RATED X – RATED X
RELEASED: November 10th, 2014
When I was given the new self-titled album by Rated X, I had no idea I was being given the newest project of Joe Lynn Turner and Carmine Appice. I believe I heard in the past that they were working on something together, but I read similar things about so many other classic rock artists that never really end up materializing so I didn’t pay much mind. Needless to say I’m glad to hear that this project did materialize and I’m even more glad to be here reviewing it right now.
It’s really Joe Lynn Turner that I’m a fan of. Carmine is undoubtedly a legendary drummer with as impressive a resume as anyone can match; I even met him once and found he was a nice guy, though I was there more to meet his brother Vinny. It’s Joe Lynn Turner who I grew up listening to. At a young age of seven or eight I had the lyrics to Rainbow‘s Desperate Heart practically memorized and I eventually grew up to familiarize myself with all of his stuff in Rainbow with Ritchie Blackmore (one of my favorite guitarists) as well as the one-off albums he recorded with Yngwie Malmsteen and Deep Purple.
Funny thing is, I couldn’t tell right away that it was Joe singing these songs for Rated X. I mean it took all of three seconds into opening track Get Back My Crown to hear the Deep Purple influence in the music, with the Ritchie Blackmore-esque guitar tone and the usage of the Hammond organ such the way the late great Jon Lord would have played it. It’s funny because now I can’t help but hear Joe Lynn Turner’s voice, and I don’t understand how I couldn’t tell it was him at first. At 63, his voice won’t disappoint my fellow long-time Joe fans.
While the opening track wasn’t at all bad, there are a few tracks that fall in to the forgettable category. As with most classic hard rock artists still making music, sometimes they just lose a step and make a song that may have been more suited in the 80’s but just doesn’t cut it now, and I want to single these few songs out now and get them over with. This Is Who I Am is one of them, sounding a bit half assed, concentrating more in its lyrical content then its delivery. Devil In Disguise also lacks a significant punch, even more so then This Is Who I Am. At least This Is Who I Am has a good chorus, while Devil in Disguise just has nothing that I find special at all to it.
Bassist Tony Franklin is legendary among his peers and followers for his efficiency with a fretless bass. If you don’t know exactly what a fretless bass is for how it sounds, just listen to the intro to Fire And Ice. As a song, Fire and Ice is the first truly melodic song on the album, something to be expected with Joe’s singing background.
There are hard rockers that don’t sound very half assed that fit on Rated X‘s album perfectly well, such as the opening track, and I Don’t Cry Anymore. The latter does have its strong melodic moments, but its double bass drum beat says otherwise. The way I see it, the melodic moments on the album are what Joe would have recorded with Rainbow, while the harder moments are what Deep Purple would still be recording. Peace of Mind is my preferred song of the harder songs. It can be intense, but also melodic. Sometimes it is insignificant, like how the verses could be a little more catchy, but the pre-chorus and chorus have a driving force that no other song on Rated X has. On The Way To Paradise has its clichés, just like much of the album, but its fast pace, the fastest paced song on the album, gives it identity and fills out an empty void of which Rated X wouldn’t be the same without.
There is a long epic track on the album, Lhasa, which depending on when I listen to it, it could be considered a great track or a slightly too long track. Its slow in a Ronnie James Dio-era Rainbow kind of way, effectively sounding like the song takes place during a fabled visit to the very real Tibetan capital of Lhasa. The song has a very well planned out instrumental section, where everyone from Carmine’s drum prowess to Tony’s fretless bass inclusions to guitarist Karl Cochran‘s powerful chord progressions and guitar solo make this a song that new hard rock hopefuls should take note of.
Among the softer songs on the album is You Are The Music, Maybe Tonight and Our Love Is Not Over. The first of them, You Are The Music, is probably the least significant, sounding good only if you’re in the right mood. Maybe Tonight is the most superior of the three tracks, and without a doubt my favorite track on the entire album. It’s not a ballad the way the other two songs are ballads, and while it has its corny moments, it is still a credible rock song, just with a tremendous amount of heart and is one of few songs where all the verses, pre-chorus and chorus have well thought out melodies to the from a singing standpoint. Lastly, Our Love Is Not Over is the most definite ballad of the three. I can’t help but love it, much the way I can’t help but love all three songs. Frankly, when being given a Joe Lynn Turner sung album, one is to expect at least a couple of softer tracks, and for those welcome to the style, they’re sure to not be disappointed.
Stranger In Us All, the closing track to Rated X, is one last dramatic composition for listeners to enjoy. I find the song to be somewhere between their most melodic songs and their most intense songs. At almost six minutes, it keeps you hooked practically the whole way through with its melodies and instrumentation, once again providing an impressive instrumental solo break that only such veterans as these could record.
Rated X does sound like it could have been recorded in the 80s. It does sound like it’s trying to please fans of that era rather than attract newer fans. I have spoken ill of such bands in the past. The exception here is that unlike young bands trying to sound like they were born too late and trying to make up for it by recording heavily influenced classic rock music, the musicians in Rated X are the influences that these independent bands take their sound from. Not only does that make Rated X’s style more valid to be considered good, but it also assures me and anyone who is interested in giving the album a listen that the songs on Rated X’s self-titled effort are recorded by musicians who know exactly what they are doing.
“I Don’t Cry No More” – Of the hard rockers on the album, this one is the most melodic. It has the Deep Purple/Rainbow sound to it that blend together well and it is what I believe to be the track that sums up the band and album perfectly. On a side note, I really wish I knew who the organ player is throughout the album (his information is given absolutely nowhere) because he sure does sound like he knows how to play the hell out of that Hammond in all twelve songs.
Reviewed by Rock Review Phil
8 (Out of 10)
|1||Get Back My Crown||Rated X||4:15|
|2||This Is Who I Am||Rated X||4:49|
|3||Fire and Ice||Rated X||4:20|
|4||I Don’t Cry No More||Rated X||4:22|
|6||Devil in Disguise||Rated X||4:20|
|7||You Are the Music||Rated X||5:02|
|8||Peace of Mind||Rated X||5:49|
|9||Maybe Tonight||Rated X||5:05|
|10||On the Way to Paradise||Rated X||4:03|
|11||Our Love Is Not Over||Rated X||5:38|
|12||Stranger in Us All||Rated X||5:46|