Review by Martin Leach
Those purveyors of fine melodic rock, Frontiers Records, are at it again! This time though, things are a little different. “Down To The Core” by LRS is a studio project, or maybe an experiment, crafted by the legendary producer Alessandro Del Vecchio of Hardline fame, amongst others. The band name stands for the surnames of the three main artists in the band. Former 21 guns singer, Tommy La Verdi takes up the vocals, with Josh Ramos (Hardline, The Storm) handling the guitars. Michael Shotton of Von Groove hits the skins for all he’s worth while Del Vecchio himself stands behind the keys and supports the threesome, who apparently only met each other for the first time whilst in the studio along with the assistance of no less than three session bass players!
With the history of Del Vecchio and his connections to past members of Hardline and Journey, its maybe not surprising that the music on offer here has a distinct flavour of the Los Angeles band. The arrangements and the melodies hark back to the Journey days of “Arrival” but sadly, we don’t even come close to the “Escape” era. The album’s opener “Our Love To Stay”, could almost be “Never Walk Away” from Journey’s 2008 “Revelation” album. A classic Ramos/Neal Schon guitar riff soars away to lead us into the song, and La Verdi picks up the melody. Sounding more like Steve Augeri than Mr Perry, he displays great emotion and delivery throughout the album and on this track in particular. He is an accomplished singer in his own right, with his own style. If he actually sounds like someone else, then so be it. It has been documented that LRS is kind of a vehicle for the talents of La Verdi. And rightly so.
“Down To The Core” isn’t just a Journey duplicate though…..there’s more on offer here. And you can’t fault the expertise of all the band members, but for me, the songs are too vocally driven. There is an abundance of backing vocals in the mix on many of the songs. But they almost seem to get in the way…..too intrusive and quite muffled at times. Mr Ramos has such expression in the limited guitar breaks he has, but he’s chronically under-used. Even Shotton’s drums boil down to rock music by the numbers. The production is faultless and so polished that you’ve gotta wear shades. Ear candy. “Down To The Core” should suggest a stripped down band. No nonsense, straight forward, rock. But there’s no danger here. No edge to the music. It’s fairly generic to the genre, and safe…..almost like a band put together for a talent show. It’s missing that X factor….
Where the album seems to fall short is in the song selection. There are twelve songs on offer, but for me, they are all too similar. No less than nine songs clock in at around four minutes thirty. There’s only two over five minutes, one of these being “Not One Way To Give” the album’s closer, which seems to go on alot longer than that ! “Waiting For Love” is just over three and a half minutes long. Short but sweet.
Maybe I’m being a tad harsh. There are highlights here, and even though the structure of the songs and the lyrical content are fairly simplistic (makes me wonder how old they actually are) the delivery of the band gives them new life. There are a good few times where the band rock out. “Never Surrender” is a great track with its eighties sentiment and FM style keyboards from that era. But I must say that I prefer the slower songs. “To Be Your Man” is my stand out track. A slow burner with delicious delivery from La Verdi and the lyrics to match. The hook line “Like a rose in the desert, I’m only waiting for the rain” was the first time I started to warm to the band in my first few listens and that’s after seven songs have been and gone! In fact, the album’s best moments come some way into the playing order.
There’s nothing new or pioneering here but we have a decent soft rock album a la Journey with hints of Bon Jovi or even Survivor thrown in for good measure. L, R and S show great musicianship with the songs they’ve been given but it would’ve been nice to hear a more rounded band sound, and a harder edge. Maybe if a second album emerges that’ll be the case. In the meantime if you’ve still got a thirst for A.O.R ( that’s Acronym Orientated Rock ) try not to get too W.E.T in the Spring and enjoy the H.E.A.T this Summer…..