SUPER EUROBEAT VOL. 211 - Complete review
01. HOTBLADE / LEGENDARY HEART (SEB Version)
What better way to start off the new Super Eurobeat decade with a bang than with a bit of male SCP aggression? This track has been on International iTunes for a while now, but its inclusion here sees its first official Japanese release. For me, this track highlights everything that is great about SCP. We have the modern synth instrumentation - sharp, brassy synth leads teams with crisp bass sounds and dreamy background layers. We also have the really strong vocals that are delivered with the kind of vigour that used to see Go 2 at the very top of the Eurobeat tree. For me, melodies are the key to a monster hit, and this track has sweet melodies in abundance. My particular highlight is the gradual ascension in the second half of the bridge section, when the bass line becomes more urgent and the other synths drop out - a perfect tension builder to the chorus! The synth hook itself reminds me a lot of late 90's/early 00's dance sounds that came out of genres such as Spanish Makina. Having already bought the SCP Eurobeat Version from iTunes, I was a little disappointed to hear the unique little drum bashing intro had been taken out in favour of a more standardised "middle-8" style intro - there was no reason in my mind to change it at all. But that aside, this track is a perfect introduction to a new SEB decade, and it sees SCP back towards the top of the heap where they belong.
Score: 9.75/10 (the regular intro would have made this a 10/10)
02. DEJO & BON / WHEELPOWER & GO!
Wow, talk about a bad-ass guitar solo!! And we're only at the start of the intro! I really wish Sinclaire would stick to this more aggressive masculine style as it suits his production skills far more than the watery female tracks. When the beat drops here, and the guitar bounces angrily along with the bass and kick drum, there is a real primal energy about this track and it never fails to draw me in and want to hear more. When the trademark Sinclaire synths spark into life, we are in slightly more familiar territory, but the raw power and energy represented in the beats and background guitars are never far away. Vocally, you could never claim that the Sinclaire staff could ever compete technically with the SCP or Dima vocalists, but what they do know is how to deliver a killer melody. I don't actually see why this was made into a duet, as there is really not any need for two voices in this track - Bon could have managed perfectly well on his own (for me, the track suits his style slightly better). During the middle section, we are treated to yet another guitar solo that is a treat to our ears - especially when you consider the lack of good ones from recent SEB albums. By the end of the track, I am ready to take this joyride all over again - it really is an adrenaline-fuelled treat!
03. VICKY VALE / SUNDAY MORNING
The melancholy in the guitar wails during this intro are a nod to the pain and angst in the lyrics, but what surprises me is that the vast majority of the song doesn't quite wallow in its own depression as much. In fact, the vocals are sprightly and full of life, the beats and instrumentation suggest a far happier subject matter and even the raspy synth hook sounds like it has been taken from a song about happiness and love. Since I never picked up a copy of Best of Nonstop Eurobeat 2009, I'd never heard this track before this album's release, and so it still has a fresh appeal to me. Clara's vocals haven't aged at all, and I think this is one of the more commercially-appealing melodies that she has performed. I can even picture a music video for this track in my head with her starting in her apartment, getting bored, taking to the streets with her girlfriends and basically tearing up the town with her killer vocals and dance moves. The main problem that I have with extended Delta productions nowadays - and this has only really become a major issue to me since I bought Eurobeat Master Vol. 21 online - is that the structure is more or less identical for every single song. SCP is pushing the boundaries with song structures (albeit shortening them massively as well), but Delta seems stuck in a cookie-cutter phase where every song they produce seems to follow the same set pattern. When they sound this catchy and melodically sound, it's perhaps not a massive issue, but it does also suggest that a bit more creativity wouldn't go amiss...
04. FRANCIS COOPER / CHERRY LIPS
Label: Hi-NRG Attack
I am a very big supporter of Hi-NRG Attack's new slower direction, as I feel that finally the melodies and songwriting are taking priority over the beats, power and crazy synths (which can be good in small doses, but get old pretty quickly too). This track continues their run of hits with another absolutely storming Italo-style anthem. The grunting guitar bursts in the intro really get my head bopping from the word go, and I can just feel the power and energy flowing from the speakers in to my ears and right through my body. The arps and synth hits combine with the rich saw lead to create an intoxicating blend of rich melodies, and I'm in heaven before the first synth hook is even over. The vocals are delivered in a more natural tone than we've been used to in old Hi-NRG Attack productions, and I just can't get over the difference that this makes to the effectiveness of the song. I'm even considering going back through the label's back catalogue and slowing down the tracks to see if they all sound just as rich and dynamic as this. The ever-present guitar roaring in the background of this song as well as the rumbling bass gives everything a very solid grounding, and they contrast nicely with the lighter vocals and pianos. One sound that has taken a while for me to come around to is that bell synth during the bridge and chorus that doesn't sound quite in tune with the rest of the song. Still, I can't dock points for that when the rest of the production is just so spectacular. More please!!
