That’s a real honor reviewing an Unruly Child album, really. As most Melodic Net readers who take their time to read my writings know I always have some story to tell before getting down to reviewing albums, this one will be no different. The thing is that Unruly Child features my favorite singer ever, Marcie Free (once, Mark Free). Marcie has a respectful musical legacy in music that started when in 1985, when she fronted King Kobra. Later, she recorded some tracks for the Black Roses Movie Soundtrack, then was in Signal (whose only album, “Loud & Clear” is another AOR classic), recorded a variety of unreleased demos till this day (over 60 tracks), and released two solo albums, “Long Way From Love” (maybe the best AOR album ever) and “Tormented”. Other than these, Marcie sang on the superb Unruly Child debut album in 1992 and, when the band reuntied with the five original members, the not less wonderful “Worlds Collide” album, in 2010. Unruly Child had always been a special band since, along with Marcie, there were drummer Jay Schellen (Hurricane / World Trade), guitarist Bruce Gowdy (Stone Fury / World Trade), keyboardist Guy Allison (World Trade) and bassist Larry Antonino (Huricane / Sircle Of Silence, and the guy one who played the bass on the worldwide famous Tom Hanks “That Thing You Do” movie). I never really considered them one of my favorite bands until they were back together, due to the obscure but also good albums “Waiting For The Sun” (which featured singer Kelly Hansen, now shining in Foreigner, and at the time, formerly of Hurricane and from some unknown projects), and “UCIII”, which featured another great singer in Philip Bardowell. But the magic wasn’t really there until the five original members released “Worlds Collide”, featuring Marcie Free on vocals again. This album didn’t only follow the footsteps of the band’s debut, but also became a new “classic” among AOR fans in general.
In 2011, even though I had heard of the now defunct Firefest Festival, in Nottingham, England, I had never either had the funds or the courage of leaving my own country to see a rock concert. But I’ll never forget being told that Unruly Child would headline the festival that year. It was a chance of a lifetime. Traveling to England, seeing a lot of other great bands I had grown up listening to and, most especially, seeing Unruly Child. And Marcie Free. Looking back, seeing the band live and trying to meet them was the main reason for my saving up for a whole year to make it there. I did meet the band – Jay Schellen was great, and we hung out for about half an hour, since he was quite curious about how someone in Brazil could have bought the original vinyl and CD pressings of the Hurricane “Take What You Can” debut EP. Bruce Gowdy and Guy Allison were also super cool, even being in a rush because of the festival’s schedule. Larry Antonino was awesome, and he and I spent nearly one hour talking at the hotel lobby – he was kind enough to give me an exclusive interview (I was writing for another music site at that time). And, of course, I met Marcie Free, after 26 years ofmaybe being her biggest fan, at least in my own country. Not only did we talk for nearly 40 minutes (something I will never forget), but she also signed all of my huge collection, basically commenting on each and every piece of it. She was really glad I gave her 6 CDs of demo tracks she’d recorded throughout her career, but she actually didn’t have the original cassette tapes anymore. Way flattering! If she’s reading this, I’d like her to know I got two more CDs of unreleased music of hers.
Unruly Child’s performance at Firefest was superb, and it’s sad to know it was the one and only show they did to promote their great “Worlds Collide” album. “Down The Rabbit Hole” was supposed to be released but, as far as I know, it was only a digital download release ( I never really had full access to these recordings, but to a couple of tracks). Now, with the brand new “Can’t Go Home” album, released by Frontiers Records on February 24, and their first show in six years, at Frontiers Rock Festival, in Italy, on April 30, the fans are excited about having the band come back to stages and play more regularly. Talking about the new “Can’t Go Home” album, let’s get down to it.
“CAN’T GO HOME” – TRACK BY TRACK
01 – “THE ONLY ONE”
“The Only One” is a great opener for this new album. Marcie Free’s vocals shine bright from its very beginning! A wonderful AOR song, with such nice lyrics, and a great guitar riff with a cool guitar tone by Bruce Gowdy. At first, we can tell it’s a “lighter” album than “World Collide” was. A very radio-friendly song, with a great, catchy and melodic chorus, full of down to earth vocal melodies, that has already become one of the band’s catalog’s best songs. One can’t believe this song was actually out now in 2017. Larry and Jay keep the background powerful and strong, while Guy lays down great keys. It’s bridge is quite impressive, and Marcie shows that she’s still got the best voice in the business. Bruce Gowdy’s guitar solo was missed, but he surely did not play one because the song was OK without it – that’s what a great guitarist is all about, the songs, not about showing how many notes he can play in 20 seconds, as I always say it. The ending melodies change again, giving the song a different ambience, which fits it just perfectly. Marcie’s vocals surely outstanding, and so is the band. One of the best songs off “Can’t Go Home”.
