With one of the finest voices the rock and metal genre has to offer, Johnny Gioeli has been enchanting audiences worldwide for a quarter of a century now. Whether it’s fronting Hardline, Axel Rudi Pell’s (ARP) band or mesmerising Sonic the Hedgehog fans as the voice of Crush 40, there’s little doubt that Gioeli delivers the goods whenever he steps up to the plate. However, for all his artistic endeavours, he has rarely opted to issue a record as a solo venture, which makes One Voice all the more intriguing.
Much of my familiarity with Gioeli is through his work with ARP. Despite being a guitar orientated act, ARP have done numerous ballads during his 20 year tenure, so I know how diverse and capable Gioeli is. Also knowing the sort of music Frontiers Records tends to specialise in, I had a fair idea of what I was going to get with One Voice.
For the first half at least, I got what I expected. The first six or so songs are based round an upbeat, melodic template, with softer verses gradually building to big, euphoric choruses. Although this makes the songs somewhat predictable, they are well executed; Gioeli’s expressive timbre enlightening some of the more pedestrian vocal hooks. Many of the vocal lines are reminiscent of some of Bon Jovi’s most recent mainstream excursions (Crush and Lost Highway were the two albums that came to my mind). I reckon some of these songs could be passed off as Bon Jovi penned tracks, such is the similarity in Gioeli’s cadence, intonation and the generally uplifting nature of the lyrics. Despite the lack of variety, all of these songs are pretty good, and with repeated listens the more subtle differences will become apparent.
“Hit Me Once, Hit Ya Twice” marks the point where the album becomes a little more daring. With a far heavier riff set and a thick, trundling bass line courtesy of Nik Mazzucconi, there’s a bouncy rock ‘n’ roll flavour here that’s absent elsewhere. Having spent much of the record coating the songs with pretty, glossy textures, Eric Gadrix is given the chance to show off his shredding skills; an opportunity he gleefully grabs with both hands as he gives his fretboard a workout. “Price We Pay” is a piano/acoustic based ballad, and I’m surprised it took until the eighth track for one to pop up. Gadrix is again the star player with some well phrased lead work, helping the song strike the emotional chord it’s yearning for. The final two songs veer closer to the framework of the early album tracks, but are more distinctive and less derivative sounding than before. Whilst the B-side doesn’t quite match the quality of the first half, Gioeli and co at least come out of their shell a little to mix things up, which I think helps the album in the grander scheme of things.
There aren’t really any surprises to be found on One Voice, but that doesn’t detract from what is a pretty enjoyable listen. It’s music made to lift spirits, and with its bright, vibrant production, huge choruses and pleasant mood, you’d have to say Johnny Gioeli has done exactly what he’s set out to do.
Highlights: “Drive”, “Mind Melt”, “Price We Pay”
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