Davenport, Iowa´s own veteran AOR-sters Lynn Allen hit back with the first new studio album in six years, their tenth full-length effort and it comes hot on the heels of previous year´s archive release Retro Maniacs 1982-1988. That release was all about unreleased demos whereas this release is a brand new album. Both albums were released by small UK indie label AOR Boulevard Records. Streetlight is strictly limited to 1000 copies and guaranteed to be a collectors item in the future. Lynn Allen is also a living proof that the US continue to deliver top notch classic AOR like in the good old days when this genre ruled the airwaves and MTV. This was of course in a time when there was still music on MTV!
The Lynn Allen story began as far back as in the early 1980’s when undisputed band leader, songwriter extraordinaire and only remaining original member Bill Peiffer started the band Pilot together with Jesse Johnson (later in The Time with Prince). Pilot soon became Art Young which then evolved into Lynn Allen. Equipped with a fresh new name Lynn Allen headed into the studio in 1982 to record their infamous and extremely rare first EP, released in 1983 (included on Retro Maniacs). The band scored a regional hit with the song “Leave Me Alone”, a song that was later re-recorded for their classic debut album We Laugh At You which was released in 1984 on the small label Loud Records. The debut album was filled with astounding melodic hard rock/AOR and comparisons were soon made to bands like Bon Jovi and Giuffria. Around this time the band was made up by Bill Peiffer (lead vocals and guitar), Dale Fischer (keyboards), Bobby Boyd (drums), Terry Murphy (bass) and Tim Compton (later in Mariah and Pretty Boy) on guitar. Lynn Allen embarked on a European promotion tour to support the album and We Laugh At You scored high grades in prestigious magazines like Kerrang and Metal Forces. This tour was followed by US support slots for Ratt and Great White. The album spawned another regional hit with the song “Last Night”.
Lynn Allen solidified their position as one of the leading US AOR acts and the band was ready to break through to another level when tough negotiations with a number of record companies failed to result in a deal to get a second album out and take advantage of the momentum gained. For a brief period, the group relocated to Los Angeles playing the club circuit opening for bands like Warrant, Ratt and Great White and The Fabulous Thunderbirds. Peiffer was offered an interesting musical project by Ross Valory of Journey and Jeff Watson of Night Ranger called Big Rock and Lynn Allen was unfortunately put on hiatus. Peiffer relocated to San Francisco to get Big Rock going but soon relocated back to Iowa when this new project failed to result in anything useful. Peiffer put together a completely new line up and breathed life into Lynn Allen once again and the second album entitled Panorama Park finally saw the light of day in 1989. This revamped line-up consisted of Peiffer, guitarist Mark Watson, bass player Barry Vestel and drummer Tommy Guild. The working title of this album was Look At Me I´m The King and the songs that did not make it onto the final product Panorama Park have also been released on Retro Maniacs along with the first EP. This “Mark II” line-up soon disintegrated and the band was once more put to rest. In 1991, Peiffer formed Dead End Kids with original members Terry Murphy, his long partner in crime, bass player Johnny “Hal” Williamson and Panorama Park drummer Tommy Guild. They soon changed the name of the band back to Lynn Allen and in 1992 their self-titled third album was released aptly named The Pink Album by the fans. The European journalists attending the release party got introduced to songs like “Poisoning Of The Rain”, “Jesse” and “Surprise Surprise” highlighting Peiffer‘s progression as a songwriter. The album was also licensed overseas to Swedish label Megarock Records.
In 1994, the band released their first and only live album, partly as a tribute to the classic rock ‘n’ roll club Beethoven. Live at Beethoven’s is taken from tapes recorded at the aforementioned venue in 1986 and found in Hawaii. Before recording the fourth album Petrified Ice Cream which was released in 1995, Tommy Guild left the band and was replaced by a returning Bob Boyd, who took place behind the drumkit. Always much more popular in Europe than in their native US, Petrified Ice Cream was released on Swedish label Rock On the Rise and included such classic songs as ”I Am”, “Where are You Now” and “Gone to Pieces”. Bill was taking post-grunge apocalyptic AOR to another level! Also in 1995, due to over the top demand for We Laugh at You commanding silly prices on LP worldwide, Bill hooked up with legendary guru Khalil Turk then working for Long Island Records, to secure the bands first German release, a re-issue of the aforementioned opus with a bonus track and some teeth on the cover. This was the first time the classic debut album was being offered on CD.
After releasing a “best of” record in 1999, the band announced it´s retirement in 2000 but Bill Peiffer continued to write and record with Lynn Allen in the early 00´s. Peiffer also recorded and performed with his side project called Iowa. The Lynn Allen recordings resulted in the album And The Horse You Rode On which featured only Peiffer, bass man Willamson and new drummer Mark Dekalb. This album gained rave reviews from all around the world and scored a record contract in Europe with one of the three big melodic rock labels overseas, Escape Music in the UK which gave the album a fair distribution in Europe. This success and the fact that the album sold well inspired the band who hit back with Nine in 2009, released by the band themselves. In 2014 the band released a DVD called One Last Night which was filmed over two nights in November of 2012 featuring a reunion with the original members.
