4 out of 5 Stars!
In 1990, an album by a new band from New York called Valentine suddenly appeared on the AOR scene, and after hearing only snippets of a few tracks, I swiftly realized the material being offered was an almost perfect replica of Journey during its most popular “Steve Perry era.” This was mostly due to the general high quality of the stadium-rock tunes, as well as the lead vocalist, a gent going by the simple moniker of Hugo (full name Hugo Valenti), with a timbre, range, and delivery style eerily reminiscent of Perry’s (prior to the latter singer getting raspy on the Frontiers album, that is). But after Valentine’s debut sadly failed to gain any significant attention, the group seemingly disappeared (in truth, it mysteriously and temporarily altered its name to Open Skyz for a single album in 1993 before thankfully popping up once more as Valentine in 2008 with an “official” sophomore release). Yet during those many intervening years of inactivity and ineffective name-changing, Hugo delivered his first solo release, with (no shock) music in a similar realm.
Indeed, the singer’s 1997 self-titled debut contains numerous tracks that could have easily appeared on either Valentine release, not to mention many albums by Journey (those including either Steve Perry or its current vocalist Arnel Pineda), with the majority of tunes featuring catchy choruses, grand background harmonies, top-notch guitar riffs and solos courtesy of Vinnie Burns (Ten/Bob Catley/Asia), lush keyboard instrumentation occasionally of the Pomp-Rock variety, and a solid rhythm section. Oh, and of course, Hugo’s powerful and wide-ranging lead vocals soar majestically on songs such as “Desire,” “Crazy,” “If You’re Ever Lonely,” “Standing Alone,” and the magnificent power ballads “So Many Tears Ago” and “A Tear in L.A.”
Therefore, for AOR fans, specifically devotees of Journey and several of its “off-shoot” groups such as The Vu and The Storm, or any acts of a similar variety, Hugo’s debut—as well as the singer’s subsequent solo releases—is an album you’ll likely enjoy as much as I do.