ALBUM REVIEW: Harem Scarem – United

Frontiers music - May 12th 2017

Harry Hess and Pete Lesperence’s Harem Scarem are point blank one of the most underappreciated Rock bands ever to walk the face of the planet, debuting in 1991 a month before Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ didn’t really give them a chance of hitting the highs but despite that Canada’s finest put out some damned good albums.

The first two tracks here ‘United’ and ‘Here Today Gone Tomorrow’ are just what you want – slick, moving melodic rock, incredible memories huge hooks and vocals that few can match. It’s a breathtaking opening gambit.

Track 3 ‘Gravity’ starts off a little quirky musically, almost White Stripsey, and for a moment you wonder if, God-forbid, we’re going to get anything modern! Thankfully you close your eyes and you realise this wonderful construction is almost Queen-like in its beauty and Hess’ Freddie-like phrasing – its simply wonderful.

‘Sinking Ship’ adds another set of soaring melodies before the simple Beatles-via-Enuff Z’Nuff ballad ‘One of Life’s Mysteries’ a song that could have graced any late eighties album as the requisite ‘Power Ballad’.

The relentless drive of ‘No Regrets’ gets back to the trademark sound with hints of vintage Def Leppard for good measure it’s yet another winner on an album that seems resolutely flawless.

‘Bite the Bullet’ is a little more laid back, with sparse guitar lines and an almost Celtic vibe to the chorus, its a little different, a little more sparsely produced, a little bluesier but it more than makes muster. ‘Things I know’ that follows like the opener takes a while to get going, but when the chorus hits you can take it to the bank, again though its a little groovier, a little more spacious and open – then man that chorus hits again!

You could even argue that they save the best till last – there’s that Queen influence coming through again in the vocal phrasing on ‘The Sky Is Falling’ which is the sort of song that if someone asks you why you love Melodic Rock you could simply play it to them. It’s a gentler song like ‘Heaven and Earth’ that follows and its in this terrain that Harem Scarem have always excelled – they can do the pacey rockers, they can nail the ballads but no one does mid-paced AOR like these guys.

The final track ‘Indestructible’ starts with a sparse lonesome cowboy guitar threaded through a wonderfully plaintive vocal from Hess before the build starts the pace ups, the guitars flood in and the harmonies sweep you up, its like a flash flood of a song that gathers you up and points you skyward. Huge, uplifting and sweet as sugar syrup, Harem Scarem at their best.

I’m so glad these guys got back together again – this feels like the best music of their career and 30 years in that’s an incredible feat. I can’t believe that this will not be my Melodic release of the year and we’ve only a third of the way in.

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