Friday, 18 November 2016

Tyketto's 'Reach' - Album Review

As far as American AOR goes, Tyketto are a bit of a cult band. They were formed in 1987, and their debut album Don't Come Easy was released in 1990, so they missed the boat somewhat. The 1980s was a time where melodic music dominated the rock and metal worlds. Hair metal and AOR ruled the waves, and there were plenty of bands coming out towards the end of the decade, or in the early part of the 1990s, who would have been bigger and more successful if they had been around a few years earlier. Tyketto are one of those bands, and the big backlash against 1980s music with the grunge movement certainly scuppered any change they had for success. Their record label at the time, Geffen, would not release their second album (no loyalty in the music industry, just an attempt to stay 'on trend') and it was eventually released in 1994 as Strength in Numbers via another label. Frontman Danny Vaughn left the band the following year, and Tyketto eventually came to an end in 1996. Various reunions happened throughout the early 2000s, but it was not until 2008 that Tyketto was back together properly as a touring unit. By 2012, when all four of the band's original members were back in tow, it was time for new music. The band's fourth album, Dig in Deep, was released in that year, and it felt like no time had passed since Strength in Numbers (the band's third album, 1995's Shine that featured future Journey frontman Steve Augeri, had a bluesier, rawer sound). Vaughn's voice had not changed at all, and the band's melodic hard rock sound sounded as fresh as ever. The band has been on tour fairly regularly ever since and are probably as popular as they ever have been. Four years on from Dig in Deep, the world is ready for another Tyketto album. Reach has been in the work for a while, and sees Tyketto sounding as good as ever. The band has been in transition somewhat over the past few years, with guitarist Chris Green (Furyon; Pride) replacing original member Brooke St. James in 2014. Bassist Chris Childs (Thunder; The Union) filled in for Jimi Kennedy for a few shows when the latter had some family problems to deal with, and has since become a permanent member of the band. He plays with Vaughn in an Eagles tribute band too, so there is existing chemistry between the two. Keyboardist Ged Rylands (Ten) who, despite having played live with the band for a few years, makes his debut on a Tyketto recording too, and therefore marks the band's recorded debut as a five-piece. Green, Childs, and Rylands join Vaughn and founding drummer Michael Clayton in what could be the most explosive Tyketto line-up yet. Green in particular has been a revelation since joining the band two years ago, and has already formed a productive songwriting team with Vaughn and Clayton. Tyketto have not taken any big risks with this album, but the strong production and catchy songwriting makes this another excellent entry in their discography.

The album opens in a flurry of keyboards as the anthemic title track gets underway. Green makes his mark instantly with a soaring guitar lead, that has more than a hint of John Petrucci's phrasing about it, and plenty of bluesy bursts throughout. This song is all about Vaughn however, and is driven by his strong vocal melodies. His voice does not sound aged at all, and his very slight country twang, that brings to mind the late Glenn Frey at times, is infectious. His acoustic guitar playing helps to bulk out many of the songs on this album too, and Reach emphasises this during the verses, while Green plays more a supporting role with subtle leads. The chorus is simple, but the strong vocal harmonies help to make it stand out while Vaughn's heartfelt lyrics and performance dominates. The song is classic Tyketto, and shows the new line-up has already bedded in well together. Big Money is more in-your-face, with a great bouncy guitar riff that sits above a great groove laid down by the rhythm section. The verses are bass-heavy, with Childs' bassline ringing out strongly, before the strident chorus comes in with more than a hint of hair metal. It sounds like something Mötley Crüe might have come up with for one of their more melodic albums. This is exemplified with a slightly sleazy guitar riff and some well-placed gang vocals which really help the song to hit home. Kick Like a Mule is another rawer piece of rock 'n' roll, that opens with a rolling drum beat and a strong riff to match. Again the verses have very dominant basslines, but it is Clayton's drums that really drive the song. They are high in the mix, and the variation in beats and styles help to keep the song interesting. The song's solo is also very explosive, and shows what Green brings to the band. He is more of a shredder than St. James ever was, and brings some fresh energy to these more rocky numbers. After a couple of harder rock numbers, Circle the Wagons comes along and calms everything down. The song is a classy power ballad, with layers of retro keyboard sounds, plenty of Vaughn's acoustic guitar, and some great understated lead guitar playing. The chorus is easily the best of the album's so far, with Vaughn's melodies really standing out as Rylands creates an almost orchestral backing with is keyboards. There is a strong instrumental section part-way through too, which starts off as a slow guitar solo, before Rylands takes over with some retro organ fills, before Green completes things with another solo that speeds up to a fast crescendo. Those who want something akin to the band's debut album need to look no further than I Need it Now, which has a fantastic soaring guitar opening before a hard rocking verse kicks in with a great riff and a confident vocal performance. Childs plays excellent throughout, with lots of cheeky bass leads that cut through occasionally and provide a great contrast to Green's guitar playing. The chorus is also very catchy, with Vaughn sounding grittier than usual, with plenty of harmony vocals to back him up. Even the piano-led bridge section with the gospel-like backing vocals has some bite to it, and helps the song to become one of the album's most memorable. Tearing Down the Sky has a bit of a Sammy Hagar-era Van Halen vibe throughout, with some excellent guitar riffing and plenty of explosive leads. The verses are a bit calmer, with chiming rhythm guitars, but the choruses are strong with expressive vocals and excellent riffs. The song's guitar solo is fantastic too, with virtuoso guitar playing.  

