"Decades" (Frontiers Music SRL; 2021)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

Gary Hughes is the legendary voice behind the band Ten and has also released nine solo albums, including the two reviewed below which, as you can see, blew us away. Gary has been in the melodic rock business for thirty years and "Decades" is a double-disc celebration of that amazing career.

There's not much more to be said here. "Decades" contains 29 tracks from all throughout Gary's career. If you're not familiar with Gary Hughes, all you have to do is listen to this double-CD compilation and you'll get a fast and entertaining education that I'm sure will lead you to his other music (did I mention 14 albums with Ten and nine solo albums?) Gary's classic rock'n'roll voice is renowned throughout the world and "Decades" is the perfect primer for new listeners and a terrific collection for long-time fans.

The only reason "Decades" doesn't get a full four guitarsaw rating is that there will always be arguments on which tracks were included and which ones weren't. It happens with every "greatest hits" collection and I'm sure Gary's biggest fans are already arguing the finder points of why this particular song is included and that particular one is not.

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"Once and Future King: Part II" (Frontiers Music SRL; 2003)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

There really isn't much more to say about "Once and Future King Part II" that I didn't say about Part I. The fact is that this is really a two disc rock opera that should have been released together. It's virtually impossible to separate Part I and Part II and that's a good thing. They're both chapters of the same story and they're both told with the same vibrant brilliance.

The same group of musicians appears hereon (with a slightly different guest list, outlined below) and they perform with the same talent they displayed on the first CD. The songwriting is just as sophisticated and intense. Again, "Once and Future King" is a single rock'n'roll epic and both "Part I" and "Part II' are equally successful. In a way, "Once and Future King" reminds me of Peter Jackson's brilliant "Lord of the Rings" series. "Part I" was so incredible, you knew "Part II" couldn't possibly be. But it was, and the whole is even better than the sum of its parts.

As mentioned above, the guest list is slightly different than "Part 1" as follows:
DC Cooper - King Aelle
Gary Hughes - King Arthur
Lana Lane - Queen Guinivere
Doogie White - Mordred
Irene Jansen - Morgana
Bob Catley - Merlin
Sabine Elesbacher - Nimue
Sean Harris - Sir Galahad
Harry Hess - vocals on "Once and Future King" (epilogue)

I don't know if there are plans in the works, but I'm hoping that Frontiers is planning a boxed set of this incredible saga - I'll be the first in line to buy it! But don't wait for that. If you're a fan of melodic hard rock, then you've got to add "Once and Future King" to your collection today. It's the new standard by which all others will be measured.

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"Once and Future King: Part I" (Frontiers Music SRL; 2003)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

Truly great concept albums are few and far between, especially those in the hard rock / heavy metal arenas. If you, like me, think it's been too damn long since a classic concept album has hit the streets, fear not: Gary Hughes' "Once and Future King" nicely fills the void.

As one might gather, "Once and Future King" is the story of King Arthur, his Knights of the Round Table, Merlin the Magician, and, of course, the legendary sword Excalibur. The music tells the tale, both with sparkling lyrics and outstanding music. It's a modern rock opera that stands head and shoulders above all others and an epic extravaganza featuring a cast of superstars.

Hughes, lead vocalist for the sophisticated progressive/melodic hard rock band Ten, spent all of 2002 writing this sprawling, two-disc epic (unfortunately, as of this writing, both discs are only available separately) Hughes' inspiration, dedication and incredible talent shine through every moment of this project. "Once and Future King," using the rich musical weaving that Ten is famous for and sporting more musical guests than a Santana album, is written to tell a story with words and music and it does so in grand fashion. It's not just characters, storylines and action scenes that you'll discover when you listen to "Once and Future King," it's heroes, villains and the emotions that define what makes each one who they are.

Musically, "Once and Future King" is as rich and as intricate as any Ten album. The songs all feel complete and bigger than life, no matter whether they're all-out rockers or slower, ballad-style character studies. There's a reason for this: For the most part, the musicians behind Hughes and his guest stars are the members of Ten. 

Speaking of guest stars, appearing on this first CD are:
Gary Hughes as King Arthur
Lana Lane as Queen Guinevere
Danny Vaughn as Lancelot
Bob Catley as Merlin
Irene Jansen as Morgana
Sean Harris as Sir Galahad
Damian Wilson provides vocals on "Excalibur."

If you're a fan of melodic hard rock, you've got to hear "Once and Future King" as soon as possible.

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Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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Copyright 2021 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.