A decided nod to 80's keyboard spiced pop, Mecca is the brainchild of Survivor's Jim Peterik and vocalist Joe Vanna (never heard of him either). He's got a solid crop of musicians to round out the band, including original Toto bassist David Hungate, and one-album Toto vocalist Fergie Frederiksen (remember, "Better watch out, there's a stranger in town"?). To me, hearing Fergie's voice catapulted me back to 1985, so I listened with curiosity, wondering if his decidedly 80's style voice would cut it in 2002. He shares duties with Vanna, and their voices are similar enough to cause confusion on several tracks.
After several listens, I'll admit I was hooked. Say what you want about Peterik, call him a hack (he wrote for countless bands), whatever, but he knows how to construct a song. What sets Mecca apart from being a Toto clone is that the musicianship is pretty well above average throughout. Man, they did listen to their Toto, though, to the point where you wonder if keyboard man Jimmy Nichols (Nashville) didn't steal some of Steve Porcaro's patches, let alone his DX-7. Drummer Shannon Forrest does the late great Jeff Porcaro to the bone on drums, to the point of stealing a lick from Porcaro's replacement Simon Phillips. I mean, that's dedication. And David Hungate sounds just like...well, wait a minute...!
The strongest tracks feature catchy as the flu choruses, including "Without You," "Silence of the Heart" and "Falling Down." Check out the subtle change from minor to major in "Silence" for a full understanding of how just a basic understanding of simple Theory 101 can make a hit. "Without" is straight Survivor, but a guilty pleasure. On the so-so side, the rockers ("Velocitized," "You Still Shock Me" "Wishing Well") are merely listenable, but in context work much better.
The one conclusion I draw from Mecca's debut disk is that there is a decided market for this nearly buried form of pop, and when it's done tastefully as is the case here, I think there's an audience.