Toby Hitchcock – Mercury’s Down (2011)

TobyHitchcock_MercurysDown4.5 out of 5 Stars!

As far as musicians go, Chicago’s Jim Peterik easily falls into the “legend” category for me. As I’ve stated countless times in the past, I’ve been a longtime fan of the man’s talents, not only because he’s a “local son” of my area, but also since his past groups, The Ides of March and Survivor, always appealed to me. Plus, having not only been a member of various groups that opened for Survivor, and also having been part of Peterik’s “Pictionary Team” at a local party we both attended many years ago—when we kicked major ass against the competition that night, I might add, thank you very much!—I have a tendency to follow his career with a keen eye and no small degree of anticipation for any new project in which he’s involved. 🙂

Seriously, however, as many people may not realize, one of Peterik’s unlauded talents that I learned to respect long ago is the ability to (like Deep Purple’s/Rainbow’s Ritchie Blackmore) select the best vocalists who can successfully perform his hit-single-destined material, and for his latest band, Pride of Lions, Peterik once again delivered in spades by “discovering” and presenting to the world a chap from nearby Indiana by the name of Toby Hitchcock. And on each Pride of Lions’s album from 2003 to the present day, Hitchcock belts his ever-lovin’ heart out, with his style, range, and timbre occasionally reminiscent of Survivor’s Jimi Jamison, but unique enough to often stun and amaze. Not too damned shabby, to say the least.

Therefore, in 2011, when I learned that Hitchcock had released a solo album, it was a “no-brainer” to immediately snatch up a copy. And what Hitchcock delivered (and no great surprise) was a classy collection of Melodic Hard Rock and AOR bordering on Pomp Rock, sort of a cross between the material delivered by acts such as Magnum, Bob Catley, Rage of Angels, Serpentine, Perfect View, Brother Firetribe, Drive She Said, Sunstorm, and (of course) Pride of Lions.

But unlike his “anchor” band, Hitchcock elected to create this particular collection with a different set of musicians and songwriters, specifically the team of (mainly) Erik Martensson and Miqael Persson, who worked and/or performed with artists such as Eclipse (Sweden), W.E.T., Giant, and the aforementioned Jimi Jamison, etc. In fact, Martensson not only produced the collection, but also performed everything from rhythm guitar and keyboards, to bass and drums and the kitchen sink, with several additional musicians from his band Eclipse lending a hand.

And of course, on this twelve-track collection, Hitchcock handles all the lead vocals, spectacularly so. Indeed, the man was apparently born to sing in this genre, and on glorious tracks such as “Summer Nights in Cabo,” “This is the Moment,” “I Should Have Said,” “Tear Down the Barricades,” “Strong Enough,” and the emotional ballad “One Day I’ll Stop Loving You,” he displays raw vocal talent that leaves me practically drooling and oh-so-damned envious. Indeed, Toby Hitchcock is a gifted vocalist not yet lauded worldwide for his striking set of pipes and his ear for melody and emotional delivery. How can he not be famous already? Where is the justice? Were he to have appeared on one of those brainless, banal, and commercially driven reality “talent shows” that crop up like zombie cockroaches across the TV screen, he would have effortlessly blown away all of those “supposed” competitor-singers within not even a full chorus, but a single line. So again, I ask, where is the justice?

Anyway, yes, as you can no-doubt decipher, I have become an avid fan of this talented gent, the same as I’ve been a longtime fan of Peterik’s. And despite the latter not performing on or contributing to this particular album as he would on any Pride of Lions album, I still rank Mercury’s Down highly on my rating scale, now being happily content that Hitchcock can deliver the goods even outside his “anchor” group. And, of course, I once again thank my former “Pictionary teammate” Jim Peterik for having repeatedly used his unheralded talents by introducing to the world yet another Hard Rock/AOR vocalist that has the ability to utterly captivate.

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Pride of Lions – Immortal (2012)

PrideLions_Immortal4 out of 5 Stars!

For me, when it comes to musicians, Chicago’s Jim Peterik easily falls into the “living legend” category. Peterik first earned his stripes with the Jazz-Rock group The Ides of March, then later, garnered even more acclaim as one of the driving forces in Survivor, penning numerous hits along the way (either individually or as part of a songwriting team) for not only his own groups, but for numerous other artists. Seriously, who in the world is still unfamiliar with the song “Eye of the Tiger,” right?

Therefore, in 2003, when I learned of Peterik’s involvement with a new band called Pride of Lions, I added the group’s future releases to my “auto-purchase” list and have never once been disappointed. With exceptional lead singer Toby Hitchcock (his style, range, and timbre highly reminiscent of Survivor’s Jimi Jamison—RIP) on board, Peterik found the perfect musical partner with whom to create additional AOR magic.

Immortal, the band’s fourth album, is once again a collection of beautifully written and well-produced tracks, both sing-along rockers such as the opening title tune, plus “Coin of the Realm,” “If It Doesn’t Kill Me,” “Vital Signs,” “Ask Me Yesterday,” and “Tie Down the Wind,” along with a handful of luscious ballads like “Everything That Money Can’t Buy,” “Are You the Same Girl,” and “Sending My Love”.

And no doubt, this album (as well as the band’s other high-quality releases) will appeal to fans of groups such as Journey, Mecca, W.E.T., Find Me, Sunstorm, and of course, Survivor.

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