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VISION - STREETFIGHTER (*NEW-CD, 2011, Born Twice) post-Lynyrd Skynyrd

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VISION - STREETFIGHTER (*NEW-CD, 2011, Born Twice) Lynyrd Skynyrd

Few people knew about the rare private pressing of Vision's 1984 masterpiece, Mountain in the Sky (featuring two Lynyrd Skynyrd alum). Even fewer people knew that the band recorded a third album in 1986 that was never released! Retroactive Records has worked diligently with the band to unearth this classic rock masterpiece and make it widely available for the first time ever! Vision was known for powerful, anthemic classic rock, and that's exactly what Streetfighter is all about! This recording is arguably the bands strongest material, and includes the talents of Lynyrd Skynyrd piano player, Billy Powell! Billy's extraordinary talents help give Vision a very distinctive sound on this previously unreleased rock gem. Personal notes are included in the liner notes from David Brown (former Vice President of Heartland Records) and Barry Lee Harwood (former guitarist/vocalist and writer for The Rossington-Collins Band and Lynrd Skynyrd). For fans of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Cheap Trick, Forgeigner, and Boston! Comes in a full color 6 panel digipak. This classic CD released in May of 2011.

Track Listing: “Stop The Killing” (2:53), “I’m Gonna Live” (4:01), “I Know You” (3:17), “Break The Silence” (4:39), “Come Home” (3:33), “Streetfighter” (3:45), “Called To War” (3:43), “Mighty One” (4:22), “I’m Free” (4:06), “Rock This Town” (3:27), “Born To Rock” (4:36), “Your Eyes” (4:06), “Let’s Ride” (4:06)

Rocco Marshall – Lead Vocals & Guitars
Leonard Jones – Guitars
Billy Powell – Piano, Organ & Synthesizers
David Jinright – Keyboards
Lawrence Buckner – Bass
Mike Maple – Drums

Streetfighter, the much anticipated and long delayed third album from Vision, fails to disappoint in the quality department. Most identify with Vision for its self-titled sophomore album from 1985, originally a Heartland Records release but later re-issued on Born Twice Records in 2010. Many are not aware of Vision’s 1984 debut, also self-titled but independently released, that due to receiving no distribution or promotion went out of print and turned into a hard to find collectors item. Said album was also re-issued on Born Twice in 2010 but under the new title Mountain In The Sky.

Streetfighter also escaped the attention of the music buying public, with the main reason being that it was never officially released back in the day (the album was recorded in a Florida beach house in 1986). The good news, however, is that Streetfighter was re-mastered and re-issued on Born Twice in the spring of 2011. Three additional tracks recorded by the band before it broke up in 1987 were included as well.

Vision, of course, gained acclaim for featuring Lynyrd Skynyrd members Leon Wilkeson (bass) and Billy Powell (piano). The two were brought on board after Lynyrd Skynyrd went on extended hiatus following the tragic 1977 plane crash that killed three of its members and seriously injured several others. Wilkeson appeared on just Mountain In The Sky while Powell contributed to all three.

In my reviews of Mountain In The Sky and Vision, I describe the group as “a joining of commercial hard rock and classic rock with a heavy seventies and eighties slant.” The same holds true here but - much to my delight - with a more consistent hard rocking edge. The southern influences that made their presence felt on the first two can be found on Streetfigher as well (think 38 Special), although to label Vision southern rock would be a misnomer.

One cannot help but be impressed with the all around heaviness to the Streetfighter material. This is best reflected in up-tempo pieces “Stop The Killing” and “I’m Gonna Live” in addition to “Streetfigher”, “Called To War” and “Mighty One”, perhaps the three heaviest tracks in the group’s repertoire. Those previously referenced southern influences, at the same time, make their mark on the boogie flavored “I’m Free” and bluesy “Rock This Town”. But when Vision tempers the pace they do so in style, and such is the case with the AOR touches of “I Know You” and “Break The Silence” and ballad “Come Home”.

The three bonus tracks maintain the hard rocking mindset, with “Born To Rock” and “Let’s Ride” heading in an upbeat direction and “Your Eyes” taking the smoother and more mid-paced approach.

Consistency would be the best way to define Streetfighter. Yes, with a 13 song album you are going to get your share of quality, but it is good quality in that while some songs are better than others there is nothing I skip over either. It all adds up to a satisfying front to back listening experience, the quintessential Vision album if you will.

