Trial By Fire (1996)


 
1. Message of Love 2. One More 3. When You Love a Woman 4. If He Should Break Your Heart 5. Forever in Blue 6. Castles Buring 7. Don't Be Down On Me Baby 8. Still She Cries 9. Colors of the Spirit 10.When I Think of You 11.Easy to Fall 12.Can't Tame the Lion 13.It's Just the Rain 14.Trial By Fire 15.Baby I'm a Leavin' You (Hidden Track)

 

Talk about a disappointment. In the mid 1990's, classic rock acts everywhere were reuniting and touring, so obviously expectations were very high when arguably the best of the lot was reuniting without any new, unheard of, members. So the "classic" lineup of this "classic" band were back together. Somehow, someway, they managed to deliver a hard thud of a clunker.

This album goes wrong in so many ways. First, the production is awful. It seems as though the instruments are buried too deep in the mix to make a powerful statement - something essential for a comeback album of such sorts. The opening track Message of Love is, at first, a major embarrassment. It only becomes "better" later when it's obvious that this letdown is one of the best songs on the album. It tries so hard to replicate Separate Ways (Worlds Apart) from Frontiers, that the true fan can only shake their head because the similarities are just too strong. I can't listen to the keyboard/synthesizer solo side by side with the original and tell much of a difference at all.

The real disappointment, however, is the songs just aren't any good. I'm not sure what they were trying to do with these songs. Most of them just don't sound like any care went into them, and you have to wonder if anyone connected to the band bothered to actually listen to this album before it was released on the unsuspecting public. The bulk of the songs sound as though they're trying to emulate the "classic art" phase popular several years ago. A bit strange because even though this music was in vogue at one point, never did these try to go after that "artsy" sound.

The main saving grace is Steve Perry's voice. Note I did not say "Steve Perry". Since he was mostly the creative lead in the band, it might have been his fault that the final product sounds as poor as it does. But he still sounds like Steve Perry, so when the music isn't too overbearing, he actually makes a couple of the songs sound pleasant. The best songs here, When You Love a Woman and Don't Be Down on Me Baby probably excel because the music isn't so crunchy, and we mainly hear Steve croon so well. It's also extremely ironic when another one of the strongest cuts, Baby I'm a Leavin' You is a hidden track that doesn't even appear on the credits. Yeah, something was wrong.

Politics, apparently, hadn't improved. Perry found another excuse not to tour for its release causing him to be replaced. A move that was never truly welcomed by the fans, but to give the other guys credit, the replacements (and to this date there have been three) always sounded remarkably similar to him. Plus, they would put out some better releases with new lineups than this in the future. Not something in itself too remarkable, but some were, in fact, pretty good.

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