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From reading the press sheet that accompanies this promo, I gather Mark Spiro is a rather prolific fella with a 2+ decade career that's seen 45 gold and platinum records and six solo albums in his capacity as songwriter, producer and recording artist. Impressive credentials but the proof is in the sonic pudding and from listening to his latest solo effort, 'It's a Beautiful Life', it's evident the man lives, breathes and shits AOR genericism. The record is unashamedly AOR through and through but then that's no great shock with it being released on a label called AOR Heaven. However, what might be heaven for some will undoubtedly be AOR hell for others, dependent on your affinity with well-produced, pop-tinged radio-friendly 'rock'. In fact, the rock elements are so underplayed and distorted guitars so low in the mix that dare I say Mark Spiro's latest verges more towards the pop than the rock, so I should actually be talking about AOP in the context of this release. Instrumentations are nicely layered with clean guitar, keyboards, bass and drums supplemented by smooth harmonised backing vocals and Spiro's likeable voice, but I find myself wishing the vagueness of the distorted rhythm/lead guitars cut through a little more on occasion to give the songs a more oomph as and when required. As such, tried and tested, easy-listening drum patterns and the general drum/bass sound are perhaps the only elements that would warrant a rock label applied to this at all. On the positive side, Spiro's voice is quite infectious, even if it is a little lame and lacking in power on occasion when a stronger delivery would have enhanced certain passages. He has a great ear and sensitivity for melody though as the album is chock-full of catchy hooks, be it on a track's verse, bridge or chorus. The album's not a bad effort overall, but an AOP label is more apposite than AOR due to its pop leanings. Had the songs been beefed up with some chunkier guitar based passages then the whole thing would have a much greater impact. As such, I recommend the usual AOR lovers to approach with caution.
AOR Heaven
Review by Mark Holmes
30th January 2012
1) It's a Beautiful Life
2) I Know Who I Love
3) Come Back to Me
4) Love Struck Dumb
5) Go Another Mile
6) Dance the Lonely Spotlight
7) Might as Well Be Me
8) Brand New Beautiful Day
9) Dream Big, Pray Hard
10) Everyrthing I Do
"...the rock elements are so underplayed and distorted guitars so low in the mix that dare I say Mark Spiro's latest verges more towards the pop than the rock..."