United Nations - 2014 (2014/Steelheart Records)
2014 has not only been a great year for AOR so far, it is also the title of U.K based rockers United Nations second full length album – a release that seems to have slipped somewhat under the radar in the vast sea of AOR releases this year. Being the AOR buff that I am, I was of course familiar with their 1985 output The First Move, one of those obscure small-label gems from back in the day, and I was both surprised and excited when I read that the band had re-united to re-record the album and play a few live dates in the U.K.
Released on the Italy based Steelheart Records all the way back in February, 2014 is an album encompassing newly recorded versions of some of the best cuts from The First Move, a few songs originally scheduled for a 1987 album release plus a brand
new track called I’ll Be Your Man. Replacing original singer Paul McCafferty is the well known Lee Small, who among other things sung on the excellent self-titled Shy album back in 2011.
The First Move is an album I’ve played quite a lot over the years, so hearing up to date versions of these tracks is really intresting for me personally. The band had some outstanding material, as exemplified in tracks like The Night That Lasts Forever, The First Move and Shock to the System, and fans of classic keyboard-driven AOR with pomp touches will find much to enjoy here. Surprisingly enough, I’m almost more excited over the songs meant for the never released follow-up album which are some of the stand out songs here and truth be told deserved a better destiny. Too Much Information, Shock to the System and Looks That Kill are really excellent songs and just imagining these with a big budget 1987 production makes you realize what a great album that could have been, unfortunately it was not to be.
One of the weaker aspects of 2014 is the production which sounds kind of thin and lacking a bit of punch, dragging down the overall score a bit. I’m also not totally convinced by Lee Small’s performance here, being the great singer he is, but that’s probably more due to the fact that I’m used to hearing the songs sung by another singer, with Small very much adding his personal touch to these songs and singing them a bit differently than from the originals.
Other than that, 2014 is a winner in most areas and a welcome return from one of U.K AOR´s best kept secrets. New material is apparently in the works and judging by the new track I’ll Be Your Man, also a very good song, a new album could certainly be something to look forward to.
Bob Wheeler - s/t
Fury - s/t