Sweeney, Mark: All In
Mark Sweeney is probably still best known as the frontman for melodic power metal outfit Crystal Ball, however in 2007 he released his first solo venture Slow Food. The album received a mixed reception as style wise it was quite a departure from his day job. Instead of big riffs, macho vocals (courtesy of Sweeney) and pummelling drum blasts, Sweeney's debut contained what would be best described as pop rock. The album did have its moments without ever really hitting top gear.
With things a little quiet in the Crystal Ball, Sweeney has once more gone it alone with his second album All In, although he is assisted by some heavy weights of the metal scene. With names like Michael Schenker, Doro Pesch, Bruce Kulick, Stefan Kaufmann and Jorg Michael involved, it would be reasonable to expect a sound that reflected the metal credentials that all these names have earned. However once again Sweeney has released a pleasant, if unspectacular collection of pop rock that sometimes veers towards pure pop and at other occasions the heavier end of the spectrum. Of the guests mentioned Schenker and Pesch handle production on a couple of songs - others are produced by Rosenstolz, Udo Lindenberg and Casanaova, with Michael Voss taking on the rest of the songs. Kulick pops up on "Too Late" where he fires out a trademark solo in an otherwise unremarkable mid paced track, while Kaufmann and Michael handle guitar and drums respectively on the Helloween-lite of "Demons". Other cameos are made by Pearl (Offspring), who goes all Mariah Carey on us during the power ballad by numbers of "Leave It All Behind" and Robin Beck duets with Sweeney on the heart tugging "Moments". I'm not really a fan of Beck's voice, however she does gel really well with Sweeney and the results are better than they could have been considering that songs in this style are thick on the ground in this genre.
Of the other tracks, All In works best when the melodies are given a little crunch, with "Chance" and "Gimme A Sign" standing out from the bunch due to a pointed guitar attack that allows the songs to have more focus and bite. However the more pop oriented songs just don't have the required hooks to really cut through. "Still Alive" could be any boy band you care to mention, while "Another Day" is another of those songs you feel you've heard a thousand times before.
Sweeney does have the strength and character in his voice to carry this style of music and if you enjoyed his last solo effort then no doubt you will this one too. However stronger more memorable songs are needed to make this truly worthy of repeated listens.
1. Line Of Fire
2. Why Do You Hate Me
3. Still Alive
4. Gimme A Sign
5. Leave It All Behind
7. Another Day
8. Stare At The Sun
9. Too Late
Added: June 10th 2010
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Official Mark Sweeney Web Site
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