One of the most disappointing bits of news in the melodic rock world this past year was the break up of Harem Scarem (for a short time also known as Rubber), which was arguably the most underrated hard rock band of its time. Formed in the late ’80s by founding members Pete Lesperance and Harry Hess, Harem Scarem cranked up the amps year after year, unleashing their brand of melodic hard rock on the masses. Both Lesperance and Hess have released solo records before, as side projects, so we were optimistic that we’d hear some echoes of Harem Scarem in the future. That moment arrived in the form of a new project called, First Signal, which is an alliance between the powerhouse vocals of Harry Hess and producer/bassist Dennis Ward (Pink Cream 69, Khymera).
The concept behind this project was to bring back the classic Harem Scarem sound craved by many fans. A dream team of songwriters, including brothers Tom and James Martin (Khymera, Sunstorm, House of Lords), Erik Martensson (W.E.T., Eclipse), Ronny Milianowicz (Saint Deamon), Robert Sall (W.E.T., Work of Art) and Mark Baker (Signal, House of Lords) among others, had the task to recreate that magic sound, which is now back in all its glory, thanks to a monster vocal performance from Hess and crisp production and arrangement work from Dennis Ward. Other musicians on the album include, Chris Schmidt on drums, Michael Klein on guitars, Eric Ragno on keyboards, and the necessary background vocals contribution from the other ex-Harem Scarem member, Darren Smith.
As you have probably surmised, First Signal sounds a lot like Harem Scarem, and it is hard to imagine that anything with Harry Hess at the vocal helm is going to sound otherwise! Best of all, the band doesn’t just sound like Harem Scarem because of the amazing trademark vocals and thunderous riffs – it sounds like Harem Scarem because the songwriting is top-notch, A-one melodic rock. Tons of terrific hooks, anthem choruses, and spine-tingling harmonies.
Things begin with a bang, thanks to the upbeat first single, “This City” – a song that is perfect to play while getting ready for a night on the town. “When You Believe” is a stereotypical AOR anthem that could have been found on any Rocky soundtrack. The gears shift down just a bit for the mid-tempo “Part Of Me,” before shifting all the way down for the piano-driven power ballad, “Crazy.” “Crazy” is well done: nice chord progressions, good mix of guitar and piano, and a stellar vocal performance by Hess. “Goodbye to the Good Times” is another highlight, with its smoky, blues-tinged verse, sing-a-long chorus, and jammin’ solo. “Into the Night” is another upbeat track celebrating the nightlife, and deserves mention for being yet another irresistible sing-a-long. AOR fans will delight in the delicate groove of “When November Falls;” a very strong adult contemporary track. I think fans of both new and classic Harem Scarem will find something to enjoy on the First Signal record.
This excellent debut from First Signal will be released August 27th in Europe and September 14th in North America. Fans of melodic hard rock and AOR rejoice – Harry Hess and company have saved the day! You have to hear First Signal if you like Def Leppard, Europe, Tyketto, and, of course, Harem Scarem.
iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 9
Harry Hess on MySpace.