CARL DIXON – Unbroken (2019)
Frontman of legendary Canadian melodic hard rockers Coney Hatch, CARL DIXON has recorded a brand new solo effort by the name of “Unbroken” to be released tomorrow on AOR Heaven Records. Written & arranged in collaboration with Robby Böbel, a long-time stalwart on the German melodic rock music scene with bands like Frontline and Phantom V, among many.
The result is a powerfully sung and performed album that reaches the heights of traditional, classic AOR / Melodic Rock. Memorable hooks, strong melodies, great guitar playing / production, plus drumming performed by Mark Santer (Santers) and newcomer Dylan Gowan (Vesperia, Cardinal Street).
Carl, born in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario had come to prominence in the early ’80s as one of the frontmen for the critically acclaimed Canadian hard rock band Coney Hatch. They were the classic example of critical success and had three magnificent albums in the 1980s. The last of these was the humungous ‘Friction‘, which to this day is still one of my favourite Eighties albums.
However, Dixon had become pretty disillusioned with his career at that point; tired of the many frustrations that being on a major label (who don’t appear to care) brings on a touring band trying to get noticed. After focusing on songwriting for other artists for a while, eventually switching focus from North America, where Grunge was on the brink, to Europe, especially Germany, where Coney Hatch made a much bigger impact.
Dixon released a solo album in the first half of the 90s, and continued writing for others.
After being singing with other Canadian acts such as The Guess Who and April Wine for a while and a horrible car crash in Australia in 2008, he’s back with Coney Hatch leading to the 2013 record ‘Four’ and has released a couple of solo records since, including a Christmas album.
However, “Unbroken” is the first Dixon AOR / Melodic Rock oriented album since his solo debut more than twenty years ago, and showcases the man focused in these genres he love. With his pipes intact, Dixon is in very fine form across this album.
Opening with ‘Can’t Love a Memory‘, this is a pacey, melodic rocker that illustrates just how much influence Dixon exerted over the Coney Hatch sound. Great start. The intro of keyboards and guitar are reminiscent of Journey for the next number titled ‘Bowl Me Over‘. Once the song kicks in properly it is another riff-laden melodic rocker and I am back in ’80s heyday of the genre.
The clean guitar intro belies the pumping melodic rocker that is ‘Nothing Lasts Forever‘. Lyrically the song is obviously a biographical song about Carl’s days in 80s with Coney Hatch, while musically rocks with great verses and melodious riffs.
‘Every Step of the Way‘ has an almost contemporary hard rock intro but then kicks into a great staccato guitar riff with overlayed lead licks. Another well-arranged and executed melodic rocker with great light and shade.
There is a harmony vocal intro to ‘Summer Nights‘, as you guess, a feel-good AOR tune. However, it’s a quite complexly arranged number which ebbs and flows with a number of changes of beat which work very well, while Dixon’s vocals soar.
Next up is ‘All My Love and Hopes for You‘, a very good midtempo ballad. There’s a lovely early 90s German AOR atmosphere all over it, and you can hear Böbel’s touch here.
‘This Isn’t The End‘ opens with a classic Coney Hatch trademark guitar riff and continues in that vein and could easily sit on ‘Outa Hand’, Coney’s second album. Another great melodic rocker.
Continuing in that sonic vein, ‘Drive Just Drive‘ opens up a like a track from ‘Friction‘ and is another superb tune. It mixes mid-Eighties AOR vibes with a melodic rock pulse driven by the guitar work. Love it.
Next song, ‘Roll the Dice‘, just picks up the feeling from the previous yet more uptempo and delivers another solid slice of classy melodic rock, this time with a ‘Canadian sound’ on it.
Do you need some keyboards and slick guitars into your AOR tune? Dixon – and Robby Böbel, the true musical director on this smooth album – deliver the goods with ‘Keep the Faith‘, perhaps the most pure AOR song here. A highlight.
Last but by no means least, is title track ‘Unbroken‘. It’s plenty of guitar harmonics, Dixon’s skilled vocal inflections and again, an European feeling. A mid-paced melodic rocker that fittingly brings the album to a close.
With the best material – and performance – he has delivered in many years, Carl Dixon returns in full form with “Unbroken”. Dixon is a survivor, having overcome a devastating car accident that nearly obliterated his life, career, and fortune.
Indeed, he’s “Unbroken”, and sounds wonderfully here helped by talented Robby Böbel which brings the European AOR / Melodic Rock sound to join Carl’s ‘Canadian touch’ to the genre.
So you get the ‘best of both worlds’ on “Unbroken”. You can’t go wrong…
01 – Can’t Love a Memory
02 – Bowl Me Over
03 – Nothing Lasts Forever
04 – Every Step of the Way
05 – Summer Nights
06 – All My Love and Hopes for You
07 – This Isn’t the End
08 – Drive Just Drive
09 – Roll the Dice
10 – Keep the Faith
11 – Unbroken
Carl Dixon – vocals
Robby Böbel (Frontline, Phantom V) – guitars, bass, keyboards
Mark Santer (Santers) – drums
Dylan Gowan (Vesperia, Cardinal Street) – drums