"Acoustic Journey" (RV Records; 2005)
Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton
I always get a bit nervous when an artist or group does something with "acoustic" in the title. I was never a big fan of the whole unplugged thing, and I think too many bands went way too far with the concept. Bombastic rock anthems like KISS's "Rock and Roll All Nite" and Dokken's "Into the Fire" need the loud electric guitars to sound their best.
So it was with some trepidation that I slid "Acoustic Journey," the new CD by AOR legend Robert Valdes, into my CD player. Was this going to be yet another tired re-tread of his previous music? Would it be another failed attempt by an artist best known for one type of music trying another?
Thankfully, it was none of those things (although there is one acoustic version of a track from his previous CD and a couple of cover songs of other bands). The best description of the music found on "Acoustic Journey" is the CD's title. Listening to the CD, one can imagine Valdes reaching out as he explores this new world and finds what works best. The songs are soulful, emotional and very personal tunes that were written and arranged to be performed acoustically. Most of the songs appear to have been written for family members. Perhaps it was this intimacy that led to the CD's amazing ability to communicate so clearly with its audience.
I hesitate to say that Valdes is "experimenting" here because nothing on "Acoustic Journey" sounds like an experiment. "Exploring" is a much better word. Everything here is solidly written, perfectly performed and crisply produced. It's the best kind of vanity project - the kind where the artist sets out to discover something and finds it utterly and completely. Throughout, Valdes's guitar work is impressive, bringing to mind the crystal sound of Pink Floyd's "Animals" (although not the quirkiness). And track #9, an instrumental entitled "Spanish Nights," will floor you with its flamenco speed and clarity.
Inspirational, touching and - perhaps most importantly - entertaining throughout, Robert Valdes's "Acoustic Journey" is just the kind of album you want to reach for when you need a break from the headbanging and are looking for something a little more intimate.
For more information, please visit www.acousticjourney.com or www.robertvaldes.com.
"Out of the Shadows" (RV Records; 2003)
Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton
There's a freshness to Robert Valdes's 80s style pop metal that makes his new CD, "Out of the Shadows" (his first in five years) stand out from the other bands that continue to go back to that particular musical well. Listening to this CD, you'll think that the 80s never went away ... and you'll be glad they didn't.
In our interview with Valdes (click here to read it), he states, "... this is the genre of music I grew up listening to, it is the type of music that I write, record and like to listen to. You see, I make the kind of music that I enjoy listening to as a fan." Listening to "Out of the Shadows," you'll be pleased to hear the chunky guitars, hook-ridden choruses, blistering guitar leads and crystal clear vocals. You'll always be surprised, as we were, to discover that all of the music on this CD comes directly from Valdes. That's right - he not only wrote and produced the CD, he performed every instrument hereon.
"Out of the Shadows" speaks volumes of its inspirations. One can hear a little KISS here, a little Stryper there, perhaps a little Poison there. Then there are trickles of Satriani, Bon Jovi, and Van Halen. But these influences are all filtered through Valdes's musical self-expression, making "Out of the Shadows" truly his alone.
The CD features plenty of solid rockers ("Face the Truth," "I Want Your Love," the party-attitude "Close To You,") and soothing "ballads" ("Hypnotized" and the instrumental "Alone in the Dark"). One song, "Love Me or Leave Me," even starts out a little like a Miami Vice theme (but then folds into some Ozzy-style heavy rock). "Terror In the Sky" is a sober, somber track inspired by 9/11. Its place - smack in the middle of the CD - is perfect sequencing.
But the main thing that strikes you about "Out of the Shadows" is Valdes's feeling of freedom. Here's a guy who's been rocking for a long time but who has had to step back for awhile in order to earn a living. Now, with that part of his life secure, he goes back into the recording studio and records exactly the record he wants to record - not something that record executives tell him will sell, not something that his fellow bandmembers think he should alter - just exactly what he wants to communicate. That freedom comes across clearly in "Out of the Shadows," and the listener can't help but envy and admire Valdes's dedication and well-earned creative liberty.
For more information, check out http://www.robertvaldes.com.
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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