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DEPARTURE‘Corporate Wheel’ (Escape Music 2003)

This is the third album by the band formed by guitarist/keyboard player Mike Walsh. The rest of the band is made-up of vocalist Timothy Lewis, who replaces Dave Baldwin from the last album, John O’Connell on keyboards, Mike Beres on bass and drummer Duey Ribestello.

The opening two tracks are awesome! ‘Listen to What I Say’ has a glorious hook and harmonies - bringing to mind all the best that is AOR! ‘Corporate Wheel’ has another hookline that stays in your head long after listening and is very Journey/Hugo in its style. But the band and vocalist are no Journey clones, having their own style and melding keyboards and guitars to great effect. Vocalist Timothy Lewis is the band’s secret weapon, sounding similar to Hugo, Steve Perry and Shy’s Tony Mills in places. He shines again on the ballad ‘Time’, with lush keyboards and strumming acoustic guitar – an album highlight after the opening couplet of songs. ‘Down On My Knees’ features some Styx-like organ and song arrangements coupled with tasty rhythm guitar - it doesn’t get much better than this!

Other highlights include the uptempo ‘Giving Me A Reason’, the slow burning ‘Comin’s My Way’ and the epic ballad ‘Look In Your Eyes’. The latter again has sublime harmonies with the band again combining guitars and keyboards well to create a lush backdrop.

Already 2003 has seen some great releases - Arena, Karnataka, Kansas - add this to your shopping list. There have been very few decent AOR albums in recent years and thankfully this album is a beauty. For all fans of prime time Journey, Hugo, Styx, Survivor, Shy - you can’t go wrong with this one!



Review by Jason Ritchie

***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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