by Jeff Siegel
There is a tradition in rock ‘n roll that stretches from the early 1970s, when bands like Journey and Styx first appeared, though Survivor and Loverboy in the 1980s, to Bon Jovi in the 1990s. Call them, for lack of a better term, prom bands — that is, the bands that have the hits that get played at the high school prom.
Count Hedley’s Never Too Late (Fontana International) as a proud member of that tradition. The album, out today (May 12) on iTunes and as a CD on May 19, has all the distinguishing characteristics: The insistent choruses, the Top 40 radio hooks, the fuzzy, crashing guitars, and a lead singer who won’t quit. In this case, that’s Jacob Hoggard, the one-time Canadian Idol finalist who formed the band and fronted its first two albums, Hedley (2005) and Famous Last Words (2007).
Interestingly, this is not the kind of music that people familiar with those first two records (mostly Canadians, where the band has scored a number of hits) would expect. They were, if not exactly alt-rock, not nearly this cut and buffed. But Hoggard and crew pull out all the stops for Never Too Late. If he doesn’t sound like Styx’ Dennis DeYoung singing “Lady” in 1975, it’s not for a lack of trying. The title track, with its “Here’s to all the broken hearts tonight.... every girl and boy who lost their joy” is aimed squarely at the blue-tuxed, corsage and spaghetti strap crowd.
Will this album be Hedley’s crossover to the American charts? Probably not, though that’s obviously the intent here. The band understands the formula, but it doesn’t seem to have whatever it is that takes an ordinary band and gives it Styx-like success. Or even Loverboy-like success (see: “Working for the Weekend” in 1981), to use a Canadian example. The playing could be a little tighter, the lyrics could be a little sharper, and the production could be a little less obvious. The album comes closest on “Bone Shatter,” but it takes more than one song to be the heir to a tradition.
(The promotional photo of Hedley is from Universal Music Group. The band will play a limited Canadian tour, beginning June 20 in Belleville, Ontario. The band has a YouTube site, but Universal Music Group restricts the use of embedded video.)
Never Too Late
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by Jeff Siegel