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TOKYO MOTOR FIST – Lions

 

This is on the Frontiers Records label. Thanks for reading.

I really could begin and end a review with that. The Frontiers label has garnered a reputation for consistently putting out great records from the melodic rock and metal genre for years now. Nine times out of ten, if you see the Frontiers name attached to an album, it’s going to be top notch melodic hard rock, and this latest release from Tokyo Motor Fist is no exception.

Steve Brown is the ringleader of this hook-laden hard rock circus and he does a fine job looking after all of its acts. I was tempted to call this a Steve Brown solo project in disguise, but when you give guys like Chuck Burgi (Billy Joel), Greg Smith (Ted Nugent), and Ted Poley (Danger Danger) a chance to lend their skills, it turns into a kind of supergroup. Brown brings his guitar to this party, but he is also the writer of the songs and the producer of the record. It’s definitely his baby, but he’s got some great help to raise this kid into a mature adult.

If you’re a fan of Brown’s work with Trixter and Ted Poley’s Danger Danger material, this will have you doing cartwheels. If there is anything to criticize here, it is the lack of a new and groundbreaking aural landscape. You have heard these typical song structures and sounds before, but the reason you might criticize this is the very same reason you might find yourself craving it. Most likely, if you like this brand of melodic hard rock, you are someone that can’t get enough of a good thing, and this is a good thing.

 


From the opening guitar frenzy of “Youngblood” to kick off the album to the full, epic sound of the title track, this takes melodic rock fans to that happy place. It’s a “feel good” record for many reasons, but I would say the harmonies are the key ingredient that keeps me smiling. Steve Brown’s relationship with the Def Leppard camp runs decades long, and the influence of the band has definitely had an impact on these arrangements. Songs like “Monster In Me” and “Mean It” (and so many others) do an amazing job of getting that powerful and uplifting vibe from superb vocal harmonies. I feel like Yoda but I have to tell you, “The harmonies are strong with this one.”

I love the guests on this record, too. On the epic title track “Lions,” former Styx legend Dennis DeYoung offers up his keyboard skills. The same keyboard that gave the world so many great Styx hits is the exact same one you’ll hear on this song, and it shines with an exquisite mystique. But my personal favorite moment on the record comes with a song called “Sedona.” “Sedona” has a gigantic drum and bass sound and razor sharp riffage, and it has those great lead vocals and harmonies that become expected, but it’s the horns that knock me out. There’s an incredibly bright sax solo from Mark Rivera (Billy Joel) that makes this song extra memorable for me. It’s not quite the sax riff of a “Careless Whisper” or a “Turn The Page,” but it’s pretty damn tasty.

This is a melodic rock record, plain and simple. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, and it doesn’t tread any uncommon ground, and that’s just the way most of us like our melodic rock. If you love catchy hooks and the 80’s hard rock harmonies, this is for you. And let’s face it, anyone living in the year 2020 has to be craving that kind of happy place.


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FEATURE INTERVIEW


STEVE BROWN of Tokyo Motor Fist


Former Trixter guitarist Steve Brown talks with Dr. Music about Lions, the latest release from his Tokyo Motor Fist project, and other elements of his 30+ year music career.



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