May 11, 2018 RSO – Radio Free America (Album Review)
Sometimes, a change of pace does creativity good. Allowing a chance to recharge and refresh can give you a whole new perspective. Recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of multi-platinum jugaruant Rock band Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora is not immune to needing such alternate directions in life.
Sambora Surprised fans when he announced he was leaving Bon Jovi back in 2013, citing his need to be with his family as a key factor in his decision. True and honorable, who can blame him, because what is more important than being there for the ones you love? Speaking of people Sambora loves, it does not get you much closer for him then partnering up with his girlfriend, Orianthi, for a new project they call RSO.
For those who have been out of the loop, RSO, abbreviated for the duo’s initials, is a sparkling, new endeavor launched by Sambora and Orianthi as early as 2015. Taking it to the road in 2016, playing Australia, South America, and England, while opening up for Bad Company. In 2017, the first official release of RSO music hit the public in form of their debut EP Rise. Then just a week before Christmas of last year, they dropped another EP, Making History. Giving them a chance to get the music out to the masses quickly, and in 5 song doses, it paved the way for the full-length debut, Radio Free America, out Friday, May 11, 2018 on BMG.
Recorded with legendary Producer Bob Rock, Radio Free America consists of all 10 songs that made up Rise and Making History, plus 5 new ones, making for a total of 15. Woah, that is pretty lengthy album! Now, for those who did not have the pleasure of hearing any of the music RSO put out in 2017, the best way to describe it is very diverse. Yes, this is Rock-n-Roll, why wouldn’t it be? Afterall, you have Richie Sambora, a guitar legend matched up with Orianthi, an equally respected guitarist/performer. And while on the topic of Orianthi, the South Australian lady, at only 33 years of age, has accomplished a great deal. After releasing a few records on her own, Orianthi’s rightful place in the limelight came when she shared the stage with the likes of Michael Jackson, Santana, Prince, and ZZ Top. Oh yeah, she also became the first female member of Alice Cooper’s touring band. Not bad!
Together, Sambora and Orianthi create a melting pot of styles that make up RSO’s music. You have Rock, Pop, R&B, Blues, and even a bit of Country sprinkled in around these songs. That in mind, no two songs on Radio Free America are alike. It is not to say the record lacks cohesion, because it is very tight, there are just a blend of styles from all over the map. Clearly the product of two different songwriters with various different influences putting their heads together, the end result is a very enjoyable listen.
For instance, take the opening track, “Making History,” you have a guitar driven song massive enough to fill a stadium. Then, more on a glossier Pop spectrum, “We Are Magic” offers a colorful mix of sounds, including Sambora’s signature talkbox work. Only two songs in, the album dips and dives out of several genres. There is the Blue Oyster Cult inspired “Rise”, the cool soulful vibe of “Take Me”, and the Country vibe of “Good Times.” Although, that is not all – there is the ’90s Dance feeling of “Masterpiece,” the Folk sound of “Walk With Me,” and the arena rocking “I Don’t Want to Have to Need You Know.”
Each carefully composed songs is matched with bright, lively production. The common thread in each is the marriage between Sambora and Orianthi’s voice. Playing like a true duet album, like Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell or Sonny & Cher, both of their voices shines in their own right. Speaking of Sonny & Cher, quite apropos to the the album, there is a cover of “I Got You Babe” that is uniquely RSO’s own. And for every robust recording there is a more stripped down piece, including the beautiful “Forever All The Way” and “Blues Won’t Leave Me Alone.”
With so many areas covered it would be easy to say something is lost in translation, but that is really not the case with Radio Free America. Thanks to experience and attention to detail, it is a tightly wound mix of songs that never get old. They are all good enough to hold their own weight, but all while still holding together in an album format. That is why to break down each and every song would be overkill, instead, just listen and you will hear the mastery that went into creating these tracks. Something different, something new, RSO are a hybrid of two talented musicians that everyone needs to hear. For these reasons, CrypticRock gives Radio Free America 4.5 out of 5 stars.