Pride of Lions – Pride of Lions [2003]

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Pride of Lions, by Pride of Lions, is a stunning debut album and, forgetting the dull intermission crammed with some of the best songs you’ll ever hear. The group fronted in 2003 by former Survivor guitarist/keyboardist Jim Peterik and the young vocalist and highly talented Toby Hitchcock. The sound is naturally quite close to Survivor, but more powerful than most of their material, but the great strength of the album is the diversity of the music. There’re big ballads, moody mid tempo tracks, soaring AOR anthems and guitar driven rockers. Something for everyone that loves old school melodic music.

The group, according to Peterik is “my vision of the best elements of the great melodic rock era of the 80s, updated of course with more modern production sounds”. Vocalist Toby Hitchcock demostrates his amazing voice throughout the record, although Jim sings several parts and his vocals are none too shabby either. It is simply more brilliant songwriting and music from a man who significantly influenced an entire genre of rock music. It sounds like a blast from the past and yet also has a new, mature edge to it. Every track has a memorable hook and melody to it.

The album opens strongly with four killer tracks. The urgent “It’s Criminal”, the mid tempo AOR gem “Gone” and the very Survivor like “Sound Of Home”. Inbetween the last two there’s “Interrupted Melody”, a fine ballad, although the verses bear a striking resemblance to Europ’s “Carrie”. Started from the lead track “It’s Criminal”, has roots from Survivor, Vital Signs ear recording sessions – clearly apparent with the classic melodic rock up tempo sound of this song. Toby’s opening lines are commanding and authorative and set the album up perfectly. The second track “Gone” with it’s powerful anthemic quality yet a message about a lover who has left. The song gives the impression it might be a ballad, especially with the piano intro. But the track fires up into a moody mid tempo pop/rocker, where Jim takes lead for the first verse, with Toby joining in for the bridge and then taking over completely for the massive chorus, which is another instantly catchy hook.

The ballad “Interrupted Melody” is a perfect melodic rock song, with some fine harmony vocals throughout and a very good soft piano intro while the mid tempo “Sound Of Home” is a melodic masterpiece with an unforgetable chorus. There’s the driven guitar riff, plenty of keyboards, a melodic verse, building bridge and then a chorus that just goes right over the top! Magic stuff and one of the top contenders for song of the year. The next song “Prideland” in my opinion is the only weak moment here. Sounding like a cast-off from a second rate Disney movie, it really shouldn’t be on this album, features some fine sogt guitar playing, as it builds throughout. “Unbreakable” is a straight ahead rocker, with plenty of guitar going in all directions. Toby’s vocals are again commanding, while Jim’s guitar playing is fabulous. Reverting back to a more laid back feel, “First Time Around The Sun” is something a little different. The tempo is slow to mid tempo, but the track is no ballad. Rather it is a pomp-ish, jazzy pop that could have come from any early Toto album. And to add to all that, the song is as catchy as hell!!!

Keeping the pace of the album flowing well is “Turn To Me”. This is another example of perfect straight ahead melodic rock/AOR with a major 80s keyboard slant, but a nice guitar riff for texture, while Jim and Toby trading verses and winds up with some great solo guitar work. “Madness Of Love” is played surprisingly heavy-handed, features more strong lead guitar riffs and another duel vocal performance. The verse is soft, the chorus is far more intense, while “Love Is On The Rocks” is another Totoesque track. The verse remains fairly stripped back, then there’s a bridge that builds to a slightly more powerful chorus. Pure 80s pop here I can say. The last of the ballads is “Last Safe Place”, features a big vocal from Toby and a chorus that’s an instant hit from the start. This is a fabulous lighters-in-the-air romantic ballad and one of the album’s highlight. Last but certainly not least, there’s “Music And Me”, which again very much like classic Survivor, starting with lonely eighties’ styled keyboard sounds. The song basically describes where Jim’s heart lies and what his music means to him. And for that reason, many will relate easily to this. The song itself features Jim up front initially, with Toby joining in. This is a powerful track that is mid tempo throughout, but builds dramatically through the mid section guitar-fest, then switches tempo…up another notch during a bridge section before switching back to how it started. A rollercoaster ride if you will, much like most of this album!

There you have it, a great selection of songs and pure joy for all of you into eighties styled AOR. Pride Of Lions is a real mixture of influences. It’s a combination of everything Jim has done in the past, with a couple of other 80s influences included. This record could be the follow up to “Too Hot For Sleep”, while elsewhere there are touches of “Vital Signs” and “When Seconds Count”.

Band Members
Toby Hitchcock – Vocals
Jim Peterik – Guitars, vocals, keyboards
Mike Aquino – Guitars
Christian Cullen – Keyboards
Clem Hayes – Bass
Ed Breckenfield – Drums
Hilary Jones – Drums

Tracks
01. It’s Criminal (4:55)
02. Gone (4:36)
03. Interrupted Meloday (4:09)
04. Sound Of Home (4:31)
05. Prideland (6:16)
06. Unbreakable (5:04)
07. First Time Around The Sun (5:10)
08. Turn To Me (4:49)
09. Madness Of Love (6:19)
10. Love Is On The Rocks (4:27)
11. Last Safe Place (4:39)
12. Music And Me (5:20)

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