|Musical Style: Melodic Rock||Produced By: Peo Pettersson|
|Record Label: AOR Heaven||Country Of Origin: Sweden|
|Year Released: 2016||Artist Website: Peo Pettersson|
|Tracks: 11||Rating: 85%|
|Running Time: 47:55|
Welcome To The Party, the ninth solo album from Swedish vocalist Peo Pettersson (aka PEO), takes AOR hooks and sounds and injects them with a bit more guitar driven muscle than is commonly associated with the genre. PEO, obviously, needs no introduction as one of the premier vocalists within the melodic hard rock and AOR segments. Many identify with him for his work in Leviticus, and rightly so in light of how he fronted the groups final studio album Knights Of Heaven (1989) and live offering Live At Bobfest (2003) while also producing its first three albums, I Shall Conquer (1983), The Strongest Power (1985) and Setting Fire To The Earth (1987). Prior to that, he recorded a pair of singles with X-Ray - “Mr. Razzle Dazzle” (1984) and “Just A Question Of Time” (1986) - and handled lead vocals on the self-titled Axia debut full length (1988). Afterwards, he launched his aforementioned solo career, in which many consider his initial solo release Look At What I’ve Started (1995) as the most noteworthy, in addition to partnering with guitarists Dan Bostrom and Thobias Wiklund for the self-titled Kings & Dreams (2010) debut and solo effort To Remember The Forgotten (2015), respectively.
Welcome To The Party actually represents a partnership between PEO and renowned guitarist Roger Ljunggren. Similar to PEO, Ljunggren also needs no introduction from having gained acclaim for his work with vocalist Tony Niva as part of Oxygen, releasing its Final Warning project in 2012, and Niva, putting out its first and only album Incremental IV the following year. In between, he made a guest appearance on the 2005 self-titled debut of Swedish AOR band Heartbreak Radio and contributed guitar solos to the Grand Illusion album View From The Top from 2002.
The PEO and Ljunggren collaboration represents a ‘match made in heaven’ type scenario from how the two bring to mind some of the better vocalist and guitarist combinations in the business: Rob Rock & Chris Impellitteri, Ken Tamplin & Scott Van Zen, Rex Carroll & Scott Wenzel and Johnny Bomma & Rod Rivera. PEO continues to bring his trademark earthy, warm and raspy vocal style that is perfectly for the AOR and melodic hard rock sounds at hand, not to mention also handling all bass and keyboard duties. It would be equally fair to say that Ljunggren proves responsible for that ‘more guitar driven muscle’ in question- or at the very least his forward rhythm guitar signatures lend to Welcome To The Party a bit more heaviness when placed alongside its 80’s era AOR counterparts. Soloing wise, his deftly done fast fingered and melodic lead guitar work cannot help but bring a big smile to my face!
Albums opening title track provides a good indicator to the abilities of both. Quintessential up-tempo melodic hard rock, “Welcome To The Party” finds PEO at the top of his game in adorning the commercial based surrounding with his signature gritty vocal style. Ljunggren complements with a firm bedrock of steadfast guitars over light layers of Hammond B3 while letting loose with a stretch of exciting lead guitar.
“The Promise” proves every bit invigorating. A short keyboard solo gets things underway, with clear-cut guitars taking over and forming a perfect union with PEO’s graceful vocal melodies, particularly for the stately refrain. Of note is how Tony Morra exhibits his firm footed timekeeping abilities. Yes, this one might be lighter than some tracks here but is solid all the same.
“You’ve Got It Going On”, another favorite, draws upon the eighties with its accessible sensibilities galore. Ljunggren puts on a literal clinic in the process, with his pristine guitar harmonies and resilient lead guitar setting the brazen front to back zone tone. Likewise, “Love A Woman” hearkens back to the eighties. This reflects in the songs pop basis, as warmly tinctured hooks come to the forefront, and light acoustic aspects, which help point to the uplifting feel throughout.
PEO proves on “Coming Out” that he is not a one trick pony but also quite the accomplished bassist, with the songs low end upholding such in giving prominence to quite the defined feel. PEO’s memorable vocal melodies return to adorn the inspiring refrain. “Eilene” also reflects a showy bass presence. The song represents up-tempo manifest, riveting and full of verve as precise guitars settle into an exacting groove with keyboards and Hammond B3 in just the right portions.
