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Balance - 2009 Equilibrium
» Posted by Avatar

gdazegod
on February 26 2009, In 2009 Articles , 14 Comments , 2662 Reads , Print



ARTIST: Balance
ALBUM: Equilibrium
LABEL: Frontiers
SERIAL: FRCD 402
YEAR: 2009
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

LINEUP: Peppy Castro - lead and backing vocals, bass * Bob Kulick - guitars * Doug Katsaros - keyboards, backing vocals * Bret Chassen - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Twist Of Faith * 02 Breathe * 03 Old Friends * 04 What Have U Done * 05 Winner Takes All * 06 Crazy Little Suzie * 07 Liar * 08 Walk Away * 09 Who You Gonna Love * 10 Forever * 11 Where The Rainbow Ends

RATING:


Background
You know all is well in the AOR Universe when New York band Balance are on the scene. It's 2009, and it has been many a year since their last recorded studio effort - 1982's classic 'In For The Count'. Long described as one of the pinnacle albums of the AOR sub-genre, who would've thought that on the back of a CD re-release of said album, that Peppy, Bob and Doug would resurrect the band? Indeed, that is what happened. Rock Candy Records saw fit to pay homage to 'In For The Count' as a recently re-released and updated CD, as a result, Peppy (who is also currently active with Barnaby Bye) and the boys decided it was time to bring Balance out of the closet. Bringing drummer and engineer Bret Chassen into the fold, the new album 'Equilibrium' was delivered to AOR fans in February 2009. Having listened to this for a few weeks, and reading the opinions of other erstwhile AOR fans both here on this site and elsewhere on the Net, my verdict is pretty positive. Here's why.


The Songs
Castro, Kulick and Katsaros have kept Balance's musical style pretty much as it was on 'In For The Count'. Now, considering the 1981 debut Balance album was more west coast than AOR, 'Equilibrium' doesn't go there - and I'm sure that will be ok to a majority of the band's fans. Some have made mention of Peppy's vocals, not being as strong as it once was. For the most part I agree with that line of thought, but time catches up with us all, and 27 years difference between albums is a bit of stretch. Come on people.. be thankful that Peppy is out there doing this gig! The keyboard work of Katsaros is as good as ever, while some of Kulick's guitar tone doesn't quite do it for me, but his sense of style and technique sets him apart. Musically they've kept it very close to their classic 1982 era. Let's take a listen:

'Twist Of Fate' kicks us off. Immediately you hear Katsaros and Kulick reunite as if 1982 was only yesterday. The chorus is somewhat similar to Player's title track off the album 'Room With A View'.

The vibe of 1982 is revisited for 'Breathe'. It's hard driving, the keys add a darker edge but the chorus is true to form Balance.

'Old Friends' is surely one that will appeal to AORsters. Everything about it smacks of the 80's primetime era. The delicious keys, pumping bass lines and Kulick's guitar candy helps turn back the clock with ease.

Kulick and Katsaros join forces again for 'What Have U Done', proving beyond doubt that guitar/keyboard interplay is alive and well in 2009.

It's time for a ballad, and 'Winner Takes All' is the track that changes tempo. It's not lacking for energy, as the song moves ahead from the mid section through to the end. Listen out for the synth solo from Doug!

One of the harder edged tracks is 'Crazy Little Suzie'. It's probably Balance like you've never heard them before, with a darker vibe, interesting synth sequences, and Kulick throwing out riffs taking into account all the years of guitar influence between 1982 and 2009.

'Liar' too is a harder track, with a strong drum presence from new boy Chassen. It's a lean track, with emphasis on guitars and riffs. Sounds like a by-product of the late 80's.

'Walk Away' is another of the pure AOR tunes onboard. Loads of cool keyboard lines from Mr Katsaros. Interestingly, using keys and synths that sound way beyond 1982!

'Who You Gonna Love' is Balance at their most bluesiest, where Kulick slices out lead breaks through what sounds like a half open wah guitar effect. This is one of the more different tracks on the album.

'Forever' is a bit stop/start, hitting the gas on the choruses while anchoring the brakes on the verses. Bruce and Doug drive this one hard, tinkly keys and stinging guitars all the way.

Finishing the album with 'Where The Rainbow Ends', the boys provide the trademark sound which made Balance famous.


In Summary
One of the issues previously with Balance was their reluctance to tour. I'm not even certain that this band played live anyway (Paul Sabu anyone?), despite the improvised TV appearance on Solid Gold for their song 'Breaking Away'. Whether there is a ready captive audience for their songs in the 2009 'here and now' is debatable. Certainly for die-hard supporters of the band it's great that they are back - the addition of a new album an absolute bonus. To be honest, time invariably catches up with the best of us, as it has with Balance. Mostly this is a wonderful return to form, the slight letdown is that vocally, the songs do not carry the same sort of authority as the music. It's not a criticism, just an observation. Enjoy a very good album, and while you're at it, grab the reissued 'In For The Count' from Rock Candy Records.


