RSO – “Radio Free America”

May 5, 2018

RSO finally release their first full album since getting together musically and personally in 2013 (released 11th May 2018) and it is an absolute stormer of a record. Would you expect anything less from a band consisting of an American rock icon, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Songwriters Hall of Famer, and founding member of multi-platinum Grammy-winning band Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora (who has sold over 130 million albums worldwide and has co-written over 20 Top 40 hits and 11 Top 10 hits) and Australian guitar virtuoso Orianthi (who has shared stages with the likes of Michael Jackson, Santana, Prince, and ZZ Top, and was the first female member of Alice Cooper’s band) have both written chart-busting singles, toured the globe extensively, collaborated with superstar artists, and released three solo albums each? Well, probably not but this is not quite the record you would expect either. What we have here is a genre-spanning musical project encompassing elements of rock, blues, pop, R&B, and country.   Their voices and guitars effortlessly blend together, and their indelible melodies and uplifting lyrics create an album filled with warmth, heart and a whole lot of rock ‘n’ roll. ‘Radio Free America’ displays the combustible chemistry that Sambora and Orianthi have both onstage and off.

After moving into their new home together, Bob Rock came up with the idea to build a home studio where they could work around the clock if they wanted to, whenever the ideas came to them.  In the kitchen is the main hub, complete with studio-size speakers, keyboards, computers, and mics. There are amps in the dining room, the living room overflows with racks of guitars, and the home theatre has been converted into a drum room. At home, the two have created an inviting world filled with love, friendship, laughter, and passion for music that seeps into these songs. It was also where fellow musicians could swing by including Robby Krieger (The Doors) and Paul McCartney’s drummer Abe Laboriel Jnr.   Alice Cooper also appears on the album (although he recorded his part in Transylvania!)

“I think these songs are about just being human,” Sambora says. “People have more in common with each other than they think. Ori and I have had the chance to see that up close, in front of millions of people around the world, for many years. It’s ingrained in us as songwriters, that desire to transcend language and genre, to play for people, entertain them, and write songs that can be the soundtrack to their lives.”

Now I will freely admit to being a MASSIVE fan of Richie Sambora (some of my guitar style, for what it is, is clearly stolen from the way he plays and have always thought he was the best singer in Bon Jovi) but what I didn’t expect was to fall so instantly in love with the collection of music on offer here. Sure, the press release talks of genre spreading styles but all I can say is this sounds like it’s the sort of record that would have had massive cross over back when mainstream radio played everything. It is all about the songs, the guitar work is lovely but, much like Richie’s albums, not the focus (even more surprising, actually, when you consider that Orianthi is such a oiutstanding player too). Production wise it is very much of now too – this is not some 198s throw back this is 21st century, grown up “pop” (you know, like when “pop” was not such a hateful thing to listen to).

The duo have produced something that I think his former band mate could only dream about these days. The way they mix up vocals, special guests and, of course, the guitar playing is truly sublime (just to give you a clue, I gave my better half a very quick listen to bits of three songs as she passed the studio and she loves each one based on about 10 seconds listen). The magical part for me is that each listen to the album presents me with different favourites. “Together on the Outside” features a guest appearance from Orianthi’s old boss Alice Cooper and what a cracking track enhanced by the ever sinister Mr Furnier hovering over proceedings and making his presence felt without becoming the focus. Then you get “Good Times”, such an upbeat summery tune that just makes me grin from ear to ear – clearly reflecting some of the truth of relationships – giving a knowing wink and a nod to the realities whilst having such an uplifting sound. Oh yes it probably has one of my favourite lines in a song this year – but you need to hear it for yourself. So well crafted the little “rap” which should make me want to switch songs, just makes me smile … and join in! To misquote Star Trek’s Dr McCoy “It’s a love song Jim, but not as we know it”.

“One Night of Peace” has all the markings of a Christmas single from way back when (kids singing, giving peace a change .. you know the score), yet rather than sounding like the cheesiest thing this side of your local pizza restaurant, it actually sounds more like a hymn. The cover of “I’ve Got You Babe” gives a nice twist to the 60s classic (I bet that would have been an interesting conversation “I’ve got this idea for a cover. It’s by an old girlfriend”). Yes I love a well done cover – and it certainly is that.  I could bang on about each and every track but to be honest, just buy a copy. This is truly one of those records that should be the soundtrack of the summer of 2018 – something for everyone and something much more sonically interesting  than the records that have been ubiquitous each summer for the last few years.

Great songs (including a rather cool cover – yeah I know, I am obsessed by cover versions), a very relevant sound with some very cool production going on. It’s out on 11th May, and if you want a bit of class to soundtrack your summer – get it ordered, I just have

 

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