2 – “FOUR ELEVEN”
This heavier, darker edged track surprises the listener at first, with the cadence that, if I recall, Unruly Child had never used in any of their songs before. Drummer Jay Schellen and bassist Larry Antonino made sure it all sounded heavy. Marcie’s vocals reminds us of her “Ready To Strike” days on the tune’s verses, whose lyrics are really, really interesting. The chorus? Well, another musical masterpiece, full of different vocal harmonies, not to mention Marcie’s lead vocals, of course. Verse two comes in, and the heavy edge is repeated. The mixing really helped the drum sound on this one. Guy and Bruce play more of a background for Marcie, Larry and Jay to shine on this specific song for sure. And Yes, there’s another very interesting bridge. It’s a song that swings between heavy and pop, if we compare its verses and chorus. Such a cool, well thought combination with some great arrangement. Bruce Gowdy and his awesome playing is shown shortly, but effitiently enough on a solo, again with this great guitar tone (he must have worked hard to make his guitars sound like this. I can’t remember another guitar tone as good as this one in years...). The chorus is then repeated, until the song’s ending. Marcie stands out again at the very end of it. If one’s not na open-minded listener, he may call it either a “pop song” or an “alternative song”. That’s so wrong. “Four Eleven” is just another great AOR track off this album (another one of the great moments to follow).
3 – “DRIVING INTO THE FUTURE”
Unruly Child’s fans must have thought, just like I first did, that Guy and Bruce wouldn’t do much on the album, due to the first couple of tracks. But thanks to them “Driving Into The Future” is another highlight off “Can’t Go Home”. The intro solo is simple, but exactly what the song needs, and Guy’s keys couldn’t possibly be better on the verses. Marcie’s feel when singing hasn’t changed a bit. Emotional, melodical and powerful. WOW, one can tell it’s a huge AOR song even before the chorus starts! Talking about it, it’s got lots of key effects, guitar fills, big and awesome vocal harmonies, complementing Marcie’s unique vocals. As the second verse follows, one can’t understand why it has taken Unruly Child so long to put new music out. Such incredible musicians and songwriters... One more bridge that leads to the first real guitar solo on the album, which shows Bruce’s not only a great player, but one worried about the song. Although it was his turn to shine, he made a solo that only added more to it, making “Driving Into The Future” even more special. Not to mention the precise and competent work by Larry and Jay. The song ending is really special, since it changes again, and Marcie can sing her heart off. Three excellent songs out of the three first songs... Well, masterpieces happen...
04 – “GET ON TOP”
It may sound cheesy, but here’s another top track off Unruly Child’s brand new album. “Get On Top” starts as this regular AOR song, and breaks into this even darker verse, which feels like this exactly because of Guy’s and Bruce’s work, making Marcie’s always versatile vocals fit in. Marcie gives it the feel of desperation, just before the band hits hard with Larry and Jay again, and then she changes her singing again to the style most people love her for. And if you want a pre-chorus that changes the musical structure again, there you go. Unruly Child sounds briefly like a metal band, even with the great vocal harmonies and amazing keyboards. Want more changes? Fine, listen to the song’s chorus, which is a typical hard rock one (it even includes the now forgotten cowbells, which were popular in the 80’s and early 90’s). Yes, it’s a very variant song, maybe not only this album’s, but maybe the band’s most adventurous track ever. And again, Yes, they sound pretty awesome. There’s this (also different) break after the second chorus that takes us to another Bruce Gowdy short solo, which is magnificently executed. More changes? Yes, one more, before we end up in the great, hard rock, cowbell-driven chorus again. The song ending, guess what, brings some more small, but noticeable changes, letting Marcie Free finish the song the way we all love and are all used to (Guy Allison even used some Hammond organ there, if my ears didn’t get crazy after, maybe, one thousand and two hundred changes? Superb!). It’s a very adventurous song, but it worked. Really well. Thanks to the talent and versality of these five incredible musicians that work together under the name of Unruly Child.