05. JAY LEHR / FALLIN' IN LOVE AGAIN (Fashion Version)
Before this track was announced in the track list of Super Eurobeat 211, I was only aware of the SCP Eurobeat Version on iTunes which is of course a little bit faster with more synth hits and effects to make the whole thing more..."whooshy". But I reckon this is one of the few occasions where I have found a Eurobeat remix to actually suit a song far better than the "original" version. Stylistically, this is very much in the same vein as the Ace track "Wait For You" - the slower italo-disco style beats and more twinkly and sparkly synths create a much softer feel that SCP's more aggressive synth attacks used in their Eurobeat versions. Jay's vocals sound very much at home in this setting - I've never been the biggest fan of his tone if I'm honest, but here he sounds very settled with the music, especially with the strong harmonies that run throughout the chorus. While the overall song is painfully short - I just find myself properly getting in to it when the final 8 measures being - melodically, the verse and bridge section remind me a lot of the commercial 80's tracks from the likes of Jason Donovan at Stock, Aitken & Waterman. I guess that's the key to this tracks success - it treads the line between more commercial 80's sounds and melodies that the general public as a whole could relate to while style having enough in there for the Italo purists. It's hard to think of a time when Jay has sounded more contented - he's definitely established himself at the forefront of the labels future success.
06. DAVE RODGERS / THE HOUSE OF FIRE
Label: Sun Fire
The ominous and threatening loops during the intro to this track and the "We Will Rock You"-style drum beat really sets you up for a raw and powerful musical experience, and to a certain degree, that's exactly what Dave Rodgers delivers! This track is easily one of the best Sun Fire productions to date, but only because it borrows so much for the styles and sounds of the A-Beat C era. The main synth hook reminds me so much of Mega NRG Man's hit from the early 100's "Grand Prix", while I also find myself singing the chorus of Dave's hit from the 160's "El Dorado" as soon as the chorus of this track kicks in. I'm not saying that these tracks have been blatantly re-hashed in this song, but it sounds to me like a decent homage to their styles and melodies. Vocally, Dave hasn't sounded majorly interested over recent releases, but that all changes with a snarling yet expertly controlled performance here - this is him at his very best. The amazing job that is done by the production and guitars even makes me forgive a lot of the new percussion and bass sounds that Sun Fire insists in using - that digi bass in particular needs to go sooner rather than later. I guess I've been waiting for a sign that the previous genius that A-Beat C could produce hadn't vanished with the name change, and this track - while not completely there yet - has proven that Mr. Rodgers still has it shed loads!!
07. LILLY / I BELIEVE IN MIRACLE
Label: Hi-NRG Attack
This track has taken a while to get me in the groove that it's playing, but I feel like I may gradually be warming to it. The deep kick drum and slap bass during the intro sound fairly goofy, and it's all a bit minimalistic for my liking. The piano groove is cool - reminds me of 90's piano house - and when the galloping bassline also drops in to the mix we are finally in a more familiar style. One of the main issues I have with this track is that it sounds like two or three different tracks spliced together. The very immediate sound of the saw lead doesn't quite marry in with the deep house grooves of the intro for example. And the chorus of this track is also a bit of a sticky point for me, as it just seems to start without any real special build-up. The bridge section seems to flow from the verse with no real change, and this is carried on in to the chorus without so much as a beat drop or significant change in the vocal intensity or melodic range. I can pick out various production quirks that I do like - the way the track drops out at the end of the chorus sometimes to allow the guitar growl into the hook; the fact that we get to enjoy the more natural tone of the vocals rather than pitched-up helium style is also nice. However, melodically and stylistically this plays everything a bit safe for me and I don't believe that it can compete with the best on this album despite its plus points.
08. SPEEDOGANG - JAILHOUSE ROCK
Oh dear...where has this album gone so badly wrong that it needs such a cheesy dance remake of a fairly sub-par Elvis track? Seriously, this is painful. Even reviewing it in the context of the Speed genre - which I should do really since it doesn't really belong on a Eurobeat album - it lacks the raw attack of the very best Speed compositions. The awful way that the bass line melody is mirrored by the muted saw synths in the chorus gives the whole song a really horrible contrived feeling like it has been made for a Saturday night light entertainment show or a variety show on a cruise ship. The vocals are just awful - the King himself will be turning in his grave hearing these. There is no passion or conviction in the delivery - it's all just a really bad caricature of what Elvis did. I thank the lord that this track is under 4 minutes, as I couldn't really take any more of it. Saifam need some major inspiration and fast, as if they are just going to fob us off with cheap (and poorly executed) cover versions that don't really belong for the whole decade, I'm going to get pretty irritated very quickly!
