Best AOR album 2016, Gold Medal: DARE – Sacred Ground (2016)

DARE - Sacred Ground (2016) full

Near the end of the year, it’s time to recap about the best 2016 releases, by category.
For 0dayrox, the Gold Medal to the best AOR album of the year goes to DARE’s “Sacred Ground”.

Fronted by talented Darren Wharton, DARE are one of these bands that regularly comes back with excellent releases appreciated by the AOR / melodic rock crowd, and their new album “Sacred Ground” is not an exception.

Since their inception in the late Eighties, British combo Dare formed by Thin Lizzy keyboardist and songwriter Darren Wharton’ and guitarist Vinny Burns had huge success with their debut album Out Of The Silence released in 1989. It is still regarded as one of the top AOR albums of all time.
Whilst this did not propel them to the global heights that they thoroughly deserved, the performances on stage, where they really shine, is a major reason why the band are still here today. They effortlessly seem to be able to write and perform one anthemic track after the other.

Six studio albums later this 15th of July will see the release of “Sacred Ground, the much anticipated new Dare record – the band’s 7th studio album (check the small 7 marker on the cover art) and promises to be just as much of a huge hit as their debut was.

Unlike some of fans who didn’t enjoyed the band’s more mellower Celtic leanings on recent albums, I have always liked this side of the band. This new album continues in that vein, however does hark back to the classic AOR sound for the most part, mainly down to the blissful guitar solos of Vinnie Burns – check out ‘Along The Heather’ for proof.
In fact the opening song ‘Home’ (a classic Dare melody and lyric if ever there was one) is a classy, hook filled melodic AOR tune.

DARE - Sacred Ground (2016) inside

The first thing to be said about “Sacred Ground” is that you only need one listen to be hooked. There is no need to warm to the music, the hook is instant. From the gravelly tones of Darren Wharton’s vocal to the haunting guitar tones from Vinny Burns.
The songwriting is mature and strong with the heartrending ‘I’ll Hear You Pray’ as one of the best exponents, a truly magical song which will have you foot tapping whilst you reach for the tissues to dry your crying eyes.

‘Strength’ starts with a soothing piano and husky tones of Darren’s voice before again showcasing the spiraling riff of Vinny’s guitar, while the harmonies and rhythm are held together to perfection.
‘Every Time We Say Goodbye’ is another tune that not only pulls at your heart, it tugs it out before cradling it with the affection of a newborn before replacing it and soothing you to sleep. This showcases the magnificent and thought provoking songwriting skills of Darren Wharton.

Indeed, this new Dare album is written with the maturity one would expect of a band of their pedigree and every track feels as anthemic as the last.
Vinny Burns guitar work on the album is sublime and often mesmerising. His time in Dare and Ten should have resulted in him being seen as one of the leading guitar players in the world. Those that know his skills would attest to his capabilities in a heartbeat yet internationally he’s such an underrated guitarist.
Albums like this allow him the room to let it all flow with belief and passion and he delivers one smashing solo after the other. The only time Vinny has a break is on the last track ‘Along The Heather’ where the lead guitar is handled by Darren’s very own son Paris.

DARE - Sacred Ground (2016) back

“Sacred Ground” could well be the very best Dare album to date. It is that good.
From the superbly crafted songs to the pristine production, everything about this album is immaculate. So stand up and take a bow guys you have done yourselves proud, an outstanding album which will stand the test of time and still be a monster for generations to come.
A pure AOR / Melodic Rock fans delight.

01. Home
02. I’ll Hear You Pray
03. Strength
04. Every Time We Say Goodbye
05. Days Of Summer
06. On My Own
07. Until
08. All Our Brass Was Gold
09. You Carried Me
10. Like The First Time
11. Along The Heather

Darren Wharton – Vocals, Keyboards
Vinny Burns – Guitars
Kevin Whitehead – Drums
Nigel Clutterbuck – Bass


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