For his tenth studio solo album, Stryper alumnus Michael Sweet decided to make an album that was, in his words, ‘closer to home’ than some of his other offerings from down the years.
Reading between the lines, that looked to me as if I should be expecting basically a Stryper album when I cracked open the cellophane on his new record. I wasn’t wrong.
Of course, it’s hard to separate the man from the day job. Stryper is, was, and will always be a vehicle for Sweet’s remarkable vocal and guitar talents, so short of the man making a Christian EDM album, there’s always gonna be a little synergy in Michael’s work. So it comes down to whether you like THAT voice, THAT scream, and THAT chug.
If you do, there ain’t nothin’ stopping you from buying this record today. Lay It Down and Son of Man are at least the equal of anything Stryper have put out this decade; the latter, as an added bonus, features vocal accompaniment from Queensrÿche singer Todd LaTorre. Two vocal titans for the price of one! And, perhaps surprisingly, the mix works well.
The funky, groovy Forget Forgive sounds more like something Sweet might have cooked up with sometime partner in crime George Lynch, and features stellar guitar accompaniment from on-off Jeff Scott Soto sidekick Howie Simon. Now Or Never goes back to the modern day Stryper playbook and carries embellishment from Greek super guitarist Gus G, though he fits in so seamlessly you’d never really know he was there.
Sweet’s policy of drafting a guest star to help out on most of the tracks doesn’t always bear fruit, because his own contributions are never less than Godlike and he really doesn’t need any other guitarists guilding his own lilies. This may be why the track with LaTorre works best as a real ‘collaboration’ as the former Crimson Glory singer brings something to the table that Sweet can’t provide himself.
But for all that, nobody’s contribution turns any of the songs into a stinker, and as noted, if you’re already a Stryper/Sweet fan that won’t be changed by this. And maybe a few completist fans of those collaborating might stop by and be converted, so to speak, so Michael would appear to be looking at a win-win situation here!
Now maybe Mr Sweet might agree to do one of our classic album interviews! Whattabout it?
Ten is out now.