09. DESTINEE - MAKE ME WONDER
Label: Dima Music
Destinee is one of the very best vocalists to appear on to the Eurobeat scene in a long time, and that's why I was so bitterly disappointed that she was given such a dull and banal debut song as "Wonderwoman Dream". Thankfully, Dima have sprung in to action to right that wrong with her second track - and what we have is a true masterclass in how to create and perform a modern aishu track. The softness of the guitar-led synth hook, the unique rise and fall of the vocal melodies and of course the ever reliable Dima production style all come together in an aural feast that is a joy to play. The Far-Eastern style sounds are clearly influenced by Dima's studio out in Thailand, and the exotic feeling of the song is another thing that really raises it above the crowd for me. The absolute icing on the cake for me comes in the very last measure of the chorus section - those two swift chord changes that lift the melody from the chorus to the synth hook with such a feeling of joy and progression is just awesome! I couldn't play that section over and over and never tire of it. I cannot fault a single thing about this song at all - from start to finish, it wraps me in a warm and silky blanket that pleases my emotions as well as my ears and I will now be anticipating every Destinee song from now on with baited breath!
10. DAVID DIMA - DON'T WANNA BE A SURVIVOR
Label: Dima Music
Oh wow, Dima is completely on fire on this album!! The vocals are all to familiar on this track, so it's up to the song itself to give us that unique spark that sets it apart. From the very start, those deep growling synth rasps set the scene for a fairly adrenaline-fuelled ride, but surprisingly the main synth hook sounds pretty light. Despite Dima's vocals having that same style as they always have, they somehow sound a little more youthful and have a bit more purpose in this track. The vocal melodies are probably a big help in this - from the soaring bridge section with the "bang bang" hits to the up and down leaps in the verse, this is a very well-written track. I adore the spacey style middle section as well - it sounds like a NASA broadcast to outer-space at one point - and when the chorus eventually comes back for one last reprise, I love the way the whole backing drops as Dima sings "be a survivor", like he's really nailing that message home. The only down point for me was when the song ended, and that's not just because I loved it so much! The ending just seems to happen - the beat stops; there is a bit of vocal reverb, but aside from that there is nothing to nicely tie up the song and give it a proper conclusion. Perhaps stylistically that's what Dima intended as we will never know if he ever became a survivor or not (like those really annoying cliffhangers in TV shows!) but I'd personally have just loved for the song to have been given a proper explosive ending. Still, I guess it leaves the door open for Don't Wanna Be A Survivor part 2...
11. SARAH - ALOHA-OE UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN
Label: Dima Music
Seriously, have I landed in an episode of the Mickey Mouse Club after all the cast and kids have been given way too many sweets? This production just sounds way to sickly sweet, with far too much cheese even for me. Again Saifam have gone down the road of trying to adapt one of its other thousands of sub-genres to fit in to the Super Eurobeat albums but with disastrous consequences. The song itself is just ugly and really forgetful - like a Hawaiian Sunday School hymn that's been tarted up by the producers of so many cheesy faceless 90's Eurodance groups. The vocals do nothing for me - they are there and that's about all that can be said. I just can't describe strongly enough how much I hate this song - I will skip it within a second of my iPod selecting it in a random playlist and I wish it a quick and immediate journey into Eurobeat oblivion...
12. GARCON - GOGO THE NIGHT
Label: Hi-NRG Attack
This is clearly the slowest track on the album, and for me it actually sounds like it might be just a tad too slow. There are many fans in the Eurobeat community at the moment who are disillusioned by this new direction taken by Hi-NRG Attack and a slow BPM track is instantly a big negative point before they've even listened to the melodies etc. Anyway, the main meat of this track is another galloping bass anthem with heavy guitar power chords throughout. There are a couple of quirks in the production that don't really work as well for me as other tracks - for example, the way the bass keeps dropping out every 3rd beat is a bit odd and leaves things feeling a little unfinished. I'm also not crazy about the vocal tone used especially in the verses and bridge sections as they sound a bit too goofy for my liking. Having said that, I did really enjoy the intro - there was a deep trance-inspired sound to those arps and especially when the beat kicked in with the higher-pitched accents, I could see a nightclub with loads of clubbers raising their hands and bouncing along to the beat. But the fact remains that I don't feel that this track is as refined or well written as the others. They just don't hook me in like other melodies do, and I don't feel like the overall production comes together to create a cohesive soundscape. Still, it's catchy and has a good beat if nothing else.
