Take away my man card if you want to but I absolutely LOVE ballads. Pop, R&B, Rock, Power…whatever type of ballad especially if it’s composed well, has great lyrical content, a good vocal and brings out genuine emotion in me. So, when I got the opportunity to review this album…I jumped at the chance.
With physical product sales down and music being in a state of purgatory, there are still artists that believe new music is important. Guitar god Axel Rudi Pell puts out new material on a consistent basis. A 36+ year career, 32 albums and 4 live DVDs, the talented musician who puts out a ton of hard rock guitar driven music also has a soft side and has just released his 5th (yes, he has FIVE) all-ballads album.
The Ballads V by Axel Rudi Pell (Release date 4/21, Steamhammer/SPV)
Recorded with the same lineup as the last 2 albums, Axel Rudi Pell (Guitar) is joined by the incredible Johnny Gioeli (Vocals), Volker Krawczak (Bass), Ferdy Doernberg (Keyboards) and Bobby Rondinelli (Drums).
If you have never heard any Axel Rudi Pell (or have only heard the hard driving rock stuff), he has a soothing melodic playing style that fits ballads well. These are NOT pop ballads from the 80’s that you can play at weddings. They are METAL ballads. However, Axel is careful not to overdo the solos and stays within the songs.
The opening track “Love’s Holding On” features a dual vocal with Bonnie Tyler (yes…that one). Johnny and Bonnie sound great together and this track gives you that WOW feeling right out of the gate. The guitar melody makes it a hit. Be warned, Bonnie Tyler’s voice has changed a bit over the years but it totally works for the song.
“On The Edge Of Our Time” is a new track that has the classic Axel Rudi Pell ballad feel with a great hook and an unforgettable solo.
Axel Rudi Pell does covers well. He ensures that he puts his spin on the existing tune vs. just rehashing the same ‘ol with different musicians and a similar vocal. “I See Fire” is a cover of the Ed Sheeran song. The emotion completely changes from the original acoustic guitar piece by adding piano accompanied by beautiful melodic guitar work and Johnny starting the tune with vocal alone. I listened to it on the way to work and found myself humming this song while working. “Hey Hey My My” a gloomy cover that includes violin is significantly different than the original that Neil Young composed. I was never a huge fan of the original but this version makes the song listenable.
“Lived Our Lives Before” and “When the Truth Hurts” are a couple of songs from prior Axel Rudi Pell albums but slowed down and lightened up a bit. The originals (“Lived Our Lives Before” from Circle Of The Oath and “When the Truth Hurts” from Into The Storm) and these new versions are outstanding.
Along with a soaring guitar solo, Johnny’s inner Ronnie James Dio comes out in “Forever Free” which is easily my favorite song on the album. The next ballad “Lost In Love” had me reaching for my lighter, flicking it on and waving it from side to side.
The last 2 songs are live recordings which were previously unreleased. “The Line” made me wish that I was at this live show. I know I keep saying it but the guitar work (even live) is just crazy good. I haven’t seen Axel Rudi Pell live but I really need to. “Mistreated” is a cover of the Deep Purple classic. When you listen to Axel play guitar you can hear the Ritchie Blackmore influence in all his music. With my ADD I usually can’t handle a 14-minute song but the guitar work was so mesmerizing that it was a surprisingly easy listen. Also, “Mistreated” has Doogie White (ex-Rainbow, MSG) on vocals and Tony Carey (Rainbow) on keyboards.
Overall: The Ballads V is an excellent record. 73+ minutes of music. Just hit shuffle, kick back and enjoy. Also, if you like what you hear (and you happen to be a Dio fan) check out “Holy Diver” on The Ballads IV. You will not be disappointed.
Help keep music alive! Thanks for reading. Pooni out!