Letting Go is another strong ballad, dominated by Vaughn's beautiful singing and acoustic guitar playing. AOR and melodic rock bands are usually known for writing a lot of ballads, and Tyketto have always written good ones. Vaughn's time with his Eagles tribute band has probably helped him hone his ballad-singing skills, and they show here with an excellent vocal performance throughout. There is little other instrumentation here, although Green does add a few distorted guitar chords occasionally to add a bit of atmosphere, and he also plays an emotional solo backed only by the acoustic guitar chords. The final chorus sees the whole band join in however, which helps the song to end strongly and provides a great contrast to the more mellow first part. With a slightly sleazy, bluesy hard rock riff, that sounds a bit like Buckcherry, The Fastest Man Alive is packed full of energy. It is not a particularly fast song, but the groove created by the song's riff is infectious and the chorus is one that is made to be heard. The verses are great too, with some heavy country-esque guitar patterns underpinned by a great bassline. This is one of my favourite songs on the album because of the strong 1980s hard rock vibe throughout, and the great neo-classic shredded solo. You cannot help but sing along with the chorus too, and this is sure to be an earworm for many who hear this album. Despite opening with a slightly dark-sounding clean guitar melody, Remember My Name is another strong upbeat piece of hard rock. The song has a bit more of a modern vibe this time however, with more bullish guitar riffing and less of a 'sheen' on the chorus. The way the opening darker guitar section keeps getting repeated helps to reinforce that more modern vibe throughout, and definitely makes the song stand out from the rest. The darker sounds actually suits Tyketto quite well, and shows a bit of a different side to the band's songwriting. Sparks Will Fly actually sounds like it would have fitted perfectly on Strength in Numbers back in 1994. That album had a tougher overall sound than Don't Come Easy, and this song is extremely guitar-focused with some excellent riffing from Green and less of Rylands' keyboard layers. That being said, the chorus is still a melodic feast with plenty of vocal harmonies and Vaughn's acoustic guitar chords cutting through the mix for extra warmth. Some of Green's best riffing on this album are found in this song, and he has already cemented himself as a vital member of the band. Scream is the album's final ballad, and is a showcase for Rylands' playing. Keyboards have never been a big part of Tyketto's music, usually providing a background supporting role, but here they dominate. His big piano melodies form the song's backbone, and are the perfect backing for Vaughn's vocals. The rest of the band do help out on the choruses, which help to bulk them out, but Rylands' playing is still the focus. Only an excellent guitar solo can change the listener's focus! The final song The Run that mixes acoustic sections with harder rock to create a great closing number. The song is constantly upbeat, from Vaughn's aggressive acoustic guitar playing early on, to Green's chunky power chord riffing later on. Like the album's opening song, The Run is classic Tyketto and contains everything that makes the band so great and ends the album on a high. Overall, Reach is a great album from one of the most underrated bands in the melodic rock world. There are no real weak links on here, with each song having something memorable about it.

The album was released on 14th October 2016 via Frontiers Records. Below is the band's promotional video for Reach.

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