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Comments
#1 | Eric on February 25 2009 21:52:03
Yes, Balance played at least one show at the Spectrum in Philadelphia with Rossington-Collins Band.
#2 | jefflynnefan on February 26 2009 11:39:10
Bob was doing a lot of session work too around this time- right? Is that why he didn't want to tour? I think his brother Bruce did with Blackjack?
#3 | aor-fm on February 26 2009 19:51:46
Agreed...I enjoyed the album, even with the shaky vocals. Just goes to show the power of the songman and musicianship.
#4 | Jez on February 27 2009 12:15:45
I have had a sneaky advance of this one for over a month now, so am really used to all of this. Some of the songs on here are really really good, make that REALLY good. Stylewise, this is 100% Balance, from Kulick's guitar (which sounds excellent) throught to Peppy Castro's unmistakable voice. I heard that the production on this new one was really bad, but after all the recent spins, it isn't too bad at all, I think the worst culprit here is the drum sound and generally muddy mix, It's not great admittedly, but I have heard alot worse in recent times to be honest and it certainly didn't ruin my enjoyment of it. Complaints have also been aimed towards Peppy Castro's vocals, and whilst I agree he doesn't have the voice he used to (who does nearly 30 years down the line), He still sounds ok to my ears - I think some of the reviews are being a little harsh to be honest
Overall, thankfully, this is really a good album and not the disaster I have been reading about elsewhere. It would have been great to have had the mega production of their previous 2 discs, which would have given this higher marks overall, but as it is, this is a disc that I really am going to be playing for a long while to come. Don't necessarily believe what you read and my advice is to take a punt on it.
#5 | Nick C on March 02 2009 10:42:13
Ta for the reviews here....I've read some off putting reviews that had given me second thoughts about grabbing this, but seeing as I trust you guys here at Gdaze (really I do Grin ) I'll plump for a copy soon!
#6 | dangerzone on March 08 2009 13:55:06
Superb album I think. They did themselves proud.
#7 | Nick C on April 19 2009 08:45:38
Well having picked it up I can only echo Jez's comments. The band still have it and the songs are great. While I'm not bashing the AOR of today too much (as there has been some great stuff out the last couple of years) you can always tell the older bands apart, the songs seem to have more depth and are less one dimensional affairs. In fact there's the rub, these bands write songs rather than riffs with vocals.
I read an article where the reviewer said that the production would put him off listening to this album again. Now the production isn't so bad, sure it may not be as polished as their other releases but if someone thinks like that I would suggest that they love production jobs more than the music. Yep some albums CAN be destroyed by awful production jobs but this certainly isn't one.

It's great hearing a few OTT keyboard solos too ... this album is a complete joy to listen to.
#8 | MUSCLE on March 29 2010 05:11:15
so good it brings a tear to the eyemusic
#9 | sabace on January 07 2012 06:00:04
read an interview with pepe castro recently where he washes his hands of this lp & has'nt a lot of goodwill for bob kulick . I have'nt heard this so I cant comment to quality of songs !
#10 | sabace on February 07 2012 21:58:15
wonders will never cease ! this lp is superb and the fact that the band chose to go harder edged is fine by me . Kulicks playing is his best since he played guitar on Paul Stanley's mega classic 1978 solo lp (strangely never reviewed here). Pepe
sounds great as does Katsaros . Heroic stuff ! .
#11 | AOR Lee on February 08 2012 02:36:26
Agreed this album stands proudly alongside the first 2. A review of Paul Stanley 1978 album is well underway ! Expect it this week
#12 | sabace on February 08 2012 05:11:40
thanks lebrad
#13 | richardb on January 02 2016 08:11:46
As an AOR purist, ordinarily the decision to buy a new Balance album would be a no brainer. However, I'm ashamed to admit that nearly 7 years later I still don't have a copy of this CD in my collection. Perhaps I should throw caution to the wind and put my trust in the good folk at G-Daze?...helpless
#14 | reyno-roxx on January 29 2016 05:13:09
Richard, I too have only just taken the plunge on this album, having been previously put off by some of the reviews, but more so by Peppy Castro's own comments about the album and how he was not happy about how the whole record was handled by Bob Kulick. From what I understand Castro's vocals were recorded elsewhere and it was a real internet job. It sounds it at times, almost Balance karaoke. As Jez noted, some of it is really good, but there are some songs that are a little too obvious in how it was made.
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