MiG Music 2022
Going for aorta instead of jugular, American AOR stalwarts bid farewell to their past to embrace the future with the help of a Foreigner guest.
Lips turn blue when things take a turn for the worse and nervousness sets in, which was exactly the case with DDRIVE when, on the verge of producing this group’s next album, tragedy struck and the New Yorkers’ warbler Phil Naro passed away from cancer. His vocals tracks preserved for posterity, the singer wished that guitarist Don Mancuso soldiered on and carried their legacy further; thus, LIPS TURN BLUE came to be, the name change a warranty of an updated line-up’s loyalty to melodic hard rock’s traditional values. As a result, the new ensemble’s eponymous debut is, in fact, the last-ever record of the old band – and, despite the underlying drama, it is highly exhilarating.
In due course, the platter will land on sadness, the sublime balladry of penultimate number “Life’s Crazy Ride” bringing tears to many an eye while bringing to a close what the sax-smeared “Crazy In Love” touches upon earlier, yet there’s a fabulous funk of “Just Push” that starts it all and lets the collective drag notes in style for the rhythm to thrill the listener. And there’s class in the quintet’s unleashing “Hey Bulldog” and showing their taste in covering heavy evergreens, but not before flaunting their a cappella harmonies to propel “Build My Castle” towards the riff-laden fantasy and and wrapping “Pray For Tomorrow” in stately country strum-and-ripple where Eric Bieber’s piano and Mike Mullane’s bass bolster and flesh out the six-string lace and tremulous vocals which are quite impressive on “Blood Moon” too.
However, if the infectiously sharp “Sit Up” offers arena-sized entertainment and “Better Than I Used To Be” refines the ensemble’s AOR choruses and instrumental parts, the resurrection of “Chain On Me” from the repertoire of BLACK SHEEP – the group Mancuso served in the ’70s alongside the pre-FOREIGNER Lou Gramm – reveals the depth of LTB’s approach, as the organ figures ground their sway and stomp with a lot of gusto. The legendary frontman is here as well, delivering “A Little Outside” – the album’s finale – supported by Phil’s backing, which may seem like a perfect homage to Naro… But then, the whole record has this air about it.
It’s the end and the new beginning.