|Musical Style: Hard Rock||Produced By: Anders Theander & Emotion|
|Record Label: Retroactive||Country Of Origin: Sweden|
|Year Released: 2006||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 17||Rating: 80%|
|Running Time: 69:42|
Emotion got its start in the late eighties when it was founded by guitarist/vocalist Mikael Lagermo and bassist Ingemar Martensson. After the two recruited the musicians making up the bands first official line up, the new hard rocking unit proceeded to tour Poland, the Ukraine and its native Sweden before entering the studio and recording a 2-song vinyl single entitled Right On Time. Talented keyboardist Jan Samefors later joined the fold in the early nineties and in 1994 helped Emotion record its five song EP Tip To Toe. Bringing in drummer Mats Ohlsson in 1996, the band put together its full length debut Taste Of Grapes and released it in Scandinavia and Japan the very next year. While Tip To Toe and Taste Of Grapes have been hard to find and obscure collectors items for years, the good news is that both were recently digitally re-mastered and re-issued with new album artwork by Retroactive Records.
What Emotion brings to the table is a blend of 70s style keyboard driven hard rock and 80s influenced melodic metal. No, nothing new or groundbreaking and this had been done countless times before; on the other hand, it is always good to hear this again- particularly when it is of a very high quality. And such is the case here. Fans of old school Swedish hard rock acts such as Leviticus, XT, Jerusalem, Motherlode and Charizma will rejoice as will those into Laudamus, Audiovision, Narnia, Guardian and Shout. Catchy hooks abound, best showcased on tracks such as “Welcome To My House”, “Taste Of Grapes”, “Cloak Of Love” and “Love Is Over Me”. Some of the material here really grooves or even comes across bluesy at times. So there is ample variety to keep your attention.
Mikael Lagermo is a very fine vocalist who reminds me of Sonny Larsson (Motherlode, XT) – though with not quite the same jaw dropping range – but with a hint of grit and gravel to his delivery. Another accurate comparison might be Legend/Legend 7 vocalist Andy Denton. As a guitarist, he lays down a nice rhythm guitar sound but wish he would have cut loose a bit more on lead guitar. Keyboardist Jan Samefors adds just the right amount of texture with his tasteful work on organ and keyboards. Drummer Mats Ohlsson and bassist Ingemar Martensson put in place a solid foundation for the bands sound.
Production values are quite solid but would benefit from a touch of big budget polish. On several tracks, for example, the rhythm guitar could have been mixed more prominently while on a few others the keyboards end up slightly forward. All in all, nothing that might be considered distracting or that will detract from your listening experience.
Give Retroactive credit for the high quality of the albums packaging. The album artwork is quite eye catching while a detailed band biography is included along with easy to read lyrics and liner notes.
The CD begins with the twelve tracks from Taste Of Grapes.
The album gets underway with “Celeste”, a minute long keyboard driven instrumental with an orchestral feel.
“Welcome To My House” begins to an instrumental section carried by a nice forward mix of organ. The organ continues to remain a steady presence as the song cruises through its first verse, leading the way to an energetic chorus with a huge catchy hook.
The drum solo introducing “Taste Of Grapes” gives way to a blend of organ and pounding drums. Making a time change to an ominous mid-tempo pace at the start of its first verse, the song abruptly gains momentum prior to moving on to a classy chorus delivered in a smooth sounding and infectious manner.
“The Burning Spear” opens to an edgy open air rhythm guitar prior to taking off at an upbeat tempo. Moving through its first verse as keyboards play a prominent role in the mix, “The Burning Spear” hits a dead end upon achieving a chorus that fails to hold up due to its all around pedestrian feel. The songs instrumental section – which is carried by a quirky blend of chanted vocal harmonies and clapping hands – can be difficult to tolerate. I tend to skip over this one.
“Rendez-vous”, on the other hand, ranks with the albums better compositions. After progressing through its first verse to an even blend of keyboards and bass guitar, the rhythm guitar kicks in and impels the song to a groove-flavored chorus with one of those catchy hooks you will be challenged to rid of your mind. On “Rendez-vous”, Emotion compares the second coming to a literal rendezvous:
Where you there together with the crowd?
Have you heard He rose into a cloud?
A barren cross is all I see
An empty grave convinces me
An open heaven waits for us
Hey, look out for the rendez-vous- He’s coming back!
“Right To Be Wrong” moves through its verse portions in up-tempo fashion to a rollicking combination of rhythm guitar and organ, tapering off upon reaching a laid back pre-chorus accentuated by a flattering mix of keyboards. The rhythm guitar driven chorus that follows is perfectly shored up by a touch of vocal harmonies. Very compelling track with a lot of time changes to hold your interest.