One of my favorite aspects to Vision is front man Rocco Marshall. I described him in past reviews as “a terrific vocalist, (bringing) a crystal-clear rock voice that fans of Steve Perry (Journey), Steve Walsh (Kansas), Greg X. Volz (Petra) and Michael Gleason (AD) will be certain to appreciate”. Once more, the same holds true here, although on Streetfighter he adds some complementary heart, guts and soul to his delivery. Perhaps it is the group’s heavier direction but several songs, for instance, find him singing in a lower register (check out “Mighty One” and “Rock This Town”).

Guitar duties continue to be handled by Marshall and holdover Leonard Jones. As with the first two from Vision, you will find bountiful guitar harmonies along with duel lead guitar work that trends towards the blues driven (I do know who handles what solo, when and on which song but it is capably done).

Billy Powell, as one would imagine, cannot help but make an unmistakable imprint on any album he contributes. Yes, he “burns up the ivories” throughout, his distinct piano work standing out best on the albums more rocking material (“Streetfighter” and “Called To War” allow him to shine soloing wise).

Production backs away from much of the polish characterizing the self-titled release and trends towards a rawer sound more akin to Mountain In The Sky. In other words, you will find production in the right amount but not so much as to take away from the group’s trademark edge and bite.

Track By Track

Things get underway to two up-tempo rockers, “Stop The Killing” and “I’m Gonna Live”.

“Stop The Killing” is the heavier of the two with its brazen guitar walls and driving low-end mentality. But it is not all get up in that things taper for a contrastingly even sounding chorus. This one can best be described as quintessential hard rocking Vision.

“I’m Gonna Live” takes a melodic hard rock approach, reflected in the abundant backing vocals upholding its smoothly flowing chorus and pristine keyboards elements. Though guitars are not quite as upfront the bands inherit energy still stands out.

The three that follow brings some AOR elements.

Keyboards play a more pronounced role on “I Know You”, a light and airy piece hinting at the commercial with its relaxed flavorings and penchant for the mid-tempo. Bluesy guitar work helps put things over the top.

“Break The Silence” starts slowly but gradually builds into a full blown rocker. Chorus is upbeat and full of spirit while more polished backing vocals and refined keyboards play a leading role. Soloing again approaches the bluesy.

Heartfelt ballad “Come Home” highlights a precise melody. This one introduces orchestration and occasional rhythm guitar outbursts to create quite the stirring scene. If Streetfighter had been released back in the day I can see this garnering airplay on Christian radio.

A heavier rock direction is taken on the next three.

A forthright guitar emphasis returns on the albums title track. With a groove driven low-end leading the way, “Streetfighter” hits hard with its curtly done chorus but allows for traces of organ and complementary piano to highlight the backdrop.

“Called To War” delivers the forthright tempo. Crunchy guitars characterize this one, joining with more underpinning piano and heavy duty backing vocals to put in place quite the stalwart environs. The bands potential at its best can be found here.

What we have in “Mighty One” is the albums heaviest. The song brings an anthem-like presence as hard rocking guitars and accenting keyboards lead the way. Lead guitar is bluesy while a fitting keyboard solo is allowed.

Some bluesy southern flavorings can be found on the final two.

“I’m Free” delivers an up-tempo boogie rock sound. Powell’s ever present piano shines here, adding to the rollicking environs in which a catchy hook and bouncing rhythm prevails. This one is just plain fun to listen to.

The aptly entitled “Rock This Town” proves a gutsy blues driven rocker. Southern edges Vision at its best, the song delivers biting guitars in abundance and an up-tempo proclivity to pull you in on first listen.

The three bonus tracks fail to disappoint.

“Born To Rock” starts to an ethereal keyboard solo prior to kicking into high gear. The song lives up to its title the rest of the way, driven and steadfast while delivering a thick as it gets low end and dogged chorus.

“Your Eyes” takes a calmer and more tempered approach. This, however, does not mean it is any less heavy in that quite the decisive rhythm guitar makes its presence felt. Melody is pronounced as is a distinguishable bass line.

“Let’s Ride” proves a powerhouse rocker. Heavy duty in capacity, the song highlights a no-nonsense chorus and driving mentality bordering on the tenacious. The fitting drum rolls and fills only enhance the creativity here.

I have always felt that Mountain In The Sky includes some of the best Vision material. The self-titled release had its good moments but the polished production drained the band of some of its natural grit and edge. Streetfighter, on the other hand, succeeds with its consistent songwriting and decision to back off a bit in terms of production. Highly recommended!