Sinister Street – The Eve of Innocence (1992)

SinisterStreet_EveInnocence4 out of 5 Stars!

In many respects, Sinister Street, a group formed in the Netherlands, reminded me of bands such as Saga or Alias Eye, especially when it came to the tone, range, and vibrato of the lead vocalist (who occasionally comes across as a Michael Sadler clone), who offered plenty of Pop-like melody lines over Prog-Rock instrumentation, mostly in the Neo-Prog vein.

And despite the band’s rather ominous moniker, the music is generally not “sinister” at all. For instance, on The Eve of Innocence, the band’s debut release, the rhythms, melody lines, and chord patterns are often upbeat in nature, as displayed on tracks such as “One in a Million,” “Caught in Flight,” and “Exception to the Rule.” Although this doesn’t mean that drama is completely absent from the band’s overall repertoire. Indeed, other tunes such as “A Prayer for the Dying,” “The Covenant,” and “Pulse of Life,” are each highly moody and atmospheric, thanks to their diverse instrumentation. And several additional compositions—”Summit (Boundaries, Part 1)” and “A Provisional Anthem (Boundaries, Part 2)”—swing from mood to mood, tempo to tempo, in each of their eight-plus-minute lengths, with complex arrangements and loads of guitar and synth solos in the best Neo-Prog tradition of bands such as IQ, Pallas, Also Eden, Citizen Cain, or early Marillion, as well as the aforementioned Saga and Alias Eye.

Therefore, it’s too bad this talented yet obscure band released only two full-length albums—The Eve of Innocence and, after numerous changes in personnel, a second collection called Trust a full decade later—as I would have happily welcomed additional material.

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Lucifer’s Friend – Sneak Me In (1980)

LucifersFriend_SneakMeIn4 out of 5 Stars!

After the legendary Lucifer’s Friend lost vocalist John Lawton (who temporarily left to join Uriah Heep), the band thankfully continued onward, hiring a replacement vocalist, Mike Starrs (Colosseum II/Lake), who had a voice occasionally similar to Lawton’s.

Lucifer’s Friend was always known for altering its overall style on just about every new album (going from Heavy Metal, to Prog Rock, to Jazz Rock, to…well, you name it). And at this time in its history, with Mike Starrs in the lead vocalist seat, the band adopted a new, more consistent style that actually lasted two albums in a row, this one Hard Rock touched with AOR. And Sneak Me In, the second album from the revised line-up, is easily my favorite of the two.

Whereas the previous album Good Time Warrior seemed a rather mixed affair, with the band not quite firing on all cylinders, struggling to locate the comfort zone with its new style and revised line-up, Sneak Me In shows a band fully recharged and focused. With upbeat and driving songs such as “Foxy Lady,” “Indian Summer,” “Goodbye Girl,” “Stardancer,” and “Love Hymn,” each track includes some deceptively complex instrumentation and typically has the keyboards pushed more to the forefront than on the previous album, and Starrs now belts out the catchy melodies with fierce determination, giving Lucifer’s Friend a unique AOR flavor.

If I had to liken Sneak Me In to any previous album within the group’s catalogue with Lawton behind the microphone, it would probably be a cross between I’m Just a Rock ‘n’ Roll Singer and Mind Exploding, but with less Jazz overtones. Or in truth, the style on this particular platter is actually not too dissimilar from the sound of the band’s most recent Lawton-led release Too Late to Hate that dropped in 2016.

Be that as it may, despite Lawton’s absence during this rather forgotten period in the band’s lengthy history (he would return to the group the following year on the Mean Machine album), Sneak Me In is an enjoyable collection of eight songs, one I still play with surprising regularity, with many of the tracks being underrated gems of the Hard Rock/AOR genre.

By the way, to read my full overview of this special German group, visit my website on this page:

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