“Fakin’ My Face” takes off in a rhythm guitar and organ driven direction before marching through its first verse to Lagermos’ raspy vocal delivery. Picking up in pace to a hint of backing vocals for its pre-chorus, “Fakin’ My Face” culminates for a strong but aggressively delivered and hard hitting chorus. A keyboard solo carries the extent of a very well done lengthy instrumental section.
The ballad “Can’t Hold Back My Tears” gives rise to a noteworthy melody as it is carried its distance by an amalgamation of acoustic guitar and keyboards. A piano solo shores up a brief but well times instrumental section.
“When I Fall” starts to an extensive instrumental section showcasing a slowly moving mix of rhythm guitar and organ. Pausing for a few brief seconds of open air rhythm guitar, the song abruptly picks up in pace and advances in quickly moving fashion to a raucous chorus driven by heavy duty backing vocals. This one has a nice bluesy feel to it. “When I Fall” is a song of faith:
When I was out He tuned me in
He forgave me all my sins
Down on my knees, had given up
To the brim He filled my cup
I have no wish to wake His wrath
I want to walk on the righteous path
I’m on the road again I know
He’s the only rock
“How Far Can We Go?”, the albums second ballad, smoothly progresses in an acoustic laced manner until it attains a chorus giving rise to an overriding commercial feel. Perhaps it is a melody on the marginal side or it might be the fact this is the second ballad out of three songs, but more often than not I pass on this one. I can see how others might enjoy “How Far Can We Go?”, though.
“Cloak Of Love” really grooves. The song commences to an open air rhythm guitar that is soon joined by an impeccable mix of organ, a grit-laden setting put in place as a driving riff holds sway over its verse portions and keyboards the pre-chorus that follows. A catchy chorus carried by Lagermo’s gritty vocal delivery rates with the albums best. A fiery guitar solo helps highlight a song in which the band makes another statement of faith:
Arrayed in a robe of righteousness
I’m clothed in a cloak of love
Lift my feet higher, lift them up
From this mud and mire
Show me the fords where to walk so to meet the Lord
“Love Is Over Me” reflects a cool bluesy feel during the slowly moving instrumental section covering its opening. Gaining momentum in guitar driven fashion at the start of its first verse, “Love Is Over Me” tapers off before exuding a ton of charisma as it arrives at a chorus with a great commercial flavored hook. I really enjoy how the pace slows for an instrumental section bolstered by ethereal guitar feedback. This one is guaranteed to have you singing along in no time.
In summary, Taste Of Grapes showcases several first rate compositions in “Welcome To My House”, “Taste Of Grapes”, “Rendez-vous”, “Cloak Of Love” and “Love Is Over Me”. And while I might occasionally skip over “The Burning Spear” and “How Far Can We Go?”, the rest of its material is well constructed and easily holds up under repeated play.
Of the five songs making up the EP Tip To Toe, two - “Rendez-vous” and “Fakin’ My Face” – were re-recorded by the band for Taste Of Grapes. So we will skip over both of these in the track by track analysis and focus on the three that are unique to Tip To Toe.
“Tip To Toe” is an exciting groove flavored hard rocker. Proceeding through its first verse to a forward mix of rhythm guitar, momentum is gained until the song peaks for an attitude-laden chorus bolstered by just the right amount of vocal harmonies.
Subsequent to a church organ getting “Wholeness And Holiness” underway, it makes a time change to an up-tempo pop flavored beat prior to arriving at a strong, radio friendly chorus. This one reflect a neat AOR vibe (sort of like Petra)- and the band pulls it off without a hitch.
The album closes in a very fine manner to the piano and keyboard based ballad “Way Over Jordan”.
The best way to sum up would be to give a great deal of credit to Retroactive Records for making Taste Of Grapes and Tip To Toe available for the first time in literally years.
Track Listing: “Celeste” (:58), “Welcome To My House” (3:51), “Taste Of Grapes” (5:41), “The Burning Spear” (3:49), “Rendez-vous” (3:56), “Right To Be Wrong” (5:15), “Fakin’ My Face” (3:49), “Can’t Hold Back My Tears” (4:24), “When I Fall” (4:17), “How Far Can We Go?” (4:02), “Cloak Of Love” (4:41), “Love Is Over Me” (5:18), “Tip To Toe” (4:29), “Wholeness And Holiness” (3:42), “Rendez-vous” (4:06), “Fakin’ My Face” (3:50), “Way Over Jordan” (3:26)
Mikael Lagermo – Lead Vocals & Guitars
Jan Samefors – Organ & Keyboards
Ingemar Martensson – Bass
Mats Ohlsson - Drums
Hakan Cederqvist – Bass (tracks 13-17)
Pelle Pettersson – Drums (tracks 13-17)