GUARDIAN – Fire And Love [RetroActive Legends Remastered +1] (2017)
Freshly remastered from the original tapes, at the very end of 2017 RetroActive Records released a remastered version of “Fire And Love“, GUARDIAN‘s second album – for many their finest moment – including an exclusive bonus track.
The second release from Guardian was something of a breakthrough for the band.
After being dropped from the Enigma label, they found a new lead vocalist in former Tempest singer Jamie Rowe and was signed to Pakaderm Records, the imprint label of the production sibling duo John & Dino Elefante (Kansas, Mastedon).
Fine songwriting, of course, also helps take things to the next level from how “Fire And Love” features 10 equally good songs characterized by ‘big guitars, big hooks and (and even bigger) choruses’ (as taken from the group’s press material).
Nowhere does Guardian better exemplify this than on opening cut “Power Of Love”, a classic melodic hard rocker in which a ton of groove laden bass (courtesy of David Bach) and gritty guitar riffs (credit Tony Palacios) touch upon equal parts commercial and driving. Great, great song in which the group recorded a music video (I am uncertain if it ever aired on MTV).
“Send A Message” maintains the commercial leanings but in the more up-tempo package.bExuding buoyant energy front to back, the song paints the backdrop with some keyboards. Palacios literally melts the fret board with one of his trademark inspired guitar solos.
“Time Stands Still” tempers impetus with its airy mid-paced AOR qualities. Guitars might settle somewhat in the backend while keyboards play the more forthright role, with emphasis on the hook driven asserts. Standing out every bit much are the groups graceful backing vocals not to mention Rowe, whose gravelly delivery shines within a lighter musical framework.
Guardian can do the ballad thing as well as anyone, and such is the case with “Forever And A Day”. This one slows impetus even further, as keyboards play a more prominent role as does acoustic guitar (but not to a fault either way), while the eloquent lead guitar enhance the stirring atmosphere at hand. Of note is how the pronounced low-end makes “Forever And A Day” come across heavier than it actually is.
The album returns to upbeat hard rock territory on “Takin’ On The World”. This one kicks in to full on momentum from the get go, with a ton of heartfelt groove and dogged guitars (again, noting the Bach and Palacios partnership) allowing for a heavier edge but not without the silky Guardian backing vocals providing a smoother touch.
The album scintillating title track ensues and further play up the melodic hard rock qualities, albeit in not quite the same effervescent framework. The group’s penchant for catchy hooks and decisive energy, nonetheless, remains unchallenged, as does its inherent sense of the radio friendly.
Which leads to the question at hand: where was FM radio back in the day? Perhaps playing too much ‘hair metal’, while criminally overlooking an album in Fire And Love chock full of choice material deserving airplay.
“Turnaround” returns things to an up-tempo form. By far the album’s heaviest track – the big background vocal driven refrain proves near mesmerizing in heightening energy levels further.
Slowing things to a mid-paced romp is “Time And Time Again”, bottom heavy and melancholy but accessible all the same, the song drips with emotion in switching between its elevated first chorus and darker and more resonant second. In the end, what we have is as fine a deep cut you will find that helps make a great album even better.
Speaking of which, “The Rain” is one of the highlights as the group’s digs deep to take the bluesy aspects to the next level.
Final ballad “Never Say Goodbye” closes the album. As with everything here, Guardian performs it with a ton of class as acoustic guitar and hints of slide guitar convey the song its lush distance.
Extra track “Take Up Your Cross” – a studio song recorded shortly after Guardian signed with Pakaderm Records – is neither a muddy demo or second rate bonus track.
Rather, it is an album worthy blues based worship rocker upheld acoustically with ample does of harmonica and clasping hands.
Production might have been quite good to begin with, but the RetroActive remastering takes things to the next level. As is often the case with re-releases to older albums, volume levels increase to align with that of modern records with the upshot that much more detail standing out in the background.
Keyboards now comes across better defined, while same applies for acoustic guitar (on the two ballads) and bass (entire album). Guitars deliver added punch in terms of the foreground.
“Fire And Love” (1990) is considered by many to be Guardian’s finest release, and for good reason. Jamie Rowe brought a new level to the vocals, bringing the songs a strength I doubt the previous singer could have.
Featuring some fantastic crank-’em-in-the-car melodic hard rockers in the vein of GIANT, WINGER and FIREHOUSE this is a must listen for every melodic rock lover.
Only at 0dayrox
01 – Power of Love
02 – Send a Message
03 – Time Stands Still
04 – Forever and a Day
05 – Takin’ On the World
06 – Fire and Love
07 – Turnaround
08 – Time and Time Again
09 – The Rain
10 – Never Say Goodbye
11 – Take Up Your Cross
Jamie Rowe – Lead and Backing Vocals
Tony Palacios – Guitars, Backing Vocals
David Bach – Bass, Backing Vocals
Karl Ney – Drums