|Musical Style: Melodic Rock||Produced By: Tony Ricci|
|Record Label: Frontiers||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2007||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 11||Rating: 75%|
|Running Time: 47:48|
Action was founded by acclaimed guitarist Chip back in 1985, an era when “hair metal”, “glam”, the power ballad, big hooks and even bigger hair ruled supreme. The band stuck around until the early nineties when it broke up as a result of a musical climate in which the “Seattle sound” – and all the flannel shirts, sludgy guitars and angst-laden lyrics that went along with it – played a prevailing role. With melodic rock beginning to make a comeback a decade later, Action was revived when Chip joined forces with vocalist Jack Marques and headed into the studio to a record a six song demo. At just the moment when Action was beginning to generate label interest, however, the group was put on hold indefinitely when Chip and Marques formed Mars Hill. Mars Hill went on to record two critically acclaimed albums, Sink Or Swim (2003) and Prelude (2005), before the two regrouped and put Action back together in 2006. After Chris Sutherland (the bands original bassist), Mars Hill keyboardist Ruben Demello and drummer Chris Longo rounded out its line up, Action signed with Frontiers Records in February of 2007 and returned to the studio the very next month. The end result was the bands full length self-titled debut, which it finished in the spring of 2007 and released later the same year.
Action, as one would expect, delivers a sound heavily rooted in the eighties. Drawing upon the influences of melodic rock, AOR and melodic hard rock, Action is certain to appeal to fans of Journey, Foreigner, Survivor, Boston, AdrianGale, Line Of Fire and a host of others of similar style. On the Christian side of the fence, I can see Action also gaining the interest of those into Shout, Guardian, Novella, Stryper, Mad Max and perhaps even Petra as well. The group, of course, generates its share of radio friendly hooks. Mid-tempo rockers such as “Without Your Love”, “Here In My Heart” and “Destiny” stand out with their notable melodies as do up-tempo pieces “Heaven Tonight”, “Cinderella” and “Feel The Fire”. The quality of “Forever” and “Don’t Leave Me Lonely”, at the same time, prove a melodic rock album would not be complete without a customary ballad or two.
Jack Marques brings a rich and warm sounding mid-octave vocal style perfectly suited for the commercial rock genre. If I were to invite a comparison, Ken Tamplin (Shout) at times comes to mind. Chip proves equally able on guitar. His fluid and stylish playing – which combines the best elements of Tony Palacios (Guardian) and Vic Rivera (AdrianGale) – is exhibited best on “Without Your Love”, “Destiny”, “Heaven Tonight” and “Feel The Fire”. Bassist Chris Sutherland and drummer Chris Longo offer able support as the bands rhythm section.
Production wise, Action would have benefited from a touch of refinement. The rhythm guitar, for example, could have come across edgier and the low end with a cleaner and more pronounced feel. To understand my point compare the sonics here to those on AdrianGale’s 2004 release Crunch.
It must be noted that in the albums liner notes Chip openly thanks God and Jack Marques “Lord Jesus for your goodness”. Ruben Demello credits “The most High for creating the gift of music”. Nevertheless, Action is not a Christian album (and Action not a Christian band); however, the faith of the three comes through in the lyrics to several tracks, with “Cinderella” being the most notable. Otherwise, the lyrics here focus on life and relationships from a positive standpoint: topics covered, for instance, include holding on to your dreams, the importance of enduring love and the pain of losing a loved one. You will also find a lot of boy-meets-girl relationship themes as well but, again, everything is handled in a positive and Christian friendly manner.
Track By Track
The album gets underway with one of its better tracks in “Without Your Love”, a commercial hard rocker standing out with its background vocal driven chorus and radio friendly feel that will keep you coming back time and again. Chip nails a stretch of blazing lead work allowed to fluidly rise above the mix.
