Hartmann - 'Hands On The Wheel' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     September 01, 2018    
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I believe this to be the finest Hartmann release to date.

'Hands On The Wheel' is the seventh release (since their 2005 debut) by Hartmann, the solo vehicle for guitarist/song-writer Oliver Hartmann. He is joined on this outing by Mario Reck (guitar), Armin Donderer (bass), Markus Kullman (drums) and guest keyboardist Jimmy Kresc. The album is once again co-produced by Sascha Paeth who is best known for his work with Avantasia, Kamelot and Beyond The Black.

This is a much rockier album of twelve tracks with a harder edge than the most recent Hartmann releases, however, it still retains the melodic element. The opening track, 'Don't Walk Back Down', has light melodic verses, but really rocks out on the chorus, with the drums getting a serious pounding and a real guitar workout for the solo. 'Your Best Excuse' soon follows and it ups the pace with some hard riffing and a pounding rhythm as well as a good hook, yet once again, this song still displays that melodic facet. 'Cold As Stone' is up next and it opens with a guitar riff on full reverb, which slowly builds as the rest of the instruments join in; the chorus has a real catchy vocal hook and the keyboards add to the fullness of the sound.

Three songs in and you would think that it couldn't get any better. Then 'Simple Man' starts with a simple three-chord riff before recorder/pipes and violin join in to play the main hook/refrain, which is then mirrored by the lead guitar. The backing soon drops to a lower level to let the vocals take the lead – cue guest vocalist Eric Martin. This is an excellent song that reminded me lyrically of Tony Carey's 'A Fine Fine Day' and musically of The Hooters due to the Celtic/Folk influence of guest Irish Folk musicians The Vardigans.

'The Harder They Come' is a Led Zeppelin-styled bluesy Rock track with plenty of bass drum and keyboards filling out the sound. There are two light ballads with some fine acoustic guitar work in 'Soulmates' and 'Heart Of Gold', and a fine power ballad in 'The Sky Is Falling'. The remaining album tracks are decent enough Rock songs that suffer from the quality of the initial tracks.

With the addition of the harder edge, while still retaining great hooks and melodies, I believe this to be the finest Hartmann release to date. The album deserves to do well and the first four songs are guaranteed to blow your socks off!

Chris Mee

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