Houston - 2014 Relaunch II

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ARTIST: Houston
ALBUM: Relaunch II
LABEL: Livewire
SERIAL: LW20000038
YEAR: 2014

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: image

LINEUP: Hank Erix - vocals * Ricky Delin - keyboards * Calle Hammar - bass * Soufian Ma'Aoui - bass * Victor Lundberg - keyboards * Oscar Lundstrom - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Justice For One * 02 Love Is Blind * 03 Counting Stars * 04 Souls * 05 Don't Look Back * 06 Cruise * 07 Do What U Want * 08 Our Love * 09 Downtown * 10 Standing On The Moon

RATING: image

WEBLINKS: Bandpage Link

Background

Houston made quite an impact in 2013 with 'II'. While that indicates that it was their second album, it was in fact their third.

Between the debut and 'II' came 'Relaunch', which was an album of mostly covers with a new tune and a couple of tunes from the debut given the acoustic treatment. And the covers were of the more obscure variety.

The album called 'II' ended up in many folks' top albums of 2013. As inevitably happens in the musical world, musicians come and go, and the lineup has changed since that album.

Tommy Denander is not part of the band anymore, although I'm sure he has plenty of other projects to occupy his time. That would be cause for concern, but Hank Erix is back behind the mic, and Ricky Delin is behind the keys (although he has left since this album was released).

'Relaunch' was a successful project, so might as well repeat that formula and dust off some other minor hits from yesteryear. And what the heck, give some newer songs the Houston treatment.

The Songs

The album contains ten songs - six covers and four originals. Of the six covers, three are older songs, and three are recent hits. I was not familiar with the first two songs on here, so hearing them on this album was my first experience with them.

'Justice For One' is a John Farnham song that works very nicely and sounds like you'd want a Houston song to sound. No concerns with the absence of Denander, as the guys recapture the sound from their last album just fine.

Likewise for 'Love Is Blind', a John O'Banion song that is very true to the original. So far so good - Houston takes good ownership of these songs and make them their own.

Then they try their hand at a modern hit, 'Counting Stars' by OneRepublic. This song has been a major hit in the U.S. and other countries. Houston perform it well, but to me it misses the mark as it is just a different type of song than what I want to hear from these guys. And that's where the album falls short of the heights of their previous work.

This brings us to the one older tune that I do know, and know well. Rick Springfield had a minor hit with 'Souls' from his 1983 'Living In Oz' album. If I were to take all the songs in my collection and rank them, this one would be way way way up there. So the bar is set very high. Alas, the Houston rendition leaves me with more questions than answers.

Honestly, they do perform this one well - it's certainly not a case of them butchering a classic. I just get the feeling that this is a case of 'it's the singer, not the song'.

If this were a brand new song, or if I had never heard the original, how would I like it? Would I have liked this version 30 years ago as much as I like the original? If this were the original, would I like Springfield's version better if I just heard it for the first time? Do I like this version as much as other new songs?

I feel like this should be my favourite song on the album, but alas it isn't. And I'll reiterate that the performance here is excellent and very true to the original. Yes, I'm confused.

The band sneaks in the first original song in the 5-spot with 'Don't Look Back'. Nope - this is not their attempt of covering a hit by another band named after a major U.S. city, but rather a good tune that would not have been out of place on one of their earlier albums. Although it did take me a while to realize this was not another cover.

The country act Florida Georgia Line is very closely associated with the term 'bro-country', and 'Cruise' is the song that led to the coining of that term. This song is a very interesting choice to be covered, and honestly it doesn't work that well for me.

Again, it's not the execution - they pretty much nail it. I just have to be in a very particular frame of mind to enjoy a song like this, and it's not when I'm in the middle of a Houston album.

Same with the Lady Gaga cover 'Do What U Want'. This was a major hit for her. Lizette Von Panajott is co-lead vocal on here. I'm not picking on either Florida Georgia Line or Lady Gaga here - I don't think I'd really enjoy these songs even if they were orignals.

The last three songs are all original tunes. Like the one earlier, they're all what you'd expect the band to produce. I'm not sure if they were written specifically for this album or if they were tunes considered for 'II'. I can't say that I'd replace any songs from 'II' with these four, but they're not much if any of a step down.

'Our Love' is the one released as a single. I was a bit disappointed with this one when I first heard it, as I didn't think it measured up to the material from the previous album. It's grown on me some since then, though.

'Downtown' is an uptempo feel-good song about hanging out downtown on a Friday night.

'Standing On The Moon' is the mellowest song they've done so far and ends the album in a fairly subdued manner.

In Summary

This is definitely a mixed bag to my ears. I don't think the personnel changes have affected the sound, which is a good thing. I just think they took some risks with song choices that didn't hit the mark.

They did show some musical versatility, and I'll give them credit for that.

The new songs give me hope that their next album should be another strong effort, and I did get to discover two good older songs. But in the end, the three modern songs they covered cost them a couple of points.


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