Paul Rudland at AOR Boulevard Records found out that there were some old demos laying around and finally convinced Mr Peiffer that it was time to release them officially. It was a perfect way to introduce that Lynn Allen was back and in March 2015 the new disc Streetlight was released. AOR Boulevard Records played a major part in this comeback album – demanding Peiffer write a new Lynn Allen album and also promising to put it out. So what do you do if you are Bill Peiffer? – you give the label what they want. The new Lynn Allen introduced two completely new members and is made up by Peiffer, Paul DePauw (lead guitar), Barry Vestal (bass) and Kevin Sampson behind the drumkit. The band has always been successful in Europe where this genre still gains new fans and the momentum is going and therefore it comes as no surprise that the new album is exclusively released by a UK label. So what does it sound like to the ears of The Lionsheart?
Streetlight – Track by track comments
One thing you cannot accuse Lynn Allen of is following the trend of the day. They have always stayed true to their brand of Melodic AOR rock and never strayed too far off the successful formula. No matter the current musical trend or what members the band was made up of – they always deliver 100% top quality AOR. Streetlight starts out in fine style with the melodic rocker “Wheels Keep Turning” with some great Journey vibes and a nice guitar solo from DePauw. This track is very representative of the rest of the songs; a great melody and a huge hook. Up next is “Falling” which is another mid-paced rocker which has drummer Sampson kicking off the song and Peiffer‘s vocal style on this song sometimes reminds me of CJ Snares´s (Firehouse) phrasing although much more mellow. Another feel good rocker! Third spot is occupied by “What It Is” which kicks off with a riff from DePauw and then soon turns into a sort of soft rocker with an infectious chorus and with shots of acoustic guitar in places. It is also the longest track on the album clocking in just past five minutes. We are then treated with the title track “Streetlight” which is definitely one of the stronger cuts on the album! It comes with a memorable hook and would probably have been a mainstay on the radio had it had been released 30 years ago instead of today. A very nice tune I will definitely play again. Never becoming too soft and always with a riff to support the melodies it makes the AOR fan yearn for more. “Kickin Myself” starts off with a nice guitar harmony from Peiffer/DePauw and with a driving riff supporting the melody throughout the entire song. Another mid-paced, extremely melodic piece. Not the strongest cut but still excellent.
Just past the halfway mark and after having been treated with five melodic rock songs which should make the AOR fans mouth water we are introduced to “Drive” which is a slightly harder-edged rock song but never missing the signature melodies that is Lynn Allen. It has all the Bon Jovi (early days) vibes. A beautiful chorus with some guitar arpeggio in the background adds value to the song. A great little tune indeed! We then slow down a little bit with one of the highlights of the album in “I Will”. This song has a very distinct chorus which tends to stick in your head for a while. Not always a fan of power ballads but this song has something special. Peiffer‘s songwriting skills really shine on this song. Time to turn up the volume and bring some dist back on with “Today She Is On Fire” which is another mid-paced rocker with lots of vocal harmonies and a driving guitar riff that carries the song forward. A little predictable chorus makes this one of the weaker songs on the album. Time for another melodic rocker in “Friendzone Paradise” which features some nice guitar playing from Peiffer/DePauw and a driving bass line from Vestal. The album rounds off with “She Is The One” which is another a little harder-edged rock song with a grooving riff supporting Peiffer‘s melodic vocals and a nice chorus which keeps you interested all throughout the song. Streetlight contains 10 tracks where most of them are really strong tunes and fit “‘s vocal style well. This kind of high-quality AOR is rare in today´s world and even rarer in the US. Hat´s off to Lynn Allen who produced a really strong comeback effort! My top picks would off this album would be Wheels Keep Turning”, “Streetlight”, “Drive” and “I Will”.
Lynn Allen has been around since the early 1980´s and somehow they are the AC/DC of AOR. Never compromising with their sound and their brand of melodic rock. That in itself merit a lot of credit. I am sure Mr Peiffer is well aware that this type of hard rock is not the hype of the day, but he does not give a shit. He knows how to write a great hook and a vocal melody to kill for. The band also have a strong following with very dedicated fans (especially in Europe) which is kind of odd being a US outfit. Streetlight contains all the signature marks of Lynn Allen and Peiffer has managed to come up with a bunch of really strong tunes. Not being the greatest AOR fan in the world I would still say this is a really great record that will merit a lot of more spins in my CD player. I can definitely see myself cranking this up on a hot summer night driving my car with the windows down. The album has an overall great production and guitar sound with lots of dual guitar solos and twin guitar harmonies.
I was pleasantly surprised by the high quality of the songs and I think it should merit a whole 8 out of 10 geeks and it is definitely the highlight so far in the AOR genre. Streetlight is so far the fastest selling CD in the AOR Blvd Records catalogue and it is not hard to see why. If they will continue to honor the limit for this release to 1000 copies it is going to be a real collectors item in the future. It will, of course, be available as a digital download but if you want one of these physical CDs you better hurry. The river will soon run dry!