I am a huge 80’s melodic hard rock fan. Unfortunately, with the state the music business is in, some of my favorite bands are gone never to be heard from again. But, some live on…. although not quite in the original form. We’ve all seen it. There have been 2 versions of Ratt, 2 versions of Queensryche, 2 versions of L.A. Guns, etc. etc. etc. Well, there is also 2 different versions of Great White.
There also has been all kinds of debate about who is the “real” Ratt (or Queensryche, Great White, etc.). Debate around if it’s right to expect the diehard fans to support both versions. Well, take it from a diehard Great White fan, Jack Russell isn’t coming back and the “real” Great White has moved on….and it’s been 7 years so let’s get over it.
Full Circle by Great White (13th studio album)
Produced by: Michael Wagener
Although rock and metal has been thru many changes over the last 25 years, Great White has always stuck to their bluesy melodic rock sound. When I first heard that Jack Russell was gone, I was worried that the band would be done. Most bands cannot recover from losing their frontman. But, being a huge XYZ fan, when I found out that Terry Ilous (vocals, on now his 2nd Great White studio album) was the replacement I got SUPER excited. With Mark Kendall (guitars) still supplying killer riffs and incredible solos, Great White is still alive and kickin’.
The first 2 tracks “I’m Alright” and “Movin’ On” are radio friendly rock tunes with catchy choruses. Both songs also have that signature Mark Kendall solo which perfectly fit the songs. Mark has never gotten enough credit for his guitar playing. Being a guitarist in the 80’s and not being the dime-a-dozen shredder, he got lost in the shuffle. In my opinion, it’s harder to compose a memorable melodic guitar solo that fits the song vs. playing a million notes as fast as possible and Mark should be considered one of the best hard rock guitarists ever.
“This Is The Life” is where Terry really shines. More a rock based voice (vs. blues based) his delivery always has plenty of emotion and feel. The powerful vocal on this track proves that he should be considered one of the great voices in rock today. Again, the guitar solo by Mark…. PERFECT!
Some of my favorite Great White songs are ballads and “Let Me In” is no exception. If you feel that Great White ballads will never sound right unless Jack Russell sings them, please give this song a chance. If you still aren’t sold on Terry, also try “When I Find Love” (from the album Hungry by XYZ) and you’ll see that he has the talent to sing ANY ballad on the planet.
“Cry of a Nation” is a diverse track and a definite left turn compared to the rest of the album. The slower tune is beautifully done and it’s good to see Great White spreading their wings a bit.
“Moonshine” and “Give It Up” are mid-tempo songs with a dirtier groove. Keyboards and bass are a bit louder in the mix and the music compliments the vocal melody perfectly. On “Give It Up” I could’ve done without the Def Leppard sounding 80’s big “Hey” in the chorus (completely unnecessary in my opinion) …. but art is art… so, it is what it is.
The last 2 tracks “Big Time” (which has some recognizable elements from “Rock Me”) and “Never Let You Down” (which has a “House of Broken Love” vibe) are my favorites on the disc. Both are classic Great White tracks that could’ve been on their biggest albums during the 80’s. If rock radio still had the power of the old days, these songs would immediately catapult this album to multi-platinum status. Again, perfect blend of great melodies, awesome vocal delivery and incredible guitar work.
Audie Desbrow (drums) and Scott Synder (bass) do a masterful job of laying down a consistent bottom end that has a blues rock groove and feel. However, the often-underrated Michael Lardie (rhythm guitar, banjo, electric sitar, keyboards, synthesizer, piano, percussion, harmonica, backing vocals) is the glue that holds the sound together.
Overall: You never know what you are going to get when a classic rock band records “new” music and I’m a hard guy to please in these situations. After hearing the first 2 songs, I remembered thinking…. Wow! Who produced this? When I realized that it was Michael Wagener, I was not at all surprised. I absolutely love the production which is nice and bright, love all the big hooks and great backing vocals on the entire album. Great White hadn’t worked with Michael Wagener since 1984, I’m not sure what took so long…. but Full Circle is the bands’ best album in 25 years.
Remember that you read the following here 1st: When the Best of 2017 rock album blogs/Tweets/Facebook posts come out, Full Circle will be all over these lists. Pull up the album on your music library, hit shuffle, kick back and enjoy. This entire album rocks! Pooni out!