CD Review: Loverboy - Rock 'N' Roll Revival

CD Review: Loverboy - Rock ‘N’ Roll Revival
Fontiers Records
All Access Review: B-
Loverboy - Rock 'N' Roll Revival 2012
The critics are going to have a field day with this one –not that Loverboy has ever been a real favorite of theirs. So often in their history the multi-platinum Canadian rockers have been blithely dismissed as “middle of the road,” “lacking substance” … blah, blah, blah. Their legions of fans, of course, have a much different opinion. This time around, their detractors are going to be merciless – quite possibly for all the wrong reasons.
Predictably, they will characterize Rock ‘N’ Revival as a pointless exercise, 75 percent of the record being unnecessary live versions of Loverboy’s greatest hits. After all, what does anyone need of another Loverboy concert album when there’s Live, Loud and Loose (1982-1986) to turn to when only balls-out, karate-kicking, pump-action rock and roll shot full of adrenaline will make everything all right? Evidently, Loverboy felt everyone needed a refresher course on how to kick ass onstage.
An odd album, though, Rock ‘N’ Revival consists of three new original tracks and nine live cuts – a strange juxtaposition of Loverboy again flogging its past glories while offering just a tiny glimpse of where they’re at today. It’s those in-concert recordings that had many scratching their heads. For whatever reason, Loverboy chose to remove all traces of crowd noise, leaving some to wonder whether they were songs the band reworked live in the studio or played out in front of actual people. The answer: they are concert recordings. Some might ask, “What’s the difference?” Well, in the end, nothing really, except that once you hear them, you want some context, some explanation of just what in God’s name it is you’re listening to. Or, to put a finer point on it, there must discernible reasons why Loverboy felt the need to put this out.
Forgive the confusion, because ultimately the Bob Rock-produced Rock ‘N’ Revival sets out to do what its title demands of the record. Heard in their naked form, live versions of beloved tracks like “Turn Me Loose,” with its increasingly gnarled guitars, Mike Reno’s primal screams and delicious slow-burning build-up, are transformed, even if the difference is only slight and they do seem occasionally ponderous. “The Kid is Hot Tonite” grows more potent as an anthem, the unexpectedly wild guitars and soaring synthesizers charged with electricity, as they are on the high-flying anthems “Working for the Weekend” and “Lovin’ Every Minute of It,” both of which have a nastier edge than they ever did before. The same goes for “Lucky Ones,” which is unexpectedly heavy and caught up in snarls of razor-wire guitar riffs and leads, even if the intro seems awkward and a bit out of tune. The excitement fades a little down the stretch, though, with Loverboy playing the more pop-minded “Always on My Mind” and “Queen of the Broken Hearts” almost strictly by the book.
So what about the new stuff? Does any of it contain that same spark of hot-blooded, hormonal drive and hard-working ethos that powered a younger, hungrier Loverboy to the top? Well, one out of three isn’t … great. A stirring reminder of how Loverboy could rally the masses, the title track is a stomping, rousing call-to-arms that takes aim at the current state of the music industry and pulls the trigger, with Mike Reno passionately advocating for a return to rock and roll values and those irresistible Loverboy hooks grabbing you by the shirt. More of a transcendent ballad, the melodic “No Tomorrow” wouldn’t be a fish out of water in modern-day Nashville, and that’s both a blessing and a curse for Loverboy in that it sounds exactly like what’s on the radio these days, which flies directly in the face of their thesis statement for Rock ‘N’ Revival. And although “Heartbreaker” is undeniably catchy, it also feels as lightweight as aluminum, even if there are moments in the choruses when it grows hair on its chest.
Loverboy has the right idea. Rock and roll needs to take a good look in the mirror and remember what made it fun and exciting in the first place. If only Loverboy would heed its own advice, they might just be able to start that Rock ‘N’ Revival they so desperately want to see.

-            Peter Lindblad

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