Jerome Mazza – Lead & Background vocals
Tommy Denander – Guitars / Keyboards
Steve Overland – Backing vocals
Brian Anthony – Bass
Chris Metzger – Drums / percussion
Courtesy of Escape Music
About eighteen months ago I was fortunate enough to stumble on to Pinnacle Point's brilliant debut album Winds of Change. This collection represented some of the great music of my past. The comparisons to Kansas and the vocal skills of Jerome Mazza instantly set the underground melodic world on fire.
He was then asked to be a part of Steve Walsh's final solo album Black Butterfly. Again Mazza's voice shined, seamlessly weaving itself around Walsh's in the lead off single Born In Fire. Jerome actually got to sing three solo tracks which garnered him more international airplay and recognition.
This would all set the stage for Outlaw Son, Jerome's first solo album for The Escape Music record label. The production on Outlaw Son rivals the music on Black Butterfly. More importantly the material itself continues Mazza's upward trajectory. It doesn't hurt to have guitar ace Tommy Denander laying down tasty riffs and exquisite solos to push the music to the next level.
The album starts with "Neverland" a track that opens with a catchy guitar salvo that Neal Schon would approve of. Lyrically the world is too much for the song's character and a fantasy land of self actualization takes hold. Denander puts his icing on this cake with a fine guitar solo. "Immortal" opens with a big keyboard riff followed by Mazza's soaring tenor. If Kansas were recording modern AOR it might sound like this track. "The Dark Side" begins and ends with Mazza's voice acapella. The melody is grittier, progressive and a tad dark, which makes sense since the song is about the dark side.
Mazza is helped along in places by legendary vocalist Steve Overland. But this reviewer prefers Mazza's voice which to me has more texture at both the low and high ends of the spectrum. "Streets of Fire" might be the closest relative to a song from Black Butterfly. Overland is heard on background via a monster chorus. The story of a world in turmoil stops you in your tracks as you absorb the melody. A killer song from every angle.
Another standout track is the instantly catchy "Undercover Love" fueled by both Mazza and Denander who seem to be playing off one another. This is more great songwriting, and Jerome's voice, again is in the clouds. "Song For The People" has a raucous guitar string bending intro followed by a very smooth, yet progressive melody. Another track that could stand nicely on Black Butterfly.
"Calm Before The Storm" intros with a rapid fire guitar jam but then levels off into a big hook melodic masterpiece. Each song has equal parts melodic and progressive which will make fans of Kansas and Journey celebrate. The title track borrows a little from Night Ranger's "Don't Tell Me You Love Me" but eventually finds it's own original groove. "Unfinished Business" has a hard rocking, raw bluesy vibe through most of it, a bit of a departure from a lot of the rest of the material on Outlaw Son yet one of the strongest songs on the album!
"Crossfire" is another convincing melodic rock original that borrows some from Toto or Work of Art. It showcases Mazza's ability to go from soft to soaring. "Save The Best Til Last" is another fine melodic rock composition featuring a very optimistic story line. The bridge and guitar solo definitely find a higher level of greatness. "The Last Goodbye" might be the most progressive track on the album. Denander's opening riffs set the stage for another terrific vocal performance from Mazza, whose clarity and rich delivery are present on every track.
Outlaw Son is one of the most meticulous melodic rock records recorded in recent memory. So many attempts at this genre these days are mired in mediocrity. At times I've listened to things and forced myself to like it when in my heart I knew it was substandard. The bar has been reset on this collection of fine songs. The quality of playing and singing is truly in it's own league here. Jerome Mazza is one of the most talented and soon to be sought after vocalists on the scene today. Furthermore he's surrounded himself with great musicians who have only shed a brighter spotlight on his considerable vocal talents. As it stands, Outlaw Son will be my favorite melodic rock record of 2018.