Ahh, the 80s. Gotta love the 80s. Musicians raised on a diet of Bruce Springsteen,Bryan Adams, Bon Jovi, Dire Straits…. you know the sort of thing.
AOR was how it was once described…
Anyway, fast forward 30 years and it’s interesting to see that those influences are alive and well… and living in Italy. Hard Times is the latest release from Canadian musician Max Navarro, 40 minutes of well executed and entirely inoffensive melodic AOR.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about Hard Times is how unsurprising it is. Everything feels comfortably familiar, and once you slip into the Max Navarro groove it is all pretty much exactly what you would expect.
While the vocals are good but not brilliant (not that that did Mark Knopfler any harm), and the voice does suit the music extremely well, but for me it’s the impressive guitar work which injects some much needed variety into proceedings. I particularly like the riff and twangy tone on Nothings Guaranteed which just helps the track stand out.
This is undoubtedly a good album, but it falls short of great. All of the best AOR albums had one killer track that dragged you in, think Brothers In Arms, Born In The USA, Summer of 69, that sort of thing. Although there are a couple of tracks which threaten to come close, at the end of the day Hard Times just lacks that killer edge, that hook that grabs you and won’t let go.
Nice to see the “windswept and moody” look making a comeback too. Not seen an album cover like that for ages