The Midland Rocks
Review by Brian McGowan
‘Secret Love’ is an absolutely stunning album of urbane westcoast rock, the second release from Swedish band, Crossfade. It’s underwritten by musicians of flair and skill, none better known than the mighty Goran Edman, a truly accomplished rock vocalist who’s sung lead for bands as diverse as Malmsteen and Street Talk, Karma and Brazen Abbott (and personal favourite, Glory).
Unlike so much material in this genre, which takes too long to reach something that never happens, there is always a musical or lyrical payoff (and sometimes both) to Crossfade’s songs. Even on the fabulously lethargic ‘Brave New World’, you can sense a powerful, pounding pulse, building to an understated crescendo, weighted with a sinuous hook.
The title track, ‘Secret Love’ and ‘Don’t Ask Me Why’ show a deep rooted love of the genre, recalling Chicago and Boz Scaggs without being overly derivative. The latter’s slung back blues and loose rhythms on the chorus catch you nicely by surprise.
The album’s opener, ‘A Wonderful Illusion’ and ‘Closer To The Fire’ are unarguably the album’s picks. Carefully crafted tracks that underline everything that is good about westcoast music. Both tip their hat to Toto and, shock horror, the first gives a knowing nod to Led Zeppelin on a robustly constructed middle section. While on the second, this section is almost a piece of music in its own right, constantly shifting its viewpoint and full of unexpected, but intensely gratifying chord progressions.
Thankfully, Crossfade don’t succumb to the to the saminess or pale imitation syndromes that afflicts so many bands in this genre. The bewitching closing track, ‘In My Mind’ will finally remind you why great albums need great performances, great songwriting and great production.
In 2004 I got the album White On Blue by Crossfade in my hand. I
had never heard of the band before but was positively surprised by the nice mixture of my favourite influences from the American west-coast.
Everything I liked about White On Blue I like even more on the new Secret Love.
The vocal arrangements are bigger, and the singer Göran Edman sings with even greater expression. The brothers Per and Sven Lindvall are as usual a fantastic pair and lays down exceptionally tight grooves.
Richard Stenström´s keyboards are more intricate and Lars Hallbäck´s guitars are more varied and has a more prominent role in the mix.
Talking about the mix, one should mention that you get both a stereo-CD and a DVD wiyth the whole production mixed in 5.1, plus a small video from the recordings. Bernard Löhr has mixed and the sound and production is truly world class.
Already on their last album I thought that Crossfade despite their influences from Chicago, Steely Dan, Doobie Brothers among others, had created their own sound. On Secret Love they have developed this another step and profiled their own AOR-sound with a nordic touch.
The opening track A Wonderful Illusion has an intro associating to a barren, cold winter-landscape with a wide and grand sound in the chorus. The title song Secret Love starts with a swinging groove to be followed by the beautiful guitar by Lars Hallbäck. Brave New World, with a well arranged horn section in the background, sounds like a mix between Steeely Dan and Bill Labounty. The moderate groove by the Lindvall brothers showing that you don´t have to play either much or fast to lay down a great groove. The guitarsolo by Lars is something Jay Graydon himself would have beeen proud of.
In Closer To The Fire, Richard Stenström keyboards has a great responsibility in creating the groove, which he delivers with honours.
Mats Ronander make a guest appearance on Heart Of A Hero, that gives it a wittily "breach of style", as harmonica is not often heard in this genre of music.
If you are looking for a nice dosage of genuine "west coast" then Seconds And Eons is completely stuffed with all the ingredients that is a "must" for such a song. Well arranged keyboards, nice choirs, a laid back intense groove, harmony guitars. Seconds And Eons is one of my two favourites on the album.
The other favourite song, Borrowdale follows directly. This is a calm fine ballad with Lars guitar taking turns with the guest apperance of Kalle Moraeus on violin on a bed of the exquisite keyboards by Richard. It cannot be more beautiful than this between a pair of stereo speakers.
It is nice that there are groups that nurtures this genre we call American west-coast yet at the same time wants to, dares and has the ability to take it one step further to their own ambition.
Grade: 4 of 6
The Swedish group Crossfade has spent seven years refining their almost mathematically constructed west coast rock. On one side it’s wonderful and crazy and has resulted in really great tracks as Secret love, Brave new world and Don’t ask me why. On the other side it is a procedure that sometimes makes the songs as well as the performance and production dangerously close to tip over into a state of being over worked and lifeless.
Best are the elegant and well-arranged guitar solos by Lars Hallbäck. You want to cut them out and put them up on the wall between the idol pictures of Jay Graydon and David Gilmour. Also worth mentioning is Wojtek Goral who contributes with a superb saxophone solo on Brave new world.
