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THE LADDER Sacred Escape Music ESM149 (2007)

The Ladder

Steve Overland's soulful Paul Rodgers-meets-Michael Bolton voice is one of rock's great lost treasures, and the fame and fortune he deserves has always eluded him, with his main band FM always just failing to make that elusive commercial breakthrough before calling it a day in the mid-90's.

Overland fans have been treated to his return in recent years with two projects, Shadowman and The Ladder. The latter's first album in 2004 was a classic slice of melodic rock, albeit mainly rerecordings of unreleased FM songs, and now with ex Melodica guitarist Gerhard Pichler on board plus FM drummer Pete Jupp, they are back with an all new album.

The good news lies in a strong selection of songs which showcase the man's voice which is as peerless as ever, but after the two opening (and best) songs in Body and Soul and Sacred, the album takes a surprising turn which may not appeal to all of his long-time fans. Essentially, the production and arrangements owe more to modern pop than the traditional AOR market of FM fans. So a ballad like Something to Believe In marries classic Overland vocal stylings with a trip hop beat that might be found on a boy band, while Believe in Me has a funky beat and the smooth harmonies of Run to You called to mind the reformed Take That.

Drum loops abound, especially on the last four songs, during which the overall tempo of the album becomes considerably more laid back, and Pichler's guitar is heard mainly in subtle fills rather than traditional guitar solos, though he does let rip on All of My Life (one of the strongest tracks on view) with a riff influenced by the Sweet's Set Me Free.

A brave and radical departure which may alienate some of Overland's longer term fans, although if somehow it means his work crosses over to a wider audience, then the end would justify the means.


Review by Andy Nathan

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***** 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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