You know all is well in the AOR Universe when New York band Balance are on the scene. Who would’ve thought that in 2009, Peppy, Bob and Doug would resurrect the band? Indeed, that is what happened.
Written by: gdmonline
SERIAL: FRCD 402
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
LINEUP: Peppy Castro – lead and backing vocals, bass * Bob Kulick – guitars * Doug Katsaros – keyboards, backing vocals * Bret Chassen – drums
TRACK LISTING: 01 Twist Of Faith * 02 Breathe * 03 Old Friends * 04 What Have U Done * 05 Winner Takes All * 06 Crazy Little Suzie * 07 Liar * 08 Walk Away * 09 Who You Gonna Love * 10 Forever * 11 Where The Rainbow Ends
You know all is well in the AOR Universe when New York band Balance are on the scene. It’s 2009, and it has been many a year since their last recorded studio effort: 1982’s classic ‘In For The Count’. Long described as one of the pinnacle albums of the AOR sub-genre, who would’ve thought that on the back of a CD re-release of said album, that Peppy, Bob and Doug would resurrect the band? Indeed, that is what happened.
Rock Candy Records saw fit to pay homage to ‘In For The Count’ as a recently re-released and updated CD, as a result, Peppy (who is also currently active with Barnaby Bye) and the boys decided it was time to bring Balance out of the closet. Bringing drummer and engineer Bret Chassen into the fold, the new album ‘Equilibrium’ was delivered to AOR fans in February 2009.
Having listened to this for a few weeks, and reading the opinions of other erstwhile AOR fans both here on this site and elsewhere on the Net, my verdict is pretty positive. Here’s why.
Castro, Kulick and Katsaros have kept Balance’s musical style pretty much as it was on ‘In For The Count’. Now, considering the 1981 debut Balance album was more west coast than AOR, ‘Equilibrium’ doesn’t go there and I’m sure that will be ok to a majority of the band’s fans.
Some have made mention of Peppy’s vocals, not being as strong as it once was. For the most part I agree with that line of thought, but time catches up with us all, and 27 years difference between albums is a bit of a stretch. Come on people, be thankful that Peppy is out there doing this gig!
The keyboard work of Katsaros is as good as ever, while some of Kulick’s guitar tone doesn’t quite do it for me, but his sense of style and technique sets him apart. Musically they’ve kept it very close to their classic 1982 era. Let’s take a listen:
‘Twist Of Fate’ kicks us off. Immediately you hear Katsaros and Kulick reunite as if 1982 was only yesterday. The chorus is somewhat similar to Player‘s title track off the album ‘Room With A View’. The vibe of 1982 is revisited for ‘Breathe’. It’s hard driving, the keys add a darker edge but the chorus is true to form Balance.
‘Old Friends’ is surely one that will appeal to AORsters. Everything about it smacks of the 80’s primetime era. The delicious keys, pumping bass lines and Kulick’s guitar candy helps turn back the clock with ease. Kulick and Katsaros join forces again for ‘What Have U Done’, proving beyond doubt that guitar/keyboard interplay is alive and well in 2009.
It’s time for a ballad, and ‘Winner Takes All’ is the track that changes tempo. It’s not lacking for energy, as the song moves ahead from the mid section through to the end. Listen out for the synth solo from Doug!
One of the harder edged tracks is ‘Crazy Little Suzie’. It’s probably Balance like you’ve never heard them before, with a darker vibe, interesting synth sequences, and Kulick throwing out riffs taking into account all the years of guitar influence between 1982 and 2009.
‘Liar’ too is a harder track, with a strong drum presence from new boy Chassen. It’s a lean track, with emphasis on guitars and riffs. Sounds like a by-product of the late 80’s. ‘Walk Away’ is another of the pure AOR tunes onboard. Loads of cool keyboard lines from Mr Katsaros. Interestingly, using keys and synths that sound way beyond 1982!
‘Who You Gonna Love’ is Balance at their most bluesiest, where Kulick slices out lead breaks through what sounds like a half open wah guitar effect. This is one of the more different tracks on the album. ‘Forever’ is a bit stop/start, hitting the gas on the choruses while anchoring the brakes on the verses. Bruce and Doug drive this one hard, tinkly keys and stinging guitars all the way.
Finishing the album with ‘Where The Rainbow Ends’, the boys provide the trademark sound which made Balance famous.
One of the issues previously with Balance was their reluctance to tour. I’m not even certain that this band played live anyway (Paul Sabu anyone?), despite the improvised TV appearance on Solid Gold for their song ‘Breaking Away’.
Whether there is a ready captive audience for their songs in the 2009 ‘here and now’ is debatable. Certainly for die-hard supporters of the band it’s great that they are back, the addition of a new album an absolute bonus.
To be honest, time invariably catches up with the best of us, as it has with Balance. Mostly this is a wonderful return to form, the slight letdown is that vocally, the songs do not carry the same sort of authority as the music. It’s not a criticism, just an observation. Enjoy a very good album, and while you’re at it, grab the reissued ‘In For The Count’ from Rock Candy Records.
Twist Of Fate
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