Imagine this, you are extremely young and you get a record deal. You are set to make your first album and the label picks the great Bruce Fairbairn to produce your album. How stoked you must be. You are about to make it big time and be famous worldwide and be the big rock star you were meant to be. All your dreams were about to come true. I am sure that was what Paul Laine was thinking…I know I would have been.
But for some strange reason, that didn’t happen with this album. However, Paul would go on to make it in the industry and he is still very active today and I bet makes a pretty good living with his music. I don’t know why this album didn’t take off, but for some reason it didn’t. It was 1990 and we were at the tail end of the 80’s Rock scene and Grunge was coming on fast so I am writing it off to that as the issue because it sure as hell wasn’t the music’s fault.
I came across this album in 1990 when I was working at Sam Goody. This was a promo that the label had dropped off and since I was the resident rocker at the store, I gravitated toward this one rather quickly. I played it in the store as much as was allowed and when it was done in rotation, I took the CD copy home with me as it was my favorite album at the time.
What I liked about it were many things, but the first was that even though this was a Paul Laine solo album, he proudly pictured his bandmates inside on the album notes. A couple of the bandmates, Scott Brown and Kenny Kaos even contributed on co-writing some of the songs. Paul wrote or co-wrote all of the tracks. What I also liked was the cover art. What a strange and colorful picture and you know we aren’t that far removed from having the music inserted directly in to our head. In fact, there is a headphone now that you don’t even have to wear, but it blasts the songs straight in to your head so pretty darn close.
The album opens with the epic “One Step Over the Line” and at over 7 minutes long it makes a statement. The song sounds a lot like the Bon Jovi track “Lay Your Hands On Me” and the way that song opened the New Jersey album. Wait a second…didn’t Bruce produce that album too? Yeah, you know he did. They pretty much steal the playbook to that album and I am okay with that. The next track opens with a cool guitar riff, that speeds a long at 100 mph. The song “We Are the Young” is a brilliant rock anthem and I could see this blasted at concerts with full audience participation. It is guitar heavy, rock perfection and Paul gives it his all and sounds like the rock god he dreamed to be.
“Dorianna” is the first of the ballads as it opens with the church organ keyboards, but it puts the power in power ballad as the guitar solo is great and the overall guitar work is actually fantastic as well. Paul softens his voice and fills it with the emotion needed for a ballad. When it gets to the chorus, you can’t help but scream out her name as well. The song has a great groove and is very catchy. There are also some cool keyboard effects thrown in to add even more texture to the song. Then comes another ballad, but this one is less power, but it really showcases Paul’s vocal range and talents. This is a highlight for Laine fans. “Is This Love” opens with keyboards and a tenderness the other songs don’t have. The explosive chorus hits you straight in the heart and the song is so powerful that I wonder how this never became a hit. It has everything you want in an 80’s ballad and with Bruce behind the boards you know he pulled out every trick in the book including a killer guitar solo.
With “Heart of America” you can hear Paul dreaming of making it big time. Another keyboard driven track. This one has a Journey vibe to it musically, not vocally as Paul gives the song a little grit in the vocals as he belts out the verses. “Main Attraction” opens up with some killer riffs and then a banging snare drum beat and delivers another solid rock track. There isn’t anything extra special about this, but it does give you more of that 80’s rock sound. The next track brings the blues as “Doin’ Time” gives you some scatting and some blues harmonica. It is a nice change of pace and shows he isn’t a one trick pony. His vocals adapt nicely to the blues feel and sound. A cool track.
Then we are back to the ballads and this time we get “I’ll Be There” and this one is a lot softer full of keyboards that give it a light airy feel, almost mystical. As much as I like this one, it is a little long clocking in at almost 6 minutes and it takes it too long to get to the climax of the song. I think a slightly edited song would have put this one over the top as its bones are sensational and it is really a brilliant track. Lastly, we get “Break Down the Barricades” and like how we started the album with a Bon Jovi flavored song we end with one as well. I swear Paul sounds like Jon Bon Jovi on this one too. It is a heavy, rocking anthem and Paul belts out those verses and chorus with as much gusto as he can muster. It is a hell of a closing track and going out with a rocker like this is what needed to be done.
The album is absolutely solid melodic, AOR rock full of heavy guitars, keyboards and it has it rock anthems, it has power ballads and it has everything you want in the music at this time. It is really a cliched 80’s album with Bruce using his Bon Jovi blueprint to craft the album you get a fun rocking album and I am okay with that fact. I think it is a wonderful showcase for Paul and a great introduction to his music. Sadly, the timing wasn’t right and the album didn’t really go anywhere, but for me it created a lifelong fan and I have followed his solo work, his work the Danger Danger, Shugaazer, Dark Horse and The Defiants and he seems to get better and better as he goes along. Paul Laine is worth discovering and this is a great place to start. I will give this a 4.5 out of 5.0 Stars. Only a little ding for some of the songs being a little longer than they needed to be. Outside of that, its awesome!