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RIO – Borderland [1985]


1985 was quite a raw period for what would be developed and labeled as melodic rock many years later. RIO was one of the bands that emerged from the UK trying to play as Americans, due to the high stream of FM Rock/AOR releases at the time in the States.

RIO, were a duo, consisting of Jon Neill on vocals and guitars and Steve Rodford (son of Argent’s bassist) on drums, bass and keyboards, who released two albums of ultra slick AOR.  “Borderland” is a hugely produced melodic album true to the sound and style of the mid/late 80s. Therefore you can expect huge drumming, flashy lead guitar, ever-present melodic keyboards and very appropriate bass that commonly sets the mood at the beginning of a song. One has to look at the fact that RIO have actually included a variety of 80s rock subgenres on their sole studio release.

The album opens on genuine AOR magic, namely “I Don’t Wanna Be The Fool”, a quite enjoyable romp with a smooth delivery, warm harmony vocals and catchy chorus. “Straight To The Heart” is an urgent rocker where the pulsing bass lines help keep the song tight and focused, while on smother “Tommy Can’t Help It” the melody is brilliant, having a great keyboard and guitar collaboration ending to a magic chorus you will love. “Better This Time” has some nice keyboard parts (great pompus key intro) on top of what is primarily a guitar driven track. Following RIO take a heavier turn forward glam metal with the highlight “State Of Emergency” (great soloing and riffs) and the great rockin’ “Shy Girl” (great mix of keys and guitars) and from there onwards going back to AOR. “She’s A Virgin” is a superb AOR despite the naff lyrics, with sparkling keyboard and harmony vocals. “Close To You” does come close to the classic I-Ten track “Quicksand Shoes” but ultimately can’t hold a candle to it. Keys are the highlights on this song while the title track “Borderland” grinds out to the finish in a moody and steamy fashion, with great passionate vocals and a catchy chorus.

There’s not much to say for this album. It’s an on-the-edge heavy rock collection of songs that could easily attract the interest of power pop/westcoast fans. This is a largely undiscovered classic British AOR album with strong songs and production. Definitely the stronger of their two albums, with more consistent songwriting, great melodic hooklines and strong choruses. A real jewel….

Band Members
Jon Neill Vocals, Guitars
Steve Rodford Drums, Bass, Keyboards

01. I Don’t Wanna Be The Fool (3:59)
02. Straight To The Heart (3:43)
03. Tommy Can’t Help It (4:42)
04. Better This Time (3:54)
05. State Of Emergency (3:53)
06. Shy Girl (5:04)
07. She’s A Virgin (4:27)
08. Close To You (5:12)
09. Borderland (4:51)

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Rating: 9.2/10 (13 votes cast)
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Rating: +2 (from 2 votes)
RIO - Borderland [1985], 9.2 out of 10 based on 13 ratings
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