Archive for October 8, 2007

Westworld - s/t (1998)

Westworld – s/t (1998, Roadrunner)

  1. Illusions
  2. I Belong
  3. Pigeon Hole
  4. Heart Song
  5. Little Voices
  6. Bring The Water To Me
  7. Love You Insane
  8. Shame
  9. Ivory Towers
  10. Suicide

Band Lineup:
Tony Harnell – Lead & Backing Vocals
Mark Reale – Guitars
Bruno Ravel – Bass
John O’Reilly – Drums & Percussion

Additional Musicians:
Mark Wood – Keyboards & Electric Violin
Frank Carillo – Mandolin
Laura Kaye – Backing Vocals

Produced by: Paul Orofino, Tony Harnell, & Mark Reale

Total Time – 45:49

Tony Harnell official website
Mark Reale & Riot official website
Bruno Ravel & Danger Danger official website

1998 was a year of new musical discoveries for me. I had just connected to this new invention called the Internet in the Fall ’06 and I had been buying any Hard Rock/Heavy Metal print mags available. I was searching for something new and sounded like the music I grew up with in the ’80s. That something turned out to be Westworld.  Combine Tony Harnell (TNT), Bruno Ravel (Danger Danger), and the legendary Mark Reale (Riot) and you are definitely going to have a retro sound to any record but what came out of the collaboration was a late ’90s Melodic Rock masterpiece.

The keyboard flavored ‘Illusions’ starts the album off with an early ’80s Journey vibe but better. No offense to the Perry/Schon collective but Reale comes out charging with his best guitar work since THE PRIVILEGE OF POWER (1990) and Harnell shows that his voice is still in top form. The keyboard intro is deceiving in that ‘Illusions’ is a guitar driven track and the keys are a good supplement to the sound. The song has that “big 80s” sound with the hooky bridge and sing-a-long chorus.

Following in the second slot, ‘I Belong’ continues the hard charge of guitar driven Rock. A little grittier than ‘Illusions’ but the song still roots itself in the melody. Reale shows that he can play more than just speedy Metal as he keeps the songs main riff driving as he branches the song out with serious riffs and runs. His solo is brilliant.

We slow down a little and get a bit darker on ‘Pigeon Hole’. The first two tracks were fairly fast riff rockers but ‘Pigeon Hole’ finds a nice common ground between fast-paced and mid-tempo, again the guitar guiding the way. Ravel and O’Reilly find a nice pocket to play in and keep the backing end solid. I really like Tony Harnell’s vocal on this song. The first two songs were faster so he sang higher, on this one he goes down a little and adds a little abrasiveness to the sound. It’s still a melodic vocal but with an edge.

‘Heart Song’ is ballad time. A quiet acoustic intro and a subdued vocal signal all the people in the audience to pull out their lighters. What really makes this song is Mark Wood’s contribution with the electric violin, it really gives an added dimension to the song. It compliments the guitar and vocal and is not overbearing. Reale goes electric for the chorus and his solo follows the flow of the song. Harnell uses his voice to bring the emotion to the song, the guy can flat out sing and is tailor made for this type of music. You can hear the pain, the longing, and the sadness through the vocal.

‘Little Voices’ kind of reminds me of ‘Pigeon Hole’ in that the song has that good balance of fast vs. mid-pace and the song is a little darker than previous songs. It does have a catchy hook and the song builds to the chorus that you can’t help but sing with. The acoustic guitar supports the electric and the keyboards add some layers without being overbearing. Another solid melodic track.

The intro to ‘Bring The Water To Me’ is very bluesy yet subdued. Reale shows he can do more then play crunchy riffs and speed demon solos and Harnell shows there is a softer side to his trademark high pitch singing. All that shoots out the window as Reale plugs in and busts out one of the best riffs of the album. Harnell comes in with his normal delivery and O’Reilly opens up a bit on the drums and makes the song better. I’d put this song in the same category as ‘Illusions’ and ‘I Belong’ but just a step behind. The chorus is simple but effective and Reale runs in and out of that main riff with tasty leads that branch out and make the song a little meatier.

‘Love You Insane’ could be considered Ballad #2 but the main guitar is so heavy that I forget the song is slower. Coming up on the bridge, Reale opts for a quieter approach but builds it up again for the chorus. Harnell’s delivery mirrors Reale from heavy to quiet and builds again. The sound is a bit more modern (’90s era) and there is a bit of vocal wankery that Harnell does with TNT that he hasn’t done so far with Westworld. This is a solid song but, on an album of all solid songs, this one gets the unfair nod of being slightly below the rest.

The same formula is employed for ‘Shame’ as on ‘Love You Insane’, although I like ‘Shame’ a little more. This could be Ballad #3 but there is another solid hard riff. Reale shines all over this song and Harnell tones it down a bit, something he should have done on the previous tune. The song is a little darker, moodier even. You can hear the emotion in the playing and vocal delivery. I really like the drums on this track, they aren’t over the top but the still add to the song more than on others on the record.

Time to pick the pace a little on ‘Ivory Towers’ using a Riot-esque main riff  and then blending into a melodic mid-tempo rhythm. Very catchy, very melodic, very good. The solo Reale puts in is another superb effort. Has Mark been holding out on the solos for Riot and giving them to Westworld? Not sure but the guy sounds like he has new life and the solos all reflect that. Put ‘Ivory Towers’ in the same group with the first two songs: quick (in some spots), catchy, and cool.

‘Suicide’ is another ballad that ends the album and it is one of the best songs on the album. Acoustic guitar and vocal, the song is beautiful in it’s simplicity. Sounds like a Bon Jovi/Sambora composition and should have airplay. The only complaint is “doo-doo-doos” in the song.

Bottom Line:
A solid Melodic Rock album by a band consisting of ’80s Rock heroes. The songs are well-written, the music a blend of ’80s Hard Rock and ’90s modern style. Top performance by guitarist Mark Reale, all the guitars are done extremely well and one has to wonder why this guy flies under the radar of most Metal fans. Tony Harnell displays good vocal range and power here as he does in his TNT days. O’Reilly and Ravel provide a solid backbone to Reale & Harnell’s showmanship. I can’t speak enough about Mark Reale. After being a Riot fan for so long, and the band not getting it’s just due, it is refreshing to hear Mark branch out and display his talents in a new venture.

Favorite songs: ‘Illusions’, ‘I Belong’, ‘Bring The Water To Me’, ‘Suicide’, ‘Little Voices’…….actually, I like the whole album and all the songs are favorites. I rate ‘Love You Insane’ lower than the rest but it is still a decent tune. If you’re a fan of any of the main bands, pick up this melodic side project, it’s worth it!