“Someday” brings a laid back and mid-tempo brand of AOR. The song starts placidly before flowing through its verse portions in relaxed fashion, not building momentum until obtaining a sweeping chorus in which pursuing your dreams is the subject matter:
You say its’ fantasy, call me crazy
I’m holding on to someday
Dreams alive in me, I won’t let ‘em be
I’m holding on to someday
No matter what you say, gonna find a way
I’m holding to someday
A more guitar driven direction is taken on “Here In My Heart”. The song begins its first seconds to an instrumental section carried by a crisp sound rhythm guitar. Settling down quietly for its first verse, “Here In My Heart”, gradually builds initiative on the way to a catchy chorus backed by a highlighting trace of keyboards. “Here In My Heart” was written for everyone who has lost a loved one:
If it takes forever, I’ll wait for you
On the other side of heaven, I’ll be calling you
When I feel lonely, I remember you
Here in my heart
Chip’s bluesy soloing abilities help to put this one over the top.
“Destiny”, the album longest piece at 5:23, also brings a generous mix of rhythm guitar. Laid back and commercial in feel, the song moves its distance alternating between its smooth sounding verse portions and spirited chorus driven at the more upbeat tempo. I enjoy how “Destiny” closes out its final minute and a half as Chip quietly solos in the background.
The ballad “Forever” would sound right at home on FM radio in another era. The song slowly flows ahead with a piano touching up the backdrop, not gaining initiative until the rhythm guitar steps forward and takes things to a luxurious chorus with a hook of the refuse to go away variety. Beautiful lead work from Chip as well. “Forever” talks about how love must endure:
Now the storm has come
To challenge all that we have built
Will we let it blow it all away
Our love can stand whatever comes our way
“Loveless” maintains an acoustic based heading for its first verse and chorus until a hard rocking rhythm guitar kicks in. The song proceeds to move through its second verse in up-tempo fashion, culminating a sing-along chorus in which Marques showcases the warm sounding feel to his vocal delivery. Another nice hook delivered on this one.
“Don’t Leave Me Lonely” slowly fades in until the rhythm guitar makes its presence felt with just the right amount of edge. Tapering back to a more even tempo upon achieving its first verse, the song picks up in pace as the rhythm guitar returns just prior to a smooth sounding chorus standing in perfect alignment with the emotionally charged scene.
I might describe “Heaven Tonight” as one of the albums faster compositions. Introduced to a drum solo, the song quickly rushes through its verse portions prior to gaining a hold of an energetic chorus that tapers off in an even manner at its end. Chip puts his best foot forward with another run of his trademark soloing abilities.
The commercial rocker “Cinderella” maintains the up-tempo disposition. The song actually begins to a serene acoustic based opening only to suddenly take off as the rhythm guitar powers its way into the mix. “Cinderella” proceeds to advance with a plethora of energy its distance, amalgamating a hook laden chorus with a lyrical direction that touches upon the faith of Action’s members:
Follow me and you will see your dreams come true
Always there for you
Give you the love you never knew
I would do anything for you, even willing to die
So take the hand of the Son, I’ll lead you to the sky…
“Feel The Fire” gets underway to a forward wall of rhythm guitar, sustaining the driving initiative during its verse portions and chorus underlined by backing vocals that almost come across Stryper-like in capacity. A high-octane instrumental section showcases more lead work of a riveting variety.
Closing things out is another guitar driven piece, “Is It Love”. The song moves through its first verse with the rhythm guitar hammering in and out of the mix, resolutely traversing its bridge and the refined sounding chorus that follows. Both the punchy bass line shoring this one up and the non-stop energy almost comes across infections in feel.
The best way to sum up would be to state that Action does not give use anything new or groundbreaking. Yes, we have heard this many times before, but when the commercial rock genre is approached in an adeptly performed and well written manner – such as what we have here – then by all means it is worth hearing again. If you are looking for plenty of big hooks, abundant backing vocals and skillful lead work, then you have found a new home in Action. Only a production job in need of a bit of polish holds things back.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Without Your Love” (4:36), “Someday” (3:34), “Here In My Heart” (4:02), “Destiny” (5:23), “Forever” (4:48), “Loveless” (3:16), “Don’t Leave Me Lonely” (4:27), “Heaven Tonight” (3:28), “Cinderella” (5:17), “Feel The Fire” (5:12) & “Is It Love” (3:45)
Jack Marques – Lead Vocals
Chip – Guitars
Ruben Demello – Keyboards
Chris Sutherland – Bass
Chris Longo – Drums
Mark Duane - Drums