The best hard-rock vocalist in the world? Some fans may say it's Glenn Hughes, while others will argue for Joe Lynn Turner, D.C. Cooper, James LaBrie or Geoff Tate. But I'll put my money on Kelly Hansen -- any day, any year, any decade. If you doubt me, my friends, I ask you to pop in Liquifury, the fourth release (and first in 11 years) from criminally underrated Hurricane, which gave Eighties hair bands a good name. Cue up "Heart Made of Stone" (track four) and try to remember the last time you heard a rock guy whose voice sounds just as fresh and tough today as it did in 1990 – when Hurricane last released an album.
Liquifury has set the standard for so-called "comeback" albums by artists once considered past their prime by combining Hansen's intense, clear tenor and Hurricane's melodic roots with the down-tuned guitars favored by many of today's younger rock bands — whose ass, incidentally, Hurricane kicks repeatedly with powerhouse rockers like "River Gold," "New God" and "Torn."
After Hurricane released their third album, 1990's Slave to the Thrill, the group's record label (Engima) went bust and left the band swirling around until members eventually went their separate ways. Hansen and drummer Jay Schellen networked with other musicians on projects ranging from Unruly Child, Air Pavilion, and Chris Squire and Billy Sherwood to a slew of tribute albums. But with a cult of Hurricane fans clamoring for new material, the two former bandmates reunited and recruited bass player Larry Antonino and select guitarists to record Liquifury.
Hansen says he and Schellen didn't set out to make a replica record of Slave to the Thrill or Hurricane's two earlier albums (Take What You Want and Over the Edge). And they didn't. Liquifury's songs carry more grit, despite the rather upbeat lyrics that replace the sleazy and stereotypical cock-rock sentiments that characterized earlier Hurricane material like "Reign of Love" and "Dance Little Sister." Yet "Happy To Be Your Fool" shamelessly recalls Slave to the Thrill's "Don't Wanna Dream," the band's best ballad, and "In My Dreams" packs more emotion and sensitivity than entire rock records released these days by younger bands. Ah, if only more aging groups were as adept at bridging music's generation gap. Hurricane gets my vote for 2001's "most welcome comeback."