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Harem Scarem - Mood Swings II Award winner

Harem Scarem
Mood Swings II
by YngwieViking at 09 September 2013, 6:58 PM

HAREM SCAREM is one of my most cherished band ever, and their second album was a triumphal departure from their early sound, to a more refined style, this brilliant and heavier record placed them forever at the Top of my Musical Zenith, no matter what they do or don’t, their evolution wasn’t in everyone taste I know, but I still have a soft spot for those talented Canadians, the announcement that they will re-do “Mood Swings” with three bonus tracks in order to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the album was exciting from a fan boy perspective.

HAREM SCAREM's original earth shaking "Mood Swings" belongs to a shortlist of essential immortal albums, rated very up-high in my personal pantheon, this album is featured in a Top 10, which I consider as all-time classics or if you prefer, lifetime's favorites for a desert island trip or something even stronger than that, well, it's a whole part for the soundtrack of my life. This album was very important in my recovery in some of my darkest times, displayed in this troubled (Flannel shirt / Grunge) time, it was a strong sign to keep on fighting and resisting, those tracks holds a real emotional charge, way beyond the simple Rock songs, in those times of confusion, it was like the guiding and the divine warm light, the shining star full of hope at the end of the cold stinky tunnel. And from a detached point of view in analyzing it as a records only, the songs are amazing in every musical departments, not only the music genre was and still is a Deluxe Heavy AOR, highly challenging, ultra melodic, hyper catchy, captivating but it’s a real roller coaster ride, as each and every elements for a good Melodic Hard Rock disc is present, in a sheer quality and also in an impressive amount of quantity. If you don't know this album yet then you should better run for it, if you already knew it, and if don't value it as good as me, then you must starts again from scratch there is something that you are losing, but if like me, you adore this disc, you should expect something to read about this new re-recording rendition, ok so let's go.

With such extraordinary expectations that were really up in the sky, I was a little ecstatic but also kind of anguished when I placed for the first time the little silver platter onto my CD player, indeed the risk was to be disappointed or disillusioned by a new recording of such a beautiful album, I was under a kind of stage fright when I pushed the button for my first encounter, with the re-making package of “Mood Swings II”.

Since the very beginning of the legendary “Saviors Never Cry”, I was at ease immediately, because the sound was heavenly perfect and the interpretation was flawless and faithful to the original record, with a few little variations but only in the mixing, that result in a discovery of new tiny details such as a richest keyboards sounds and even richer vocal harmonies, updated in every sense. I wasn’t expecting something as achieved at this level and so wining even in my wildest dreams. The sonic side of the disc is clearly referencing to the initial recording with a more modern approach containing less reverb FX and a little more clarity without falling in the trap to be too clinical, they succeed in this process of capturing the vibe and improved it while staying true to the main spirit of that era. The playing is stellar but with such a crew of experienced studio musicians, armed with 20+ years of recording knowledge, it’s not really surprising, but even more difficult, they also managed to recreate the same audacious juvenile essence and the mood swings from the early studio sessions.

The famous “No Justice” song, even better in this perfect restitution, with his amazing legendary lead-guitar solo played in the most immaculate way by a full potency of Pete Lesperance, thank God. Honestly, his performances came into a glorious terrific ground, focused like the first time around, objectively this effort should be a valuable experience for fans as the translation of 99% of the material is accurate and loyal to the 1993’s release by Warner Bros.

”Stranger Than Love” and its DEF LEPPARD chorus and its violent reversed riff is still one of my best example, of how 'Harmonized gang vocals' should be , breaking the rules and setting the new standard that even Mutt Lange himself can’t beat, as always the Harry Hess performance is superb. The fourth track is one of my favourite cut here , the kick-ass muted riffing with false tapped harmonics, in the fluid Steve Vai's fashion guitar-style with another huge lead spot , and what about those dark verses that were so modern back then?  Unbelievable, this was visionary. And all of a sudden the chorus with a few magical low harmonies parts is overwhelming and very contagious. This is the perfect sing-along anthemic theme, the final section with the ad-lib refrain, in an Epic slower arrangement mode, yet still highly harmonized in the QUEEN's tradition this is one of the strongest bench mark for both Mood Swings versions, ”Change Comes Around” indeed.

