How do you know that Fergie Frederiksen is a talented singer? Well, Tommy Shaw once hired him as his replacement so Shaw could leave his old band and join STYX. Yep, that’s how good he is. That being said, at the tender age of 56, it would seem understandable if Frederiksen could no longer serenade faithful AOR fans with his characteristic charm and clarity, right? It happens to the best of us, no?
Ha! As if!
“Baptism By Fire” is a slap in the face to any doubting Thomases who would be foolish enough to believe that Frederiksen no longer “has it”, as it’s as classic an AOR record as they come. This time around, Frederiksen has collaborated with Swedish songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Tommy Denander (much like his 1994 FREDERIKSEN/PHILLIPS project with STYX bassist Ricky Phillips). Now, I have the FREDERIKSEN/PHILLIPS album (an often-overlooked gem, indeed), and by listening to Frederiksen’s voice on the two releases, one cannot discern any noticeable change. It’s difficult to believe that these two albums were released thirteen years apart. He’s still got that same silky-smooth voice, and he puts it to good use on “Baptism Of Fire”.
From the slightly aggressive opener “Let Him Go” to the calm album closer “Left With Nothing”, the entire album is packed with soaring vocals, melodic keyboards, and jarring guitar hooks. Ricky Phillips’s “Crossing Over” delivers a fantastic chorus, and “Dead End” packs a very Progressive punch. Fittingly, the very emotional title track (penned by Jim Peterik of SURVIVOR fame) is another high point of the album.
“Baptism By Fire” has a few flaws, though. A great deal of the songs are almost too low key, in spite of the fairly aggressive guitar. Many also lack those truly killer choruses that are so often associated with AOR. Basically, a feeling of sameness permeates the record, and one wishes for more distinctive parts of each song in order to set them apart from one another. As it stands, the album’s songs tend to blend together a bit too easily.
“Baptism By Fire” is still an above-average AOR album from an above-average AOR singer: Fergie Frederiksen. Long-time fans surely won’t be disappointed by his efforts here. Pick it up if smooth, keyboard-heavy Melodic Rock is your bag.
(Online September 17, 2007)