Album Review: Fallon Archive Material Unleashed!

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Some artists seem to have all the bad luck in the world combined with a couple of bad decisions. Frontman and lead vocalist Matt Fallon must be one of those guys. I don´t know how else you can manage to front two classic metal bands (Skid Row and Anthrax) and still be a relatively unknown frontman! Matt managed to pull that off anyhow. It is clear to me when I listen to the Fallon CD that Matt is not just a great singer but has also got enough talent to make it big. I guess there are hundreds of singers that filled the spot before the band made it big with a new lead vocalist. Unfortunately for Matt – he is one of those and seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time or more correct; not being in the right place at the right time!

Short history lesson:

Vocalist extraordinaire Matt Fallon fronted several local acts in the early 1980´s including Steel Fortune where he first teamed up with guitar player Dave ”The Snake” Sabo. After playing the club circuit with them for a couple of years, Matt´s unlucky spells started in 1984 when he replaced Neil Turbin in Anthrax and recorded the album Spreading the Disease with them, but left before finishing the recording process. In stepped Joey Belladonna and re-recorded all of Matt´s vocals. Ok, once you can be unlucky or make the wrong decision you think, but the story does not end here.

Fallon band
Fallon. Picture courtesy of Fallon Facebook page

In 1986, Matt was again contacted by his longtime friend, and guitar wizard Dave Sabo who had just formed a new band called Skid Row. Matt said yes and began recording a demo at Bon Jovi´s studio in Philadelphia. The demo can be heard on Youtube and it is clear that Matt was the original vocalist to belt out classics like ”Youth Gone Wild” and ”18 and Life”. One can stop for a moment and wonder who developed the vocal style of Skid Row´s first albums. Did Matt set the vocal style only to be replaced by Sebastian or did Sebastian bring it with him? I guess we will never know the answer to that question…

Skid Row with Matt behind the mike played the Philadelphia club circuit and was discovered by Mr Bon Jovi when they opened for them on their Slippery When Wet tour in Bethlehem and Johnstown, PA. But things were not to be for Matt Fallon this time either. In 1987, Matt and the band parted ways and he was eventually replaced by Sebastian Bach and the rest is history.

Matt did not give up however and decided to found a new band around himself taking his surname as the band name. He soon found guitar player Aaron Wilkinson (ex-Raze) and bass player Glen Moran (ex-Pierce, ex-Monroe). The band was made complete with drummer Jon Nicholson (ex-Atom Stranger). In the early 1990´s the band cut a 4-track self-financed EP at Sound Design Studios in Philadelphia which they used to shop around to the major labels but to no avail. Fallon caught the attention of the program director of WSOU at Seton Hall. At the time, WSOU was playing some of the best music around and was considered ”the” college radio station in the area. They put Fallon´s ballad ”The Rain Inside” into regular rotation and were soon playing the group’s other songs as well. Fallon was featured on WPAT and played the New Jersey club circuit including such classic clubs as the Stone Pony, Club Bene and Fastlane.

In 1993, Fallon was asked to appear on a compilation put out by Shore Records called Tri-States Best Unsigned Artists but by the time of the release the band had already broken up. Fallon did reunite to support the release but it was, however, short-lived. The band members moved on to other projects and the band fell apart. Fast forward to 2015 and the hard working guys at FNA records contacted the band and offered them a deal for a re-release. The result is the Fallon CD that was released on November 18, 2015,

The album

Matt fallon skid rowThe Fallon CD includes the 4-track EP released by the band but which songs were actually on that particular EP I cannot find out. The booklet and band biography gives no clues to which songs were on it. The production and sound quality of this archive release are excellent with the exception of the last two songs that are also labeled as ”demos”. Matt Fallon is not a new acquaintance to me having traded for the Skid Row demo in the late 1990´s and early 2000. I did not know where he went after recording that classic demo but now I know! To me, the Fallon CD sounds very much like a long lost Skid Row recording or the album Skid Row should have recorded after Slave to the Grind. I don´t mean that as a bad thing – on the contrary. I am a huge fan of the first two Skid Row albums but lost interest in the band when they tried to adjust to current trends and the grunge wave with the horrible Subhuman Race. When they fired Sebastian the last piece of interest went out the window and honestly I haven´t given them much thought after that. After all, Skid Row has not sounded like this in years and Matt Fallon sounds very much like a dead ringer for Sebastian Bach.

