Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Harem Scarem-Mood Swings II

Frontiers Records

Up until maybe a few years back, 3 or 4 max, I was not at all familiar with the name Harem Scarem. A huge part of that had to do with the fact that the band was more popular in their native land and in places like Japan then here in the states. Even though this hard rock band's 1991 self-titled debut album sold well and they scored a hit on the Canadian single chart with "Slowly Slipping Away" (it ended up reaching number No. 25 on the charts back in their home country) they must not have made too much of an impact in the U.S. Or at least not in my part of the U.S. The thing is I actually played connect the dots from the band Blind Vengeance to Harem Scarem. Both lead vocalist Harry Hess and guitarist Pete Lesperance played in Blind Vengeance (which was more of a heavy metal band then Harem Scarem) before teaming up with Darren Smith (drums) and Mike Gionet (bass) to form this band in 1987. After releasing their self-titled debut album in 1991 Harem Scarem released their second album, "Mood Swings" in 1993. Reportedly the band was originally active between 1987 and 2008 before reforming in 2013. It seems as if one of their goals once they reformed then was to go back, re-record that album's 11 tracks all over again and, after adding three new bonus tracks, re-release it in time for it's 20th  anniversary. Fair enough. Now, seeing as I'm still not all that familiar with this group (I have heard quite a bit of their debut album, but not this one) this re-release is new to me. The three new tracks, "World Goes To Pieces", "Anarchy" and "Brighter Day", were all written in such a way as to perfectly blend with the original album. Mission accomplished there I'd say! Also, it is worth mentioning that this 20th anniversary edition of "Mood Swings" include a "making of " video (which I have not seen) and is also set to have four songs broken down into individual audio tracks. the idea being that fans can re-mix the four tracks or play along with the songs. Rather nifty idea right? As far as my take on the album? A few bands come to mind such as Sweet, Whitesnake, Hardline, Night Ranger, Headpins, Def Leppard and Giant. Then again, this band had/has the wild ability to go from near hard rock/hair metal bliss (think sweet rock licks along the lines Van Halen or early Extreme) to AOR (Styx, Night Ranger) and back all without breaking a sweat! Smooth harmonies and hard rock riffs. Imagine that! This was definitely a band that captured the better moments of hard rock/hair metal scene (no doubt leftover from band's Blind Vengeance days) and knew just how to add the right amounts of AOR and traditional rock in order to get a "Best Of Both Words" sound. Why they didn't make it here in the states then is a mystery. Maybe they can this time around. They still have the drive I figure and the musicians involved with "Mood Swings II" (especially Harry Hess) still sound great. It doesn't seem, or rather sound, as if they've aged much. That's both weird and cool. It's funny how some musicians/singers can pull that off while others (by this late in the game) sound like absolute train wrecks! Anyway, besides original members Harry Hess (lead vocals) and Pete Lesperance (who handles both guitar and bass on these re-recorded tracks) you have Creighton Doane on drums and Darren Smith who, in addition to providing background vocals on this album, takes over the lead singer role on "Sentimental Blvd". I know that a lot of these re-recorded/re-worked albums get a bad rap (especially from me!), but these songs sound fresh and come off as remarkably relevant! I could easy hear these tunes being cranked out on rock radio. Hell, they would be a welcome change from a lot of the garbage that's in heavy rotation these days! This one is for the fans first and foremost obviously, but then again you don't have to know all there is to know about this bunch in order to enjoy "Mood Swings II". All that's needed is the desire to hear some cool hard rock/AOR.

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