US Pomp/AOR Gods Drive, She Said are one of the great ‘shouldabeen’ bands of the late eighties/early nineties. Effectively put to the sword by the onslaught of grunge, their epic Foreigner-meets-Bon Jovi stance was, and in fact still is, utterly fantastic and their first album is an utter gold mine choc-full of song after spine-tingling song, all based around the golden throat of Al Fritsch.
Fritsch, to coin the old adage, could sing the phone book and make it appealing, and his performance on Pedal… is no different. In fact, I’d go so far as to say this is the best we’ve heard from the man since 1991’s Drivin’ Wheel opus. His vocals on the uber anthemic In R Blood are off the scale, but he literally doesn’t put a foot wrong anywhere, turning in performance after bravura performance on some of the best songs he’s ever been given to sing.
Those songs, of course, are largely penned by D,SS’s other major component, the Godlike Mark Mangold. Mangold, you’ll remember, was the driving force behind eighties pomp deities Touch, the man who co-wrote my favourite song of all time, Don’t You Know What Love Is (curiously enough a song that’s alluded to both indirectly and directly twice on this record), and the man who co-wrote Cher’s blockbusting AOR chart smash I Found Someone with Michael Bolton. This is serious pedigree, and Mangold upholds his legacy on pomptastic rockers like Writing on the Wall (a delirious amalgam of Deep Purple and House of Lords that’ll have every single one of the hairs on the back of your neck standing to attention, I guarantee) and the no less exciting Rain of Fire.
I mentioned the Touch connection in a couple of songs; Mangold anoraks will delight in the fact that this album’s opening track is called Touch and features a riff not dissimilar to that album’s classic Don’t You Know What Love Is, whilst Lost in You borrows the opening verse from that song too, with Fritsch putting in a great reading of those iconic few words! Like I said – this’ll appeal to the anoraks out there…
Al also throws some tasty soloing into the mix too, ably aided by guest axemen Tommy Denander and Daniel Palmqvist, whilst long term Drive, She Said chums Kenny Aronoff (drums), American Idol’s Randy Jackson and ex Balance throat Peppy Castro (backing vocals) come to the party too, alongside such other luminaries as Goran Edman, Thomas Vikstrom, Ted Poley and a wonderfully-fresh sounding Fiona Flanagan who adds her honeyed tones to the excellent ballad In Your Arms. Titans like these don’t just lend their talents to any old rubbish, and it’s a testament to the quality on show that such seasoned pros flock to the Mangold/Fritsch banner at the drop of the proverbial hat…
I’m the Nyte is the only clunker here, being a slightly hamfisted attempt at dancefloor domination that somebody like Adam Lambert might cope with – but just sounds like too old men gamely chasing fashion in the hands of Fritsch and Mangold.
AOR seems to be making a bit of a comeback lately, but many of the new pretenders to this particular throne flatter to deceive; Drive, She Said are true contenders, and Pedal to the Metal is easily up there with the best of their early releases. This is a must-buy album for all fans of melodic rock.