The album is filled with heavy mid-tempo rockers with Matt Fallon pushing his vocal chords to the limit all over the place with an aggressive approach to the vocal duties. I think you get a pretty good idea what Skid Row would have sounded like having kept Matt Fallon as their vocalist when you listen to this CD. To me the album sound great, very much like a lost artefact and should be a holy grail to fans of Skid Row but let´s examine the songs a little closer…

Track by track comments

The album starts with the heavy rocker ”Blue Sky in the Rain” where Matt Fallon sets the style directly with an aggressive vocal line and clearly declares he does not take any prisoners. The similarities with Skid Row´s debut album are extremely strong. This track could be the missing track on the aforementioned band’s debut. Up next is ”Light it Up” which is slightly more aggressive and more in the vein of the material on Slave to the Grind. A cool riff drives the song and with a really strong and aggressive chorus it really rocks. I get an itch to start headbanging and a fast and great solo from Aaron Wilkinson adds further value. ”Not a Thing” starts with a catchy riff and it evolves into another midtempo rocker although a bit more melodic and restrained. It´s got a chorus that tends to stick in your mind. This song has some commercial potential and maybe it would have been a 7” release had it been released some 25

Matt Fallon live
Matt Fallon captured live. Picture courtesy of wikipedia.org

years ago. Time for another driving, sleaze-infested track in ”Queen” which has Wilkinson belting out a fast riff before the bass and drums join in. ”She´s the Queen of the rock n´ roll machine” Fallon screams backed by gang type backing vocals. Ok, at this point I surrender and realize this CD really rocks. Heavy, yet melodic with some great guitar work and an attitude that you hardly get in today´s music scene. So far I would say that ”Blue Sky in the Rain” and ”Queen” are my favourites. Time for the one and only ballad on the album called ”The Rain Inside”,  really strong track and it´s  the sister to ”I Remember You” from the first Skid Row album. With a strong vocal performance by Matt Fallon coupled with an infectious chorus and a strong melody running throughout the song, it is easy to see why the college radio station picked it up and put it into heavy rotation. Definitely, one of my favourites on the album, maybe the top pick, and a certain single release had it been 1989 all over again. We are back on the rocking track with the mid-tempo rock bastard ”No Stranger”, It´s got another one of those really strong hooks making this a great rock song and the vocal performance is once more excellent.

 

We are now half way through this 12 track compilation that contains all recorded material by the band. The second half begins with ”Modern Love” which starts up with a rock n´ roll infused riff and this is a song that has got a little different arrangement with the strong rock n´ roll influences and a little bit of the blues thrown in for good measure. Not the strongest track on the album in my opinion. Next track is ”Feel it for the First Time” which has got a great bass groove and a memorable chorus. A nice mid-tempo rocker that earns it a place on the CD. ”Me” is a different and unorthodox Fallon song that kicks off with a thumping bass line and Matt Fallon singing this funky tune that remind me of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. It´s a very different track that I didn´t enjoy on the first couple of spins but it grows better and better. The sound quality deteriorates for song number 10 which is a fast and upbeat, rocking song called ”Bad Attitude”. It´s not one of the stronger songs on the album in my opinion but adds some variety to the mix where most of the other songs are mid-tempo rockers. It´s got a chorus that is repeated too many times for my taste. The last two songs are labeled ”demos” and the next track is ”Tears”. It is a heavy rock song in the same style as the first Skid Row record. The last song and this is one of the highlights of the album despite a below par production, is ”Easy Come, Easy Go” and it sounds like a great mix between Skid Row and Winger. A really strong and infectious melody and a great hook. With that said, this song should have had the potential of being a hit in the late 80´s and early 90´s. I´m very thankful they included it on this collection because without, it would have been a poorer offering. My favourite picks on an overall  very strong album would be ”Blue Sky in the Rain”, ”Queen”,”The Rain Inside” and ”Easy Come Easy Go”. 

Summary:

Fallon recorded a full album worth of strong sleazy-drenched yet melodic hard rock with an aggressive vocal style thought to have been invented by Sebastian Bach and Skid Row. It´s easy to hear that Matt Fallon fronted that band in it´s earlier days. Maybe that also is the biggest weakness of the album – the lack of originality. I´m still talking about a very talented band that recorded an album that few bands would ever achieve. This album should have been an excellent follow up to Slave to the Grind from Skid Row and should have served as a strong application for the vacant vocalist spot when Bach was fired. Why Sabo did not call Matt Fallon when Bach left remains a mystery to me. There are a couple of weaker tracks but overall this is a very strong effort and kudos to the great guys at FNA Records that keep digging through the archives and most of the time come up with great archive releases. This is definitely one of their stronger ones – maybe even the strongest in their extensive catalogue. This album should have been in my top ten of 2015 should archive releases have been approved for that! I would give this CD 8.5 Geeks out of 10. Let´s see which festival can get the guys booked for a reunion show.

thelionsheart@decibelgeek.com

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