If you worship at the altar of American hard rock music from the era 1976-84, there will be moments on August Zadra‘s new album, Guiding Star, that will have you trembling like a baby and weeping tears of patchouli-soaked joy. For at times on this remarkable record, most notably standout track I’ll Meet You In Heaven – our hero manages to saw through the last forty years with a wave of the axe, in one stroke returning you to the glory days of this sort of music, and with one more reminding you just why you fell in love with it in the first place.

And yet, for all it’s undeniable retroactive appeal, the record sounds as fresh as a daisy. Zadra, a veteran of the LA tribute band scene who made his name playing the role of ‘Tommy Shaw‘ in former Styx man Dennis DeYoung‘s touring band, not only has a timeless voice but also the ability to grasp that classic rock doesn’t necessarily have to sound like it has both boots (cowboy, natch) firmly planted in the last century.

Consequently the icy, synth-driven epic Nothing More To Say sounds gloriously ‘now’ thanks to it’s superior studio construction whilst simultaneously hinting that it might have been written by Aldo Nova in 1982 – truly the best of both worlds.

The dramatic hard rock of Ship of Fools is hair raising in it’s brilliance, and benefits from the titanic presence of Jeff Scott Soto on bvs on the chorus, whilst the slinky AOR of Come Back To Me will remind Shaw fans of 1985’s fabulous What If album.

It also sounds a bit like Fergie Frederiksen-era Toto; if this who’s who of melodic rock royalty doesn’t yet have you salivating like one of Pavlov’s poodle-permed dogs I don’t know what will, but it’s impossible to pass comment on this album without mentioning who it brings to mind. This isn’t done just as a lazy act of journalistic spot the influence, but merely to remind the reader of the sort of company they step into when slipping this album onto the stereo…

In short, Guiding Star is an unbelievably good record, a record that at once celebrates the past yet champions a brighter future happier for it’s life-affirming existence. I can’t picture a time when I won’t want to listen to it, and I think you’ll love it too when it inevitably adds itself to your collection. Album of the year? It’s only February, but something is going to have to be really, really BIG to top this, let me tell you…

Guiding Star releases on February 18th.