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Mike Florio

Vanity Rock

Review by Gary Hill

This is quite an intriguing album. It has a range of sounds from mainstream AOR rock leaning on the arena side to pure symphonic prog and fusion. Even the cuts that are the most mainstream still have some prog in them. While I'm not completely enamored with all the vocal performances here, they are all effective and some really shine. The songwriting and instrumental work is the real winner on this thing, though. There are a number guests here, most notably Randy George who plays bass on the closer.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2019  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
He Won't Last
Metal and prog seem to merge on this killer rocker. It has a lot of 1970s sound. The fast paced jams are pure prog rock. The shifts and changes are so cool.        The instrumental break in the second half of the tune is a real prog powerhouse. It is purely on fire. While this cut is decidedly guitar oriented, the keyboards really shine, too.
Doldrums

I love the mellower, slower moving concept of this cut. There are parts of this that make me think of Todd Rundgren to a large degree. The song has a stronger vocal arrangement than the opener did. That doesn't mean the music takes a back seat, though. This has some powerhouse instrumental work. It's a pretty amazing piece of music, really.

Next Sunny Day
With a lot of blues in the mix, this is a killer jazz romp. I love the guitar soloing later in the piece, but the whole track just oozes "cool."       
Keep Me Going
The keyboard-laden arrangement that opens this makes me think of both Genesis and ELP. As the vocals join there is a bit of Frank Zappa meets fusion groove. There is plenty of symphonic prog built into this beast. It's not as immediately alluring as the songs that preceded it were, but it has its charms for sure. I really love some of the keyboard sounds on this.
Secrets of Love
This has more of a mainstream AOR prog sound to it. It might be mainstream, but it's also meaty. The chorus on this makes me think of the proggier side of Toto. As the cut fires out for the instrumental section, the prog really shines.
Reality
A piano and vocal arrangement is at the heart of this balladic piece. There are some decidedly proggy things that come in within some of the keyboard melodies and voicings. Overall, though, this is a mainstream ballad. It's also an effective piece.
Hold onto Your Heart
More of a mainstream AOR rocker, this is solid stuff. While this is less proggy than some of the rest here, the keyboard dominated instrumental section elevates that aspect of the number.
Between Broken Hearts
This number is another that's more of a mainstream rocker, but it still has plenty of prog and jazz stylings in the mix. It's a killer tune.
The Journey
This starts with piano and voice. It works out in balladic fashion. There are fusion hints built into this as the arrangements fills out a bit.   
Hit the Road
Now, this is a full fusion jam. I love the bass work, but everything here is top-notch. Fast paced and classy, this is a great change and a great tune. It's one of my favorites of the set. To some degree it reminds me of the band UK just a bit. This has some of the coolest keyboard work of the whole album.
Going Home
Another that lands more in the vein of AOR, this has some tasty guitar soloing and solid hooks. It's one of the most accessible tunes here, but not one of my favorites. The jam later in the track brings both some jazz and some Genesis reference points. It has some cool bass tones and killer synthesizer work. It manages to elevate the tune.
Love Is Free
This is another highlight. In fact, I'd consider it my favorite here. It's a powerhouse jam with both symphonic prog and fusion elements. It has some of the coolest instrumental passages along with some of the strongest vocal arrangements. This is a real winner. It makes for a great closer, particularly as it builds to some especially powerful music further down the road. This should definitely appeal to traditional progressive rock fans. It has some of the most powerful guitar soloing along with some exceptional potent keyboard work.
 
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