It's been 7 years in the making for the Swedish band CROSSFADE to follow up the success of their debut, "White on Blue". Swedish CROSSFADE should not be mixed up with the much better known, American post grunge band with the same name. The problem is rather obvious when you surf the web and it quite often looks as if it is the American band that is now releasing a new album. I hope those who might get a bit ripped off will not be too disappointed when they discover that it is not hard rock in their christmas gift this year, but really slick, Swedish, westcoast pop along the lines of Steely Dan, Toto, Mr. Mister, Jay Graydon and Peter Friestedt. CROSSFADE has been extremely thorough this time, the entire album was recorded in top audio quality and it is an album that will have all the audiophiles to walk on air, and by achieving such a perfect sound, it makes everybody else look like idiots in their studios. Why does not all music being released sound just as good as this? The simple answer to this question is that it probably depends on the money being spent....
Anyhow, their first release (White on blue) was, and still is, one of the last decades best west coast releases and I frequently enjoy the delightful, masterpieces by guitarist Lars Hallbäck and keyboardist Richard Stenström. So it was with very high expectations that I started to dissect the new album, "Secret Love", released as a combined CD and DVD with 5.1 surround mix plus video footage from the recordings of the album. Continuing from where he last time left off, the singer Göran Edman who is an all-rounder behind the microphone, I consider him one of the best voices and he sings this genre better than most others. This time, he sounds even more like one of my all-time favourites, namely, Gino Vannelli, especially in the slower tempo songs on the album. We'll also note that brothers Sven, Per and Leif Lindvall once again appears on bass, drums and trumpet respectively, just like the previous album.
First impression of the album was not all happy days, none of the tracks stuck after the first time listening and the production felt a bit cold. But this is in contradiction to their debut, an album that requires time, and when time is given, it reveals a palette of great songs such as the title track, the Toto-inspired "Closer to the fire," the ballad "Don't ask me why" that has a fantastic chorus, Steely Dan-swing in "Heart of a Hero", where we also hear Mats Ronander playing the harmonica. We will also hear Kalle Moraeus perform the violin on the instrumental song "Borrowdale", a piece influenced by Swedish folk music that acts like balm for the soul at stressful times. But it is the first song, holding an oriental touch, "A wonderful illusion" that impresses the most. The song is featuring an ominous intro played on an ancient Armenian woodwind instrument, the duduk.
It has been seven long years and I know that there are a lot more people out there who has this album as one of the most anticipated albums of this year."Secret Love" is a little bit cooler than the debut, but the creativity has been booming, and this is an album that will last long and that will consolidate CROSSFADE as a big name for all the lovers of westcoast music. Besides, I'm pretty sure that all the audiophiles around the world will also celebrate this album as much! Fantastic!
Yet another masterpiece from Crossfade with Lars Hallbäck, Richard Stenström, Göran Edman, Per Lindvall and Sven Lindvall.
There’ve been some years since last time, namely 7 years (White On Blue) and they do not disappoint this time either, melodies that make you lower your heart rate to a low below normal. Just sit back in armchairs and enjoy , much Donald Fagen/Toto/Chicago sense of it all that makes me want to listen over and over again! Kalle Moraeus (violin) and Mats Ronander (harmonica) participates as guest musicians on the CD!
This is a must have in your collection!!
In 2004, Crossfade’s debut album, ‘White On Blue’ was extremely well received by melodic rock fans and critics. Although Swedish, the band’s music celebrated the late 70s and early 80s sounds of American westcoast music, with a particularly strong nod to the styles set out by Toto’s earlier works. Joining guitarist Lars Hallbäck and keyboard player Richard Stenström, renowned melodic rock vocalist Göran Edman completed the core of the band’s line-up. Having normally been associated with harder rock styles, often in a very Scandinavian style, Crossfade’s smoother edges allowed Edman to really show off his range as a vocalist, making an album which more than deserved the praise it received.
Seven years in the making, Crossfade’s second release, ‘Secret Love’ picks up where ‘White On Blue’ left off, with Edman, Hallbäck and Stenström joined by session players Per and Sven Lindstrom (bass and drums respectively), with Wotjek Goral on saxes. Following a sax intro, the band launch head-on into their opening number ‘A Wonderful Illusion’ which borrows a great amount of style from Toto and other westcoast luminaries Airplay along the way. The guitar playing is smooth and very tasteful and the overall arrangement shows a great tightness, while Edman proves strong vocally. A mid section offers some great orchestration, with the band hinting that they could be capable of flying off on a slightly jazzy tangent. They never do, however, preferring instead to keep things focused on songs rather than muso-based wanderings. This is a very strong opening number on all fronts, with a strong sense of melody, helped immensely by a hooky chorus fleshed out with female harmonies.
