First Signal featuring Harry Hess - 'Eponymous' (Frontiers Records) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Russ P   
Tuesday, 27 July 2010 05:00

first_signal_176pxBeing the proud owner of a very random mind hearing the name Harry Hess brings up a lot of memories for me. 'Clash Of The Titans', 'The 7th Voyage of Sinbad' and the spiritual novel 'Siddhartha' to name but three. But wait a minute. That's me rolling Harry Hamlin, Harryhausen and Hermann Hess into one. So who exactly is Harry Hess? Well he's the main guy behind this record along with bassist/producer Dennis Ward.

Harry Hill...sorry...Harry Hess you see was lead singer with Canadian band Harem Scarem who released 12 albums from 1987 until their split in 2008. Despite the band 'moving on to do others things' Harry returns with 'First Signal', which revisits the sounds and influences of early Harem Scarem. Harry has been listening to his fans and is giving them exactly what they want - although why that doesn't include the original Harem Scarem lineup or band name is somewhat of a mystery.


In case you're in any doubt opener 'This City' sets the record straight. This is pure and simple AOR. Complete to the finest detail, including cheesy feel good lyrics: "No more lonely nights, lights go out, the sun goes down, nothing's gonna bring me down" what do you expect - 'Motorcycle Emptiness'? Still, if you excuse the lyrics it's inoffensive enough and a rubber-burningly good piece of upbeat Camaro rock.


'When You Believe' continues in the same hyper-tuneful footsteps sounding like a combo of Journey and Jimi Jamison-era Survivor. "When you believe that every day is magical, you will never fall just reach and touch the sky". And so Harry joins R Kelly, Joe Cocker, Jennifer Warnes into that packed and oversubscribed green room where optimistic dreamers hope to sprout wings and soar through the clouds. I won't be joining them anytime soon.


'Part Of Me' takes the tempo down a little and introduces a little more pop into the mix sounding a little like Aussie popster Darren Hayes both vocally and in the production department. Tick the checkbox - another great song.


'Crazy' is the big power ballad which delivers exactly what you'd expect from a power ballad but it's at this point that I start to tune out a little bit. Like 'Yesterdays Rain' both songs sound like Jeff Paris could have co-written them which ain't no bad thing.


'When November Falls' strikes the John Waite chord with a 'Missing You' like feel. Time for another lyric check: "When your dreams run dry, I am on your side to pull you out from under" - yep, AOR engine still running optimally.


My introduction to Harem Scarem was 2005's 'Overload'. I arrived a little late in the game but I really liked that album. It struck me as much harder hitting than 'First Signal'. And it is. 'Overload' was very guitar heavy while 'First Signal' brings the keyboards more to the fore. So, from this point of view it seems very much like a retrograde step. Which it intentionally is of course. But for me albums like this and FM's 'Indiscreet' - to name but one other - are so well crafted and have such great songs that they're almost too perfect. And so, without any danger of being surprised, my eyes glaze over and a kind of fugue-like deafness overcomes me where I'm hearing the record without really listening. In my admittedly strange book there is such a thing as being just too good.