc) even if the combination is near brilliant. But they'd get over it. Most of them would, anyway, as this combination is another well thought out paring that is played with extreme conviction. 

As is their combination of, "Pour Some Sugar On Me," and, "I Love Rock and Roll." Again, most of the transitions work really well on this one, and the combination fits two similar songs together on, "I Love Sugar On Me."

One of the album's finest moments is when Rock Sugar beefs up Journey's, "Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)," in, "Round and Separated." That Journey classic has never sounded better. Seriously. In a way it's a shame that they had to do this one as a mash-up, because even though the combination of that song with Ratt's, "Round and Round," is fun and works 
very well, a straight cover would have been epic.

And while they went for epic with their combining, "Dream On," with, "Breakfast in America," "Whole Lotta Love," and one brief surprise bit on, "Dreaming of a Whole Lotta Breakfast," they could be accused of going over the top, even though the song works pretty darned well. Even if it is over the top it is a good way to end the album.

As for the production side, the album sounds really good. This sounds like a major label production with some really good guitar tones, a solid bass tone, and some well recorded and mixed drums. Nothing about this album is small time.

While a sense of humor is needed to fully appreciate Reimaginator, even without one the album still sounds good. It's just a lot more fun if you can smile and go along with the concept.


Hopefully next time these guys do that straight cover album of Loverboy, Journey, and Styx songs.
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