Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Best Albums You Never Heard

By Kurt Torster

Loud & Clear “Disc-Connected” (2002)

In the early 2000’s, for a genre as dead as melodic rock (or AOR, hard rock or whatever else you want to call it), there were a fair amount of great albums released then that no one, save a small yet devoted following, would ever know about. A lot of them would find homes on many of the various European specialty labels at the time, and seemingly the cream of the crop was German house MTM. To go it one further, the cream of the MTM crop was this release from Loud & Clear.

The trio, hard rock at their core, took many cues from the sounds of the day and released an album vibrant, fresh and ultimately ignored. Using Van Halen like riffs, Def Leppard shout along bombast and boy band pop melodies, the album has a very familiar feeling from first listen. Yet, its repeated listens where gems like “Fly Away,” “Time To Let Go” and “Lovers In The Night” really begin to shine as the hits that could, nay should have been. This is all compounded by the fact that the boys can play and sing with the best of them.

With anthems like “Tell Me Why” or “When I Feel Like That” it’s so easy to reach for the volume knob and push it past any sort of healthy levels, especially when the weather is warm and sunny.

Sometimes when I sit back and think about the disc I am listening to for this column, it just boggles the mind that most are 10 years or older. As time has progressed, technology has gotten more and more in the way, yet here was a release that used it to its advantage. Some synths here, some purposeful auto-tune there and it still sounds contemporary and special.

Amazingly, this band seemed to be nothing more than a hobby as lead singer Jess Harnell has a nice day job as one of the premier voices for animation, television and film (including key parts in Animaniacs, America’s Funniest Home Videos and the Transformer movies). Lead guitarist Chuck Duran is also big in the voice over department while drummer Alex Track is a well known audio engineer, winning a Grammy in 2006 for his work.

Together, the band continues as hard rock mash up specialists Rock Sugar, who released a rather wicked covers disc “Re-Imaginator” in 2010 and tours incessantly to packed houses wherever they play.