Johnny Lima – Livin’ Out Loud (2009, Shock Pop Records)
- All I Wanna Do
- Hate To Love You
- I’m On Fire
- Somebody To Love
- Caught In The Middle
- Gimme Some Rock So I Can Roll
- Livin’ Out Loud
- Still Waiting For You
- Long Way Down
- Hard To Say Goodbye
- ‘Til Love Is Gone
Johnny Lima – Lead & Backing Vocals, Guitars, Bass, Keyboards
Craig Takeshita – Lead Guitar
Bernie F. Diaz – Drums
Danny Danzi – Lead Guitar (2nd guitar solo on ‘Wildflower’ and solo on ‘Caught In The Middle’)
Christian Wolff – Lead Guitar on tracks 4, 5, 9, 11
Brandon Baumann – Backing Vocals on tracks 1, 2, 7
Producer: Johnny Lima
Total Time = 42:21
As a fan of AOR and Melodic Hard Rock (MHR), Johnny Lima’s name has come up more than a few times. In the last 13 years, I’ve seen Johnny’s name mentioned not only as a solo artist since 1996 but as a producer for up and coming bands like Miss Crazy, Freakshow and Dirty Penny. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t really bother to check Johnny’s music out until now. I’m not sure why I haven’t come across one of his previous albums, I’ve read plenty of glowing reviews over the years saying how Lima’s music is full of classic ’80s Hard Rock influences and styles…..that’s the type of music I like! Imagine Def Leppard, Poison, and Bon Jovi in their ’80s heyday brought together, that’s the Johnny Lima sound. LIVIN’ OUT LOUD was released back in May but I didn’t pick it up until late July…..I have been enjoying it daily ever since!
Opening track ‘All I Wanna Do’ starts the album off sleazy and uptempo with KISS inspired lyrics and an early ’90s KISS sound, plenty of dirty guitar mixed with big harmonies and that ever present hook that sucks you into the song. That’s exactly how Johnny Lima gets you to keep listening, he sucks you in with a big ’80s party rock sound that is so catchy you can’t help but start to sing along. Second cut in is ‘Wildflower’ and this is one of the best songs Poison, Def Leppard, Motley Crue, Slaughter, etc never recorded. The main riff is your basic ’80s Hard Rock riff that catches your attention and leads you into the infectious chorus full of harmonies that would make the Leps proud. ‘Wildflower’ is like a combination of commercial Motley Crue with a Slaughter chrous and Leppard harmonies…..it sounds like a carbon copy of what came decades before but the music sounds fun and current, one of my favorites on the album. ‘Hate To Love You’ gets a little heavier despite the obvious keyboards following the main guitar. It’s still a melodic song with the big chorus and solos while Johnny shows he could easily step in vocally for any number of famous ’80s rockers.
If the first three songs on LIVIN’ OUT LOUD didn’t hook you then one listen to ‘I’m On Fire’ should easily do the trick…..it’s probably the best Bon Jovi or Def Leppard song those bands never recorded! It’s another uptempo song but I’d say it’s a shade slower than the rest because of the thick basic main riff but you add the thumping bassline and catchy melody and you’ve got another winner. Definitely Bon Jovi influenced all the way through, Johnny even sounding more like Jon Bon Jovi than he does himself, but the harmonies on the chorus are pure HYSTERIA and ADRENALIZE era Lep. ‘I’m On Fire’ is my favorite song on the album and would have easily been a huge hit back in the day. Lima slows things down with the mid-tempo ‘Somebody To Love’ that recalls all the Pop Rock majesty of Def Lep at their love song multi-platinum success and then brings the harder Rock back with ‘Caught In The Middle’. I have to put ‘Caught In The Middle’ in with the rest of the uptempo rockers as far as influence but adding in some vintage non-makeup KISS for good measure.
Every album like this needs an anthem and Johnny Lima gives us just that with ‘Give Me Some Rock So I Can Roll’. The song pays tribute to the bands and music that made hard Rock what it is, name checking Motley Crue and SHOUT AT THE DEVIL, while critcizing the current trends of manufactured pop successes and the poor state of the industry. It’s another fast paced rocker that is pretty basic when you sit down and listen to it closely but it’s comes out so good because it’s so infectious with it’s hooks and anthemic chorus…..another album favorite. The title cut is a little slower, a little dirtier, a little heavier and Johnny does another Jon Bon Jovi/Vince Neil combo on the vocal with more Leppard harmonies. I like this song because it breaks away from the party rock somewhat and gets a little more gritty with a really heavy main guitar. The pace slows down to mid-tempo with ‘Still Waiting For You’ but the song still has a heaviness mixed with it’s melodic style…..this could easily have fit onto any of Bon Jovi’s albums since 2000 and been a HUGE hit. Seriously, put this out with the Bon Jovi name on it and the album goes platinum! It just proves that the industry has no clue because Johnny Lima outdoes Johnny Bon Jovi easily, JBJ should take notes!
‘Long Way Down’ moves back to the melodic Hard Rock that flows through this album and sounds just as good as the other songs even though it’s a little repetitive at the chorus. Remember Bon Jovi’s ‘Runaway’? Tell me ‘Hard To Say Goodbye’ isn’t it’s long lost brother! The song isn’t a pure copy but you can definitely hear the influence with that catchy keyboard line and Johnny Lima’s similar vocal sound. What sets this apart is the chorus, it’s not completely over the top with the harmonies like other songs, it’s just melodic and easy to sing along to. Another huge hit if the industry didn’t have it’s head up it’s ass! Closing out the album is the slower, mid-tempo pace of ‘Til Love Is Gone’ and it’s another song that follows the ballad boundary close but still has that heaviness and slightly quicker pace to keep it from pure ballad.
Just a quick note here…..I’ve been listening to the album as I’m writing this and I’m picking up the influences from some of the big names in Hard Rock (Def Lep, Bon Jovi, Crue, etc.) and I’ve been hearing Johnny’s similar vocal style to some of these iconic frontmen and it just dawned on me that there is a huge similarity between Tony Harnell (T.N.T./Westworld) and Lima. I’m listening to ‘Til Love Is Gone’ and I’m trying to place the sound because it sounds so familiar and that first Westworld album immeadiately came to mind.
Hands down this is one of the best albums of the year! I’ve had this album since July and there hasn’t been a day that has gone by that I haven’t played it! LIVIN’ OUT LOUD has that big ’80s Hard Rock sound that I grew up with and it sounds completely fresh in 2009. You’ve got all these big name bands, these big ’80s/’90s successes, that are afraid to revisit their old sound, their classic sound, and then you get a talented independent musician like Johnny Lima and he blows them out of the water. Seriously, bands like Poison, Bon Jovi and Def Leppard should be taking notes and fans of these bands should be picking this album up. The songs are all about having fun, rocking out, falling in and out of love and they are all catchy so you immeadiately start singing along, playing your air guitar and rocking out! Now I have to go and buy up all of Johnny’s previous albums at his website because if they are as good as this record is then the money is well spent. Don’t be surprised if you find this at the top of my Best of list for 2009.
I like every single song, not a weak track on the record. If I had to pick a couple of ultimate favorites…..’I’m On Fire’ and ‘Wildflower’.