13. FUTURA - LONELY
Label: Sun Fire
I don't mean to sound dismissive or overly negative here, but I'm still struggling to work out what exactly Futura does at Sun Fire that is so amazing? I really enjoyed Dance In My Town, but let's face it that was more down to Pasquini's production skills and the fact that he was pretty much the driving force behind the song. Any song that Futura has sung so far has seemed watery and weak to me, and the production side of things still sounds fairly amateur compared to the other established names. Here, we are greeted with a fairly odd middle-Eastern style intro with random synth hits, and that's pretty much it until the main hook kicks in. Again, everything is pretty soft, muted and twinkly and that just switches me off, especially when you don't have a really strong vocalist on the mike driving the song forward. My first impression of this song was that it was a middle-of-the-road dance-pop B-side by the likes of Ann Lee, and I really haven't changed my opinion. The chorus is vaguely catchy, but when even Futura's vocals are straining at singing such a simple melody, I call in to question how she can really continue to be the leading female at Sun Fire as she currently seems to be. She has a certain degree of song-writing skill, but on the evidence of this weak offering I would rather see her leaving the production side of things up to Dave and maybe employing a bit more of Mickey B. to do vocals.
14. KEN LASZLO feat. DOMINO - LET'S GET IT DONE TONIGHT
Label: Go-Go's Music
This one really doesn't mess around much with fancy, complex intros - it's pretty much straight down to the business from the get-go. More than any other song I've heard on Super Eurobeat, this one really proves the evolution of the genre from disco as it sounds like a modern day disco track! From the vocals to the synths used, everything screams flares and platform shoes to me. The subtle chord changes in the chorus also give me the disco vibe, and I love the more bass-heavy chorus sections that seem to pay homage to the Almighty dance tracks from the 1990's (they were a label who could do 90's disco like no other!) There is very little of Domino in this track to be honest, but that's okay as Ken does a sterling job on his own. His unique vocal tone sits perfectly with this more mellow style from Go-Go's, but I'm delighted to hear that they have also included a traditional style synth sound for the main hook as it brings the disco vibe right into the 21st Century. Other subtle quirks in the production, such as the high string accents during the verses and the way the music in the 1st chorus completely drops out with just a piano arpeggio accompanying the vocal, really make this track come to life. The tom hits and castanet clicks are things that weren't as immediate to me on the first listening either, but they are now coming to the forefront after a few listens to enrich the overall production. A great new direction for Go-Go's, but I wouldn't want to see them abandon their speedier styles in favour of this permanently.
15. JAGER feat. ANDREA MARTONGELLI - I WON'T FALL APART (Rock Power Version)
I was so happy to see this bonus remix including in this release as not only is it by far the best version of I Won't Fall Apart, but it also blows every other Rock Version to have featured on the past releases of Super Eurobeat completely out of the water. The mix name is so accurate - this is pure Rock Power at its very best, but what I particularly love about it is the fact that it still uses that 4/4 kick drum during the chorus and the off-beat accents to give the impression of a rock dance beat behind all of the guitars and testosterone. Jager's vocals sound right at home in this setting for me, and the energy is maintained right to the very end. What a fantastic remix and a great way to bring that song back to life!
TOP 3 OVERALL:
1st - FRANCIS COOPER / CHERRY LIPS
2nd - DESTINEE / MAKE ME WONDER
3rd - DAVID DIMA / DON'T WANNA BE A SURVIVOR
BOTTOM 3 OVERALL:
15th - SARAH / ALOHA-OE UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN
14th - SPEEDOGANG / JAILHOUSE ROCK
13th - FUTURA / LONELY
4th - HOTBLADE / LEGENDARY HEART
5th - DEJO & BON / WHEELPOWER & GO!
This is a very solid album with a number of standout performances that really get the 210's off to a great start! Hi-NRG Attack is sticking to the new slower style, but while Cherry Lips pulls this off perfectly, I feel that the other two offerings don't quite reach the same dizzying heights. SCP were strong, and a special mention has to go to Hotblade for providing the perfect blast of Eurobeat energy to kick off the new Super Eurobeat decade (what a turnaround from the fairly banal "Plastic"!) Dima is the other star with both Destinee and Mr. Dima himself shining in true Eurobeat masterpieces - it's just a shame that Sun Fire couldn't quite manage to keep the standard as high for Lonely. And as for Saifam, I'm just ignoring the fact that they were even on this CD - what a waste of 8 minutes of disc space!!
Total score: 8.5/10