Robert Berry - 'The Dividing Line'

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Robert Berry - 'The Dividing Line'

Doesn't give up its charms immediately and requires time and effort for the melodies to start to sink in.

Despite being relatively unknown, multi-instrumentalist Robert Berry has worked with some of the biggest names in the business in a career spanning over thirty years. His first recording band in the late 70’s were called Hush, but he went on to work with Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer in 3, replaced Steve Hackett in Steve Howe’s GTR and has also played with Sammy Hagar and Ambrosia, but even though this is his fifth solo album he’s probably better known in melodic rock circles for his three albums with Alliance, including the recent (rave-reviewed in these pages) ‘Road To Heaven’.

Listening to Berry’s solo stuff it’s not a million miles away from the straight American rock that Alliance specialise in, although he does seem to include his English progressive rock influences and the songs usually have more of a message. What’s most impressive though is that he plays all the instruments himself, the sole exception being the Alliance-like ‘A Life Worth Livin’ on which his bandmates Gary Pihl and David Lauser both guest. Mostly the material veers towards the upbeat pomp of Asia and/or Kansas, with Berry wrapping his rich voice around stirring epics like the multi-faceted ‘Listen To The People’ the complex ‘Life Is On Fire’ and the impressively majestic ‘Wait’, which if it weren’t for Robert’s distinctive voice could pass for a Magnum track.

There are simpler, more hard-hitting moments like the insistent title track and the great ballads ‘Faith’ and ‘I Gave You The Best Of Me’ - the latter was originally written for Ambrosia, and it sounds like it. Other great examples of pompy hard rock include the brilliant ‘This Life’, the atmospheric ‘Young Hearts’ and on the rocking ‘Can’t Let Go’ he even sounds like Rick Springfield.

Despite the number of other artists mentioned in this review Robert Berry has forged his own sound and delivered an impressive work with virtually zero outside help, and unlike other D.I.Y solo artists he has a great deal of skill on each instrument and considerable studio and production savvy, so it doesn’t sound overly programmed. My one word of warning is that ‘The Dividing Line’ doesn’t give up it’s charms immediately and requires time and effort for the melodies to start to sink in, but if you’re willing to give it time you’ll be well rewarded.

Phil Ashcroft

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