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Ronny Lee - 'Original Retro' http://rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/b1/df/7e/ronny-lee-original-retro-72-1420837902.jpg Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     January 09, 2015    
 
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'Original Retro' does exactly what it says on the tin.

Though many labels and artists try to re-create pure eighties AOR records, few come close to actually achieving their aim. However, Illinois resident Ronny Lee has managed to do just that. As the title cunningly implies, 'Original Retro' is a ten-track odyssey through everything that was so wonderful about the hey-day of AOR, that convincingly sounds like it was recorded during the era. Sure, it's not the greatest quality sound you're likely to hear and does vary from song to song, which actually gives the album the feel of a collection of long-lost demos unearthed by a re-issues label. Even the picture of Lee on the cover conjures up memories of those old Gary Hughes and Marc Free solo albums, but after looking at the photos on his website I'm convinced it's actually Billy Ray Cyrus in disguise! Lee is a multi-instrumentalist, but I'm not sure just how many other contributors there are, particularly as a couple of tracks are recorded live.

Everything about Lee's voice, from his tone to his phrasing to his distinctly clear diction, brings to mind Dennis DeYoung, while there is also a big Styx influence in some of the more pompous keyboard sounds found within. But a huge portion of the songs feature some wonderfully catchy Journey-style piano melodies – just listen to the cascading piano run on the gloriously uplifting opener 'Straight To The Top'. Elsewhere, 'It's Been Too Long' is full of big vocal harmonies, 'Just One Night' is reminiscent of Toto, 'Easy Street' introduces a hint of West Coast, while 'Backstreets' is a great slow-burning mid-tempo number.

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It's not all fluffy AOR though, the album has its fair share of guitar-driven Rockers, one of the highlights being 'Long After Midnight' with some amazing solo spots, the cracking 'Black Limos & White Lines' is a huge powerful Rocker with an anthemic chorus and some distinctly Richie Sambora-sounding guitar runs (it just screams "eighties film soundtrack") and the live-recorded 'Sign Of The Times' is Hard-Rocking Journey meets REO Speedwagon with hints of, oddly enough, Elton John. That said, I think the one thing missing from the album is a big lighters-in-the-air power ballad.

Don't let the production criticism put you off because it doesn't spoil the listening pleasure at all, as 'Original Retro' does exactly what it says on the tin.

Ant Heeks

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