The groovy funky intro for “Jelousy” is still efficient and the raspy voice of Harry Hess is still working utterly well, what a song. With such a commercial appeal, a real classic Rock hit-single potential (virtually) in the making. “Sentimental Boulevard” holds a special place in my heart, the particularity is that the lead-vocals are performed by drummer Darren Smith, with a fantastic Stadium melodies in the pure style of NIGHTRANGER and a genuine, skilled staccato solo very much like Ronnie LeTekro (TNT) enhanced with the traditional top-notch backing vocals gang like THE BEATLES meets KISS. ”Mandy” is a short solo instrumental filled with a fat melodic overdrive lead-guitar and some discreet layers of synths that reminds me, Joe Satriani’s fluidity combined with a few Brian May hot licks, still astonished by this beautiful piece even twenty years after the release. “Empty Promises” is a song that could be considered as the little sister of “Changes Comes Around” here, with a big challenge to retrieve the early energy in the vocal approach, another time an immense wall of voices, perfectly matching in an impressive harmonic ensemble, the middle break is some of the most majestic bridge and a great prelude, for again, a perfect 6 strings piece of melody.

The progressive track of the album “If There Was A Time” starts with a soft piano introduction, that leads to another incredibly fine and clever almost, radio friendly Pop refrain pushed by a choral yelling doubling in the craziest fabulous way embellished with great synthetized strings and a short but smoking picking piece of electric guitar, five minutes of pure delight. “Just Like I Planned” is the real ballad of the album, an almost Acapella tune with a strong Rhythm and Blues feel, mostly because of its church choir and improved by a brand new acoustic Guitar / Piano arrangement, think Freddie Mercury meets THE TEMPTATIONS. “Had Enough” Another original and hyper technical riff driven song, that reminds me of Michael Firkins lost under a odd time pattern, tasty guitar tone and huge playing, the second part of the song is more direct and more focused on the chorus, another proof that HAREM SCAREM doesn’t belongs to the bands that play safe, I believe that the modern technology was helpful to preserve the awesome pristine ambiance. The first new song “World Gone To Pieces” is heavily orchestrated and doesn’t really sounds exactly as a “Mood Swings” lost gem, because of its more contemporary sounding flavor, with some influences from NICKELBACK melted with another strong LEPPARDian choir , that could had been featured in the 2002 “Weight Of The World” album easily, nice song anyway.

“Anarchy” is the second of the new bunch of songs special composed for this “Mood Swings II” and it really fits like a glove stylistically speaking, with a real 90s feel, a luxury of details in the structure and a pure genius refrain , somewhere between W.E.T. and HAREM SCAREM's, very own, “Voice Of Reason” era, splendid. “A Brighter Day” is the closing track, also a brand new number, with a real Pop sensibility, not really far from the music displayed in the latest Harry HessLiving In Yesterday” of 2012, boosted by the fine addition of some spectacular guitar parts from Pete Lesperance, a cohesive triptych to close this wonderful and entertaining release. Even if the band isn’t reforming for real, they will do a short tour to promote this album that wasn’t properly worked back in the days, so I can’t wait to see my heroes, performing the entire tracklist at October's FIREFEST in Nottingham and also headlining the German’s H.E.A.T. fest in November.

If you don't know this album yet then you should buy it, if you already have it, and if don't value it as much as me, then you must starts again from scratch, there is obviously something that you are losing. But if like me, you adored the first published disc then you should grab this another time.

I tried to rate it 11 out of 10, so go figure… This is the best in the Nostalgic mania wave by far, a timeless classic that should be in every serious music fan collection.

5 Star Rating

1. Saviors Never Cry
2. No Justice
3. Stranger Than Love
4. Change Comes Around
5. Jealousy
6. Sentimental Blvd.
7. Mandy
8. Empty Promises
9. If There Was A Time
10. Just Like I Planned
11. Had Enough
12. World Gone To Pieces
13. Anarchy
14. Brighter Day
Harry Hess - Lead Vocals
Pete Lesperance – Lead Guitar/Bass
Creighton Doane - Drums
Darren Smith - Background vocals/Lead Vocals
Record Label: Frontiers Records


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