For her first solo effort, South African songstress Toni Rowland received a major boost with the invitation by Ken Hensley to help produce and play on her debut disc. Recorded in his studio in Spain, this album shows the terrific songwriting ability of Ms. Rowland along with a sprinkling of the magic that Hensley brings to the table.
Putting on this disc for the first time, the opening track "I'll Be Here Waiting" hits you like a blast from the Hensley album Proud Words on a Dusty Shelf. Then the smooth vocals of Toni come in and provide a delightful offset to the melodic metal provided by Ken and the rest of the backing band. Without a doubt, this is a very high quality blending of styles that give you the popish vocals of Rowland set against a much more dramatic backdrop thanks to her mentor Hensley and of course his Hammond B3 which he all but pioneered in the world of heavy metal.
Make no mistake about it though, this is a Toni Rowland album. Her style which I would call a mixture of Melissa Etheridge musically and Fleetwood Mac type vocals is a welcome change from a lot of the harsh music permeating the airwaves today. Her melodic music that very often has a heavy undercurrent attracts both the metalhead in me and also the guy who wants to take a breather with a little softer sounding disc. This album has both. There is something to strike just about any mood.
You can go from the popish sound of songs like "Photographs In A Little Red Box" to the very heavy "Souls Of All The People (9/11)" or from the terrific metal "I'll Be Here Waiting" to the hauntingly beautiful "Mantis And The Moon" and still not touch upon all the facets of what Toni brings out musically. She also brings out some deep emotions with the message that she delivers on songs like "Put Your Foot Down" which was written for the Sole of Africa Campaign which is an organization trying to eliminate land mines left over from the many wars the have ravaged the area.
She also gives a you poignant moment with her apocalyptical "3010 They Said The Silence" which is a song about when birds become extinct. The song was taken from a poem written by her father and is a dark, haunting piece that captures the subject matter perfectly. Her songwriting ability will never be questioned with such terrific works as this one.
I have had this disc for quite awhile now and each time I put it on, something different strikes me. This is an album that has to be listened to time and again to truly appreciate all that is going on. I am sure that once you have it that will not be a problem though. It is a very cool work and the amazing Hammond work by Hensley throughout the album doesn't hurt either! This one is a keeper for sure.
There is a DVD included with the disc. This contains an interview with Toni about the making of the album along with a promo for the Sole of Africa Campaign. It is interesting but not something you will want to watch very often.
1. I'll Be Here Waiting
2. Hold On
3. Mantis And The Moon
4. Souls Of All The People (9/11)
5. Photographs In A Little Red Box
6. Johnny Doesn't Like It
7. Damn You
8. Somewhere In Her Heart
10. Don't Tangle
12. Put Your Foot Down
13. 3010 They Said The Silence