That sets the mood for the bulk of the disc, although if anything, the title track moves even farther into the late 70s/early 80s westcoast vibe. Led by a fluid bass, augmented by tinkling keys, the song plays host to another decent chorus and even better playing: guitar leads which would make Steve Lukather proud provide some good moments, but they aren’t ever as impressive as the track’s bass-lines. High in the end mix, Per Lindstrom sets a strong basis for the rest of the band to work around; his bass so often pivotal to this band’s best work. Another bevvy of female voices fills a chorus, over which Edman’s lead is possibly stronger than before. The slightly funky arrangement lends itself well to the instrumental sections; something never more obvious than on the instrumental play out, where Hallbäck finds a great space with his guitar leads.
Slightly soulier in places, ‘Heart of a Hero’ presents a shuffling arrangement. With that bass at the centre yet again, there’s a key difference here in that a harmonica often takes a dominant role over the keys and guitars. There are Crossfade’s usual musical features in abundance, of course: on this track, during the slightly more upbeat moments, the mood is right for a handful of top-notch guitar leads and a slightly ugly keyboard solo. Yes, that keyboard sound could be described as dated, but it’s perfectly in keeping with the “1982 time-capsule” so many of these tunes sound like they’ve culled from. Not to labour a point but, once again, if you love Toto, Jay Graydon and perhaps a little Bill Champlin, there’s plenty to enjoy here. Fusing a smooth AOR vibe with an almost reggae pulse from the keyboards, ‘In My Mind’ gets off to a slightly wobbly start. As such, it could have been this album’s weak link, but a killer chorus makes up for the verse’s slightly off-kilter nature. It doesn’t actually anything you haven’t heard before from Crossfade at this point, but Edman is in particular fine voice, while an occasional twin guitar sound during the featured solo adds a slight edge. Judged on chorus alone, this represents lots of Crossfade’s strengths.
‘Waiting For a Miracle’ is an extended arrangement which really finds its feet during a lengthy instrumental passage, utilising a muted trumpet as its lead voice. Leading up to those moments, however, it’s business as usual: Edman stretches his vocal to its limit – though, sounding like the consummate professional her never resorts to over-singing anything to make an impression – while the rest of the band offer great performances, be they vibrato guitar leads, jazzy basswork or even jazzier pianos. It may be a little too smooth jazz oriented for the AOR purists, but for those approaching this album from a classic westcoast perspective it’s surely one of the album’s most essential listens.
The only time Crossfade breaks away from their beloved westcoast sound is during the atmospheric instrumental ‘Borrowdale’, a track which appears here as both a full length number and reprise. Featuring a vibrato-filled lead guitar smoothly played over a blanket of eighties synths, this owes a huge debt to Jeff Beck (in particular, parts of his ‘Guitar Shop’ from 1989). It shows Hallbäck off as a wonderful guitarist, with a great tone to his work, even when pushed outside his usual AOR and westcoast boundaries. It may be the odd man out here, musically speaking, but it’s still far better than anything you could ever consider filler material.
Although it’s slightly rockier nature in a couple of places means that Crossfade’s ‘Secret Love’ is not quite as perfect as the 2010 debut from State Cows, this album still presents something immensely enjoyable in its musical field. It could be accused of being a little Toto obsessed, but when was that ever a bad thing?! This is a superb second album from Crossfade, one which fans will consider well worth the seven year wait.
November 2011 Crossfade
Never has an album been more anticipated than this one. It has taken the guys in Crossfade moer than seven years to finnish "Secret Love", but now that it’s released you are treated to a buffet of great songs. The records production is equally impressive that is something out of the ordinary, and mixed by Bernard Löhr.
Guest musicians are also Mats Ronander (harmonica) and Kalle Moraeus (violin)
Before talking about the songs on "Secret Love" I would like to look back on how it all started. Crossfade started out as a duo in Skovde 1999 when the musically likeminded Lars Hallback and Richard Stenstrom met. Six month later they where introduced to singer Goran Edman.
Along with the drummer Per Lindvall and his brother Sven on bass the classical Crossfade sound was born.
Their debut album "White On Blue" was released in 2004 and received a fantastic response.
Now back to the new album that truly makes an impression. It starts out with the song "A Wonderful Illusion" that I feel is one of the strongest tracks of the album. Closely followed by the Toto inspired "In My Mind" and "Heart Of A Hero" (where I give Mats Ronander extra points for great harmonica). The album also has two beautiful ballads named "Don´t Ask Me Why" and "Wating For A Miracle" both worth mentioning a little extra.
And Kalle Moraeus adds his violin on the instrumental song "Borrowdale".
"Secret Love" is among the best albums in 2011 and a guaranteed Christmas gift to all of you that likes Toto, Chicago, Steely Dan and Sting.