05 – “SEE IF SHE FLOATS”
This great keyboard intro by Guy Allison starts this nice, mid-tempo AOR tune. Needless to say that Jay’s, Larry’s and Bruce’s playing are also essential here. Actually, Guy Allison shines all over “See If She Floats”. Marcie’s soulful vocals are more than appropriate for the song too, keeping the previous tracks’ quality up. It’s more of a pop song than the first four tracks, but that’s what differs it. Its chorus is nice, very radio-friendly, but somehow not as moving as the other ones on most of the album. The lyrics are just great as usual, and the bridge here makes “See If She Floats” a little more interesting. Marcie’s singing and Guy’s keyboards are the best treats on this one. Unfortunately, Bruce kept away from playing a solo now – I guess that would make it more of a rock song. OK, it’s not as good as the other four previous songs, but certainly not a bad song. Unruly Child’s pop, lighter side has always been way important on their albums. Again, it’s a very good song, but if compared to the four brand new hits that open the “Can’t Go Home” album, it’s a little behind them.
06 – “SHE CAN’T GO HOME”
That Unruly Child is a bunch of top-notch players and songwriters, well, that’s no news. But when you listen to a song like “She Can’t Go Home”, you’re even more certain of how great of a band they are. The melodic intro (again, how come Bruce Gowdy came to that guitar tone?) and Marcie’s singing these lyrics that sound like a sad story, make the verse very, very special. Actually, it’s hard to remember a song on where Marcie hadn’t come to perfection, or close to it. The tune’s pre-chorus and chorus are real masterpieces, full of great vocal harmonies, and it’s quite unforgettable. Was that supposed to be a ballad? Probably not, since the verse comes back and Jay and Larry make sure it sounds heavy, and Marcie also gives a different, more attitude-like feel to her vocals. The famous “different bridge formula” works perfectly again, and all the vocals on it are quite unbelievably good. There’s this short, but again, awesome Bruce guitar solo, and the chorus is then repeated until the song is over. Marcie is the one who finishes it graciously again. Those who might think it’s just another song, played “mechanically” by the band, couldn’t be more mistaken. I’ve seen Unruly Child live, and I can tell that, no matter which song they’re playing, it’s a private show of professionalism, musicianship, talent and good taste. Unruly Child should include “She Can’t Go Home” in their new live set, there’s no doubt about it. Such a wonderful song that will please the fans both on the studio version and on a probable live one. Hatts off again, guys.
07 – “POINT OF VIEW”
Here we have another typical AOR song, where not only Bruce and Guy shine, but also Larry and Jay show they mean business. There are some vocal harmonies and samples that reminds us of what they did on their very first album. Marcie also is a highlight (how come she wouldn’t be?) on this track. Again, placed right after “She Can’t Go Home” on the album, “Point Of View”, even being far from being a bad song, just doesn’t have the same impact as it should have. I really like Guy Allison’s keyboard playing on it, as well as some “crunch” guitars... As said before, a typical AOR song that Unruly Child fans will dig for sure. Bruce risks some longer guitar fills here, until we can listen one more of his great solos. The song’s lyrics and chorus are nice, but again, not as impressive as the ones on some other tracks. As one of the most “pop” songs off “Can’t Go Home”, it surely is a good one. I guess that, by this point, if you consider it’s the seventh track on the album, they are doing really, really well.
08 – “ICE COLD SUNSHINE”
There’s this interesting and futuristic intro, that breaks into this hard rock tune, with Larry Antonino and Jay Schellen really hitting hard. Apparently, it’s another typical AOR song by this great band. Some great, heavy and amazing work by Jay and Larry, by the way, and Guy also does some amazing keyboard work. Marcie’s vocals are top-notch and sharp as always, performing some really cool lyrics. Its chorus starts with an unexpected bass and drum break, which is also very nice, and the formula of lots of vocal harmonies and Bruce’s magnificent playing and guitar tone makes it another Unruly Child new favorite, even though it’s not as catchy as some of the other songs off “Can’t Go Home”. Another unusual bridge in the middle (that’s cool they didn’t want to release a mere brand new album, but one with all these musical breaks and turnovers – some of the most interesting keyboard work by Mr. Allison) leads to another short, but very efficient guitar solo. Marcie sings her heart out, and one can tell she used very little protolls all over these new recordings (if any). The song ends repeating the cool chorus and here we have a track that is way more than a regular, predictable AOR one.
