Thursday 10 December 2020

Stan Bush - Dare to Dream (2020)

Country: USA
Style: Melodic Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 20 Nov 2020
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Stan Bush is so close to the quintessence of AOR that it's impossible to separate the two. In fact, he's managed to take it to whole new markets and promptly own them. Can you name anyone else who has won a daytime Emmy and also been inducted into the Transformers Hall of Fame? If you can find one, which I seriously doubt, have they appeared on a Winnie the Pooh collection, given voice to a pair of Jean-Claude Van Damme movies and recorded an iconic number for Sailor Moon? Stan Bush has done all of these things and provided the backing music for a scary number of commercials too.

As you might imagine, that means that he often walks a fine line between melodic rock earworms full of so much emotion that they'll melt your girlfriend's heart and overly generic songs that are almost parodies of the genre. This album starts with one of each. Born to Fight wasn't featured on Kickboxer or Bloodsport, because those were other Stan Bush songs, but this could easily feature on almost any other film starring the Muscles from Brussels. I can hear the slow motion roundhouse kicks. But then Dare to Dream, as catchy as that riff is, is almost like what an AI would create for a Coke advert, it's so immaculately done but without a single ounce of originality.

However jaded we might be and however unwilling we might be to admit it to our girlfriends, Born to Fight is a catchy damn tune and we might find ourselves hearing it quite a lot because it's backing the latest Netflix campaign to promote a couple of of their anime fighting shows. A Dream of Love is fine stuff, again all the words you know you're going to hear in an AOR song just shuffled into a different order, but shuffled really well and with an excellent melody behind them.

If it wasn't for the modern production values obvious on this album, I could believe that The 80's was written in the frickin' eighties. How this one escapes being a parody, I don't know, given that it's like Def Leppard trying to write a John Parr anthem, but it turns out to be another good song. Now, Live and Breathe has a tougher time, being an emotional ballad. I think it works and it's testament to how good Stan Bush is that I'm not automatically hating this one. A singer with less talent and less overt sincerity singing this would fail horribly, but Bush somehow makes it work.

I wish I had the lyrics to this album, just to throw them into some sort of algorithm and figure out if there are actually more than a couple of dozen across the eleven tracks on offer. The album is entitled Dare to Dream, as is the title track. There are two other songs featuring Dream in their titles (A Dream of Love and Dream Big) and many of the others cover exactly the same territory, such as True Believer and Never Give Up. The word "dream" certainly appears in other songs too, like Live and Breathe.

It would seem that there are only ever three items on Stan Bush's daily to do list: loving, fighting and dreaming. I'm not sure what order they should be in and how much crossover there is between hem, but I think that the only other idea here is the eighties and it's clear even that's only because it was the time when he was loving, fighting and dreaming most effectively. Oh OK, there's also Home, which is the final track, as if hinting that maybe there'll be something else on the next album. Spoiler: there won't be; it'll be about loving, fighting and dreaming, but perhaps in a different order. Just check out the last album, Change the World, with numbers like Born to Win, Never Surrender, The Story of Love, Dare and Live Your Dream.

I joke because it's just too easy to do that. I've reviewed a few albums this year that were emphatically and unashamedly rooted in the clichés that pervaded the eighties. Raven spring quickly to mind. The music was fantastic, but it was often cheesy as all get out and we really have collectively moved on in so many ways. However, this is surely the most unapologetic eighties nostalgia I think I've ever heard. I could swear blind I've heard True Believer on an eighties action flick, except Bush just wrote it. Bush even has the exact right proportion of killer voice and hint of breathiness, as if he'd just fought in the Kumite before stepping up to the mike.

By sheer coincidence, I'm working through a bunch of rips of Into the Music to detail their playlists. This was the soft rock show that Tommy Vance of The Friday Rock Show fame presented for a year from 1984 to 1985. I mention it because, had Stan Bush issued this album in 1985, Tommy would have been all over it like a rash and it would be on every Into the Music I listen to.

And, if you're into that sort of melodic rock, this could be the best album you've ever heard. Every one of these songs could have been a single in 1984 and they'd all have done well on the charts. If not, you're going to hate it. With a passion. I kinda sorta want to be the latter but, in the end, I found that I couldn't resist. Now, I'm going to play it again. Dare to dream, folks.

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