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Circle Of Friends: The Garden

Bruce Mee has long been a force for good in the melodic rock world. Founding the Now & Then label, he magnificently helped maintain the sound of a scene that had fallen out of favour, with releases from everyone from Ten and Bob Catley to James Christian and Talisman amongst a dazzling roster. One of the leading lights behind the much missed Firefest festival, Mee has also been the lynchpin of the UK’s long running and best rock, metal, prog and much more, print magazine, Fireworks - a publication he named after his favourite album by the band Bonfire.

It should be no surprise therefore that this much loved figure has made an enormous amount of talented friends over his years in the music business, nor that a host of them were more than happy to become one of Mee’s Circle Of Friends, as he put together The Garden, an album conceived as a tribute to his mother, who sadly passed away not long ago. The album contains four cover versions and nine originals composed especially, with the quartet of re-workings being favourites of both Mee and his Mum, and it has to be said that they in themselves make for a varied collection. Robin Beck adds her vocal weight to a melodic rockified take on the ABBA classic, “Knowing Me Knowing You”, while the little known, but utterly fantastic “Never Gonna Make Me Cry”, which was originally by Fierce Heart, here is given a fabulous reinterpretation by Beck’s husband, James Christian of House Of Lords. For me it’s an album highlight that I’ll never tire of listening to. Elsewhere the Blondie deep cut, “11:59”, is offered up by The Project Hate MCMXCIX front lady Ellinor Asp, who to me doesn’t quite know whether to go all in on the song, or stay more reverential to Debbie Harry’s original, while the reworking the Blue Oyster Cult standard with Robin McAuley at the mic is great fun.

For me though, it’s the original tracks that prove the most rewarding to revisit time and again, “Little Piece Of Heaven”, with none other than Doro at the helm a pretty phenomenal hard rocking way to open the album, while Jeff Scott Soto provides a characteristically fantastic vocal to the forceful push and shove of the excellent “Bad Blood”. It’s the underrated Jaime Kyle who brings her smokey, powerhouse vocals to the classic 80s melodic hard rock of “Take My Love To Heart”, just as former Headpins singer Darby Mills does to the AOR monster that is “Trick Of The Light”. Add in Robin McAuley reappearing for the slower “Alone” (not the Heart song), which is utterly perfect for his ever youthful voice, the atmospheric “He’s Gone”, featuring Gabrielle De Val from The Val, and the Bon Jovi inspired “Truth Or Dare”, with TAO singer Karen Fell doing a mighty fine job of injecting a new flavour to this classic sound, and the gems keep on coming. I must admit that Epic(20) singer Tanya Rizkala was a new name for me, but her Alannah Myles meets Ann Wilson voice on the upbeat “Love Is Tough” won me over immediately, as did the rich sounds that emanate from Cheri Lynn on the keen clash of keys and guitars that is “Time Has Come”.

Quite righty the focus here has fallen on the ever changing cast of lead singers, but the rest of the musicians involved are equally impressive, Mick Devine, Gary Hughes and Kevin Chalfant all adding backing vocals, Joel Hoekstra, Fredrik Folkare, Martin Hall, Goran Engvall and Peter Ostros playing guitar and Steve Mann, Steve Morris and Tommy Denander combining keyboards and guitar duties. Not to be outdone, Mikael Rosengren and Eric Ragno add some more keyboards, Wayne Banks handles bass and Josh Devine drums.

The sentiment behind The Garden is one we can all relate to - the desire to remember and cherish the memory of a loved one we miss and still admire. Rest assured that Bruce Mee has done that and then some, but for potential listeners, more importantly he’s also managed to put together an album that will undoubtedly rank amongst the best melodic rock offerings 2022 will see all year long.

Track Listing
1. Little Piece Of Heaven (Doro)
2. Take My Love To Heart (Jaime Kyle)
3. Never Gonna Make Me Cry (James Christian)
4. Bad Blood (Jeff Scott Soto)
5. Knowing Me, Knowing You (Robin Beck)
6. Truth Or Dare (Karen Fell)
7. Alone (Robin McAuley)
8. Trick Of The Light (Darby Mills)
9. 11:59 (Ellinor Asp)
10. Time Has Come (Cheri Lyn)
11. When He's Gone (Gabrielle De Val)
12. Love Is Tough (Tanya Rizkala)
13. Don't Fear The Reaper (Robin McAuley)

Added: April 29th 2022
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Escape Music
Hits: 865
Language: english

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