09 – “WHEN LOVE IS HERE”
“When Love Is Here” is surely one of the very best songs of Unruly Child. The catchy guitar intro and Marcie Free’s singing these beautiful lyrics, giving the right emotion to their every single word in the verse, is the indication that we have another winner here. What about its chorus? Well, it’s no surprise it’s a great one, where one can listen to beautiful vocal harmonies, being completed by Marcie’s incomparable voice, and Guy Allison showing how good a keyboardist can be. That would be unfair not giving the more than well deserved credit to drummer Jay Schellen and bassist Larry Antonino, who keep the song going, precisely not taking the spot. Bruce’s riffs are just perfect here as well. A cheesy, commercial (and wonderful) bridge is on “When Love Is Here” too, opening way to a super short, but fantastic guitar solo. Bruce is a real guitar player. Again, he’s way more worried about the song itself than showing what he can do. And that’s a wise decision when it comes to an AOR, pop rock song. Just fantastic. That’s exactly what fans were expecting after a seven-year hiatus. “When Love Is Here” is another sure pleaser if it’s included in Unruly Child’s new live set list.
10 – “SUNLIT SKY”
Here’s another typical hard rock song, where Larry and Jay do shine. The keyboard intro breaks into this cool melody, which becomes one of those songs where the voice is there, and the instruments come and go. Marcie Free sounds heavier than usual again, reminding us briefly of Unruly Child’s debut album (if it isn’t a compliment, I don’t know what is!). Guy also did some amazing work again. The thing is, it’s a great song. But remember this album has so many wonderful songs that a few just can’t be considered as good. Nice lyrics and a good chorus, that once again abuses of great vocal harmonies, and Bruce’s switching clean and distorted guitars. Quite interesting for sure. A cool, different bridge that takes us to this keyboard break is also a differential on “Sunlit Sky”. The song ending is somewhat surprising too, since there’s this “duo solo” by Guy Allison and Bruce Gowdy. A great tune!
11 – “SOMEDAY SOMEHOW”
The “live”, party rock intro on “Someday Somehow” and its progression shows it’s a pure rocker, one of those songs that mix the spirit of hard rock and the soul of AOR. After so many pop rock tunes, it’s great to hear some real “party” rock and roll. Larry and Jay may have been very excited about playing this one. The lyrics give you this feeling, and Marcie Free shows her versatility again, on a song that surely reminds us of her King Kobra days. Guy and Bruce make it sound very much like old Night Ranger too (another big compliment!). Then we have the track’s chorus... All that can be said is “let’s party”!!! Such a wonderful chorus with some seventies Kiss influence, and ultra cool lyrics, even being way simple. I guess that’s what rock and roll is about after all. It’s a song that could have easily been released between 1986 and 1988, and it would still feel fresh now in 2017. Marcie’s feel to the song is unique again! The song’s bridge is special, and when we see it’s the last tune on the “Can’t Go Home” album, we simply wish it wasn’t. This song could easily be their live show last song. It’s got all it takes to be a “grand finale”, both on the album and live. A not less catchy bridge is way interesting and suitable, just before the chorus repetition comes to end the song. What else would na Unruly Child fan want at the end of an album? If it’s not that, please let me know.
In short, Unruly Child’s new “Can’t Go Home” album, even having been released in February, may be one of the albums of the year. There are so many great artists with so many new albums to be released this year. It really upsets me reading some other reviews of it, saying it’s a good album but that it doesn’t compare to the band’s debut. What brainless people can’t understand is that it was back in 1992, and we’re in 2017 now. Unruly Child, both as a band and as individual musicians, has changed, the music scene has changed. I bet those who say anything Marcie Free has done in the last years to either Signal or King Kobra have changed too, but are still too foolish and childish to admit it. Music fans will go through lots of great music, that’s a sure thing. But the fact is that only one band consists of guitarist Bruce Gowdy, keyboardist Guy Allison, bassist Larry Antonino and drummer Jay Schellen. Not easy at all to top this team... and, by the way, there’s only one Marcie Free, the greatest singer in melodic rock history.
Best songs: “The Only One”, “Four Eleven”, “Driving Into The Future”, “Get On Top”, “She Can’t Go Home”, “Ice Cold Sunshine”, “When Love Is Here” and “Someday Somehow”.