“Break Another Heart” represents a hybrid of the albums upbeat and more mid-paced material. This one also brings a big eighties influence, with the slower verses carried by airy keyboards (as guitars crunch in and out of the mix) and agile chorus that delivers the needed melodic hard rock hooks (of a radio friendly nature).
Many of my favorite Welcome To The Party moments are its most bluesy. Consider the shuffling blues heavy presence of “Sweet Dreams”, upholding a grainy and laid-back tempo as PEO croons with his lower register style and Ljunggren imparts his wistful but concrete licks and chops. Enticing melody ranks with the albums strongest. “It’s All Coming Back To Me” also takes pleasure in the blues. The song further ups the heaviness with layers of weighty guitars that contrast with the smoothness to the scintillating vocal harmony driven refrain. Either way, Norway’s Sarepta would be done proud!
Standing out every bit is “Dangerous”, an at times hard rocking track (that pushes and prods as much as anything here) and others low key and grooving (almost with a rhythm and blues feel from its jazzy bass line). The fusion-like leads that adorn the song - not to mention the albums length - make one wish that Ljunggren would record an instrumental jam hard rock album.
“The Apple Of Temptation” is the lone track in which I struggle. Far from bad and certainly not filler, but loses me all the same in that it comes across a bit too reserved in that vocal melodies (which normally are brilliantly done) end up laid on too thick for my taste. This is the albums only piece that potentially comes across overproduced.
Production otherwise might not reflect the big budget polish inherit to the AOR genre but gets the job done all the same with a crisp and clean feel. The point being that no thinness of muddiness detracts from the listening experience. Kudos all the same to packaging in featuring the most eye catching cover art to a PEO solo release along with a mini booklet with easy to read lyrics and professionally done photos of the musicians participating on it.
Do not confuse Welcome To The Party with being a Christian album; rather I might describe it as a mainstream release with neutral to positive lyrics instead. It is similar to AdrianGale and Line Of Fire in this regard as an AOR/melodic rock project fronted by a believing vocalist.
The focus of the albums title track is life on the road:
Hey son give your daddy a hug
I’ll be out on the road again
Another town and another hotel
Maybe I’ll make some new friends
There’s a long way to go
This is my life and it’s all I know
Welcome to the party
Please find your seat and enjoy the show
Others deal with relationship-based themes, such as “The Promise” -
Do you remember babe
First time I held your hand
Trembling and nervous
I remember I could hardly stand
We where so young and innocent
This is my promise cross my heart
Nothings gonna change my love for you
We gonna travel in time and space
We will be sharing every dream
- and “Love A Woman”:
She’s the one stuck in your mind
It’s been going for some time
All I can say, she’s one of a kind
But its’ gonna take a miracle
But if you hold out, and give it some time
Maybe she’ll come to you
She might be the one to pick up the pieces
And to help you see it through.
“The Apple Of Temptation”, as its title implies, deals with temptation:
Please take it away now
The apple of temptation
Cause when the dawn is breaking
Your hands will be shaking
You better take it away now
The apple of temptation
Try work it out and beat this craving
Once for all
Welcome To The Party musically impresses as the album Leviticus should have recorded ten years ago, noting the rumors from the group of new material being recorded in the wake of Live At Bobfest in which, alas, nothing came out of. Still, if in need of a fix of classic AOR and melodic rock with a heavier edge then Welcome To The Party fits the bill. PEO and Roger Ljunggren form a wonderful partnership accordingly that cannot help but leave the listener wanting to hear more in light of the quality at hand. Leviticus fans frustrated from a lack of new material and those into melodic rock in general would be well served by giving Welcome To The Party the time and attention it deserves.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Welcome To The Party” (3:42), “The Promise” (4:02), “You’ve Got It Going On” (4:05), “Coming Out” (4:45), “Break Another Heart” (4:50), “Sweet Dreams” (4:05), “Eilene” (4:21), “It’s All Coming Back To Me” (4:52), “Love A Woman” (4:05), “The Apple Of Temptation” (4:12), “Dangerous” (4:26)
Peo Pettersson - Lead Vocals, Bass & Keyboards
Roger Ljunggren - Guitars
Tony Morra - Drums