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Leese, Howard - Secret Weapon (4/10) - USA - 2009

Genre: Melodic Rock
Label: Frontiers Records
Playing time: 46:58
Band homepage: Leese, Howard

Tracklist:

  1. Alive Again
  2. Heal The Broken Hearted
  3. Hot To Cold
  4. French Quarter
  5. 33 West Street
  6. The South Summit
  7. Rada’s Theme
  8. The Vine
  9. In These Eyes
  10. Vermilion Border
  11. I’ve Been Leaving You
  12. Somewhere
Leese, Howard - Secret Weapon

As one of the male members of HEART, Howard Leese almost never got any public recognition despite being an integral part of the band’s success. It was he who produced HEART’s first demo in 1974, and it was also he who created the label that signed them the following year. Nowadays, he plays in BAD COMPANY as well as the PAUL RODGERS BAND, and I guess Mr. Rodgers inspired Leese to try a solo project of his own. Thus, “Secret Weapon” was born, the title referencing Leese’s often-overlooked contributions to many a famous band. But can he find success all on his own?

 

Kicking off the album is “Alive Again,” a song that seems be nearly identical to BON JOVI’s “Wanted Dead Or Alive” in every way, shape, and form. From the chord progression to the way the drums come in at the beginning of the second verse to the drum fill at the end of chorus, the resemblance is quite uncanny. Perhaps a more understandable clone is “Heal The Broken Hearted,” which manages to sound like every BAD COMPANY song ever released.

 

As for the songs that don’t sound like songs that have already been written, they’re all over the place stylistically. Sometimes you’ll get an ‘80s power ballad, like “The Vine,” sometimes you’ll get a musky Blues song like “I’ll Be Leavin’ You,” and sometimes you’ll even get an ill-conceived mix of bluesy AOR like “Hot To Cold.” None of the styles are particularly engaging outside of a few moments of “I’ll Be Leavin’ You,” but even that sounds so much like a typical Blues song.

 

What’s with all the instrumentals? Of the twelve tracks on “Secret Weapon,” five of them are wordless, but they’re all still as long as the rest of the songs (with the exception of the forty-second interlude “French Quarter”). One of them would have been nice, but five is way, way too many, considering that they all either have the same ballad-like feel, or, like “33 West Street,” are too boring to warrant inclusion.

 

Sadly, “Secret Weapon” ends up being one of the biggest Melodic Rock disappointments of 2009. There isn’t really a single track that stands out, and the guest appearances by Paul Rodgers, Joe Lynn Turner, and even Keith Emerson do little to stir things up. In a year crowded with Melodic Rock releases (and especially crowded with Frontiers Records releases), AOR fans have many better albums to choose from.

(Online August 3, 